Gates Cites Importance of Transparency, Civilian Expertise
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, Nov. 22, 2010 Transparency in defense spending breeds trust among nations, and civilian expertise is vital to any nation’s defense establishment, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
Gates spoke during a plenary session of the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas, and noted that “consolidation of peace, trust security and cooperation in the Americas” is one of the conference’s major themes.
“Being more open about our nations’ intentions and capabilities can generate mutual trust throughout the hemisphere, which the U.S. considers to be an important national interest,” the secretary said.
Noting that the U.S. president disseminates a national security strategy and the Defense Department conducts and publishes a thorough review every four years, Gates said the United States takes the same approach to defense spending.
“For example,” he said, “in addition to submitting defense budgets annually and publicly to our Congress, each year the United States takes part in the United Nations instrument for reporting military expenditures.” This report, he explained, covers military-related expenditures on costs for training and operations, personnel, maintenance, procurement, construction, and research and development.
“It is a comprehensive accounting of U.S. defense spending,” the secretary said, “and we are proud to be a participant.”
Gates added that he has directed his staff to work with State Department officials to re-evaluate the Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions and to determine the prospects for submitting it to the Senate for ratification. The convention requires nations that sign and ratify it to report annually on weapons exports and imports and to make timely notifications of weapons acquisitions, whether imported or produced domestically.
Another theme of the conference here -– “Democracy, Armed Forces, Security and Society” –- gives Western Hemisphere nations a chance to examine how to strengthen civilian capacities in their defense ministries, Gates said.
“Civilian expertise in defense matters is crucial,” he said. “In fact, it is a critical prerequisite for civilian control of the military, itself a key component of true democracy.”
To help Western Hemisphere partners strengthen the civilian expertise in their defense structures, Gates said, The Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies has offered to host workshops and has committed to provide two scholarships to its courses for each of the nations represented at the conference. Such exchanges, he added, foster mutual understanding.