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Gates Endorses Disaster Relief Proposal at Conference

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, Nov. 22, 2010 – A proposal that would improve international cooperation among Western Hemisphere nations in disaster relief efforts received a strong endorsement from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates here today.

In remarks during a plenary session of the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas, Gates said the proposal resulted from extensive consultation and deliberation, including September workshops in Washington, D.C., and Lima, Peru. Lessons learned from relief operations in the wake of January’s earthquake in Haiti informed the discussions, he added.

“Those sessions included detailed input from many of our countries aimed at debriefing the key elements needed to improve cooperation on disaster relief,” Gates told his Western Hemisphere colleagues. “Those discussions were aided by honest assessments of what worked and what didn’t in Haiti.”

The proposal calls for:

-- Standardizing a system for military collaboration during disaster relief operations through a Military Assistance Collaboration Cell;

--Adopting a common platform for information sharing; and

-- Establishing working groups to develop the framework for military support for civilian-led disaster relief operations.

“I wholeheartedly endorse this proposal,” Gates said, “and believe it is a promising blueprint for other cooperative efforts to further our mutual interests in concrete and beneficial ways. I also believe the proposal’s working groups might provide a measure of continuity by facilitating collaboration in between our biennial ministerial gatherings.

“Most importantly,” he continued, “this initiative will go far to help mitigate the human suffering that results from these tragedies.”

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Robert M. Gates

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Speech: Gates' Speech at Conference of the Defense Ministers of America



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