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News | July 28, 2022

Department of Defense Engagement in the Western Hemisphere

This fact sheet is released on the occasion of the XV Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas (CDMA), which convened on July 25-29, 2022, in Brasilia, Brazil, hosted by the Brazilian Ministry of National Defense.  CDMA is the premier hemispheric defense ministerial for strategic-level engagement with the top defense officials of the Americas, and convenes every two years.  U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry established and hosted the first CDMA in 1995.  U.S. Secretaries of Defense have attended every CDMA since its inception.  Chile’s Ministry of National Defense hosted the last CDMA virtually in 2020.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III joined defense and security ministers from across the hemisphere at CDMA to engage on issues in defense and security that are of high priority to our allies and partners in the region.  The Department of Defense is committed to its role as the most trusted defense ally and partner for its neighbors to the north and south, building on its longstanding cooperation across a range of areas to foster mutual security throughout the Western Hemisphere. 

COVID-19 Assistance:  

Since 2019, the Department of Defense has executed more than 630 COVID-19-related humanitarian assistance and civic aid projects valued at more than $110M in the Western Hemisphere, in the areas of health support, education, disaster mitigation and preparation, and infrastructure.  DoD has donated key supplies including personal protective equipment, hygiene and sanitation supplies, testing kits, and laboratory equipment, as well as 318 ventilators, 72 mobile clinics, and 341 cold storage items to support vaccine readiness and distribution.  Through these efforts, the Department has sought to bolster allies and partners’ capacity to deliver essential services, improve living conditions, and provide security during the pandemic.  

United States Naval Ship Comfort:

The Department of Defense plans to deploy the United States Naval Ship Comfort, a Mercy-class hospital ship, to conduct medical assistance in support of regional partners in the fall of 2022.  During each port visit, the USNS Comfort typically provides medical assistance to about 3,500-8,000 people.  The USNS Comfort last visited Central America, South America, and the Caribbean in 2019, when it provided medical assistance to twelve countries.  

Security Cooperation:  

The Department of Defense has approved more than $115M for security cooperation initiatives with 23 Western Hemisphere countries in Fiscal Year 2023.  This $115M will boost the Department’s investment in security cooperation in the hemisphere to more than half a billion dollars since 2020.  These initiatives support our neighbors in building the capacity of their security forces and developing more effective, transparent, and accountable defense institutions.  DoD security cooperation in the region focuses on shared security interests such as maritime domain awareness and security, cyber defense, intelligence sharing, and detecting and disrupting illicit threat networks in support of law enforcement. 

Women, Peace, and Security:  

On July 18, the White House announced the release of the 2022 U.S. Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Congressional Report. The Department of Defense plays a key role in implementing the U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, as characterized in the DoD Women, Peace, and Security Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan (SFIP).  Since 2020, DoD has led over 15 WPS exchanges in more than 13 countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as various virtual programs, including podcast episodes.  Through WPS initiatives, DoD seeks to advance the equality, safety, and meaningful contributions of women in the defense and security sectors throughout the hemisphere, and ensure that a gender perspective informs all DoD security cooperation activities at home and abroad.

State Partnership Program: 

DoD’s State Partnership Program is a unique enabler of security cooperation, supporting one-to-one engagement between a U.S. state’s National Guard units and a partner nation’s security forces.  In the Western Hemisphere, the Department has 23 active State Partnerships with 29 nations, constituting the highest regional concentration of such partnerships worldwide (28% of all active State Partnerships).  The programs have featured roughly 890 exchanges since 2019, with more than 300 planned for the remainder of 2022 and in 2023.  These exchanges center on a range of areas to include disaster preparedness and response, cyber defense, military education, and maintenance. 

Climate Change:  

DoD seeks to collaborate with allies and partners to address the risks of climate change, recognizing that the threats of rising temperatures and sea levels, and more frequent storms and floods, require increased humanitarian response capabilities.  The Department exchanges information with allies and partners about our efforts to develop new ways to address climate change, including integration of climate change considerations in the 2022 National Defense Strategy.

Training and Education: 

The Department of Defense provides education and training to thousands of defense and security students from the hemisphere each year.  Through academic programs in the United States and overseas, the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies contributes to transparent and capable defense and security governance institutions in the Americas.  Since 2019, the Perry Center has enrolled more than 10,000 civilian and military partners from across the hemisphere in in-person and virtual courses and webinars.  Students also attend leading DoD professional civilian and military education programs at locations including the National Defense University, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the Air Command and Staff College, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Naval Command College.  


DoD conducts annual and bi-annual training exercises with Western Hemisphere allies and partners to promote cooperation, enhance interoperability, and increase readiness to respond to crises.  These exercises include UNITAS, the world’s longest-running maritime exercise; FUERZAS COMANDO, for strengthening special forces; NAMSI, in support of the North American Maritime Security Initiative; TRADEWINDS, focused on security of the Caribbean basin; PANAMAX, for defending the Panama Canal; and CENTAM GUARDIAN, focused on disaster response and regional security.  Between 2019 and 2021, more than 14,000 participants from 33 partner nations in the hemisphere joined DoD personnel in these and other regional exercises.