U.S. Relinquishes Leadership of Western Hemisphere Military Council
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2006 In a historic move, the U.S. is giving up its claim on the chairman position of the Inter-American Defense Board, the military advisory board to the Organization of American States.
This change is coming about because in March, the OAS, the premiere political organization for the Western hemisphere, decided to officially recognize the IADB as part of its organization after more than 60 years, said Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber, IADB chairman.
The IADB, an international committee of defense officials, was created at a 1942 meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Huber said. The OAS wasn't formed until 1948, so the relationship between the two organizations was already complicated because the parent organization was formed later than the subordinate group, he said.
Because of this complication, the OAS did not then officially incorporate the IADB into its organization.
In March, the ambassadors of the OAS, who represent 34 countries in the Western hemisphere, including the U.S., voted to recognize the IADB as an entity within the OAS, opening the door for expanded relationships, Huber said.
"That allows member states of the OAS to request assistance from the IADB within their areas of competence," he said. "They provide technical assistance -- never operational assistance -- but technical assistance in the matters of military affairs and defense within the hemisphere."
Because the IADB is now part of the OAS, it is subject to OAS statutes, Huber said. One statute says that all senior leadership positions must be elected from the member nations. To respect that ruling and the decision of the OAS, the U.S. is giving up its claim on the IADB chairman position, which it has always held, and opening the position up to election, he said.
"The decision by the U.S. delegation (to the IADB) to have me step down from the presidency to allow another nation to be elected to that position, is a clear demonstration of the U.S. government's support to the decision by the OAS, as well as the importance of the OAS to cooperation, defense and security within the Western hemisphere," he said.
It has taken a long time for the OAS to officially recognize the IADB, Huber said, but that is largely due to the history of the Western hemisphere, where civilian authorities haven't always trusted their militaries. This decision is historic because it demonstrates that the civil and political leaders of the region now recognize the legitimacy of the militaries and welcome their assistance, he said.
"This decision indicates that the OAS has viewed (the IADB) as a priority and as a useful body of military advisers," he said.
Huber is currently dual-hatted as IADB chairman and president of the Inter-American Defense College, which is located at Fort McNair here and is the senior military academic institution for the Western hemisphere. He will step down from the IADB chairman position, but will remain as the college president until his tour of duty is finished next summer, he said.
Huber stepping down does not mean the U.S. is backing out of its support of the IADB, he said. It was done to show respect for the OAS statutes.
U.S. personnel who currently support the IADB and the OAS will remain in place, he said. "The support that has been provided to the IADB by the U.S. government will continue."
The chairman of the IADB is entirely separate from the U.S. delegation to the IADB, Huber said. The U.S. delegation is a group of U.S. officers whose job is to present the U.S. opinions, advice and recommendations to the collective council.
The chairman of the IADB, on the other hand, does not speak for any specific nation but is a representative of the collective body of the IADB and serves as a communications link between the IADB, the Inter-American Defense College, and the diplomats in the OAS, he said.