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As Delivered Remarks to the Superior War College by Secretary Panetta, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
April 25, 2012

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA:  Thank you very much for that kind introduction and bom dia to all of you.  It is a great privilege and a great honor for me to be here in Rio de Janeiro during my first visit to Brazil, and my first trip to South America as the United States secretary of defense. 

            This city is known across the world for its great beauty, its beaches, its natural wonders and its vibrant culture.  I come from a coastal city in California.  I was born in Monterey, California.  And Monterey draws its history from a long legacy of Central and Latin America that contributed to its history over the years.  As an Italian, I feel a very strong connection to this place and to its people and to its history.  

            It is especially gratifying to be here at the Escola Superior de Guerra.  In Italian we say guerra, so I hope you understand, either guerra or guerra, we know what that’s about.  I am proud of the support that the United States offered in helping to establish this school in 1949, and I am proud of the connections that have been built between this institution and the United States Department of Defense.  I know the National Defense University in Washington is very much looking forward to hosting General Cherem, I believe that’s next month, and to further enhancing our growing cooperation on professional military education. 

            This visit to Brazil is very meaningful to me because, like so many in the United States, I have felt a special kinship for Brazil.  It is a kinship borne out of common values -- common values that we both share, common values that have enriched both of our nations -- nations that share abundant natural resources, nations that are made strong by our democratic institutions, and nations that are guided by a shared dream to forge a better world for our children. 

            Our nations have been shaped by the common experience of our diverse people, from our ancient indigenous cultures to the legacy of African slavery, to the great many families that made their way to our countries from Europe and European immigration. 

            My own story is in many ways the story of the United States of America, and in many ways it is the story of Brazil as well. 

            I am the son of Italian immigrants who left Italy in the early 1930s to make a new life for themselves in the United States.  Growing up, I would ask my father, “Why did you travel those many thousands of miles to go to a strange country?”  They came from a poor area of Italy, but in the very least they had the comfort of family.  And I asked him “Why would you pick up, leave your family and travel all of that distance to a strange country?” And I will never forget his response.  He said, “Because your mother and I believed that we could give our children a better life.” 

            That dream, that conviction,  motivated millions of others to uproot their lives and to set out for the New World.  Millions came to the United States, and millions came to Brazil.  Their story should remind all of us how much the United States and Brazil share in a common experience and common interests, including our common goal of advancing peace and security in the 21st century. 

            This shared interest in peace and security is the foundation of the strong and vibrant partnership that the United States and Brazil are building together -- a partnership where the goal is as simple as the immigrant dream of my parents: to give our children a better life, to give our children a more secure life. 

            Today I’d like to address the U.S.-Brazil defense relationship because I believe we are at a critical point in the history of our two nations where we have the opportunity to forge a new, strong, innovative security relationship for the future.  We have before us a truly historic opportunity to build that defense partnership -- a strategic partnership based on mutual interest and mutual respect, a partnership premised on our conviction that a strong and prosperous Brazil that takes its rightful place as a global leader in the world will be a force for peace and a model for other nations in the 21st century. 

            This opportunity comes as the United States finds itself at a crucial turning point after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war against al Qaeda and terrorism, a war against al Qaeda and al Qaeda’s militant allies, particularly after the attack on 9/11.  We have scored significant gains against al Qaeda.  We have weakened al Qaeda’s leadership and we have weakened their ability to carry out the kind of attacks that they conducted on 9/11.  We have brought the war in Iraq to a responsible conclusion.  And in Afghanistan we have begun a transition to Afghan security and governance and responsibility, and despite the challenges -- and there remain real challenges that need to be confronted, but the reality is that because of the great leadership of General Allen, our commander of U.S. and NATO forces, the strategy that he has designed is working.  It’s succeeding.  The goal of a secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is not a safe haven for terrorists to plan the kind of attacks that they planned on 9/11 -- that goal is within sight. 

            These transitions have allowed the United States to focus new energy on emerging opportunities and challenges across the globe, including here in the Western Hemisphere. 

            The international security challenges that confront us are still very real and very threatening.  Transnational threats like violent extremism, the destabilizing behavior of nations like Iran and North Korea, we see now rising powers across Asia-Pacific and we see continuing turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa.  At the same time, we are dealing with the changing nature of warfare, the proliferation of lethal weapons and materials, and the growing threat of cyberintrusion.  The cyber area in many ways, I believe, is a potential battlefield of future.  And here in this hemisphere, we face illicit drug trafficking and natural disasters. 

            These challenges affect us all: our people, our economies, our future way of life.  And the world is so deeply interconnected that they are truly beyond the ability of any one nation to resolve these challenges alone. 

            All of this is happening at a time in the United States when we are also confronting a record deficit and a record debt.  Defense has a role to play in helping to reduce that deficit, but I do not believe, as someone who has been involved in budget issues throughout a great deal of my career in Washington -- I do not believe that we have to choose between national security and fiscal security, and for that reason at the Pentagon, the chiefs of all of our services, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, all of our secretaries were involved in an effort to design a strategy for the United States defense force not just for today, but for 2020 so that based on that strategy we could make the important budget decisions that have to be made in order to create the United States defense force for the future.  As a result of that effort, we have put forward a new defense strategy that aims to meet the challenges that I discussed -- in large measure meet those challenges by reinvigorating our defense and security partnership across the globe. 

            Let me describe the key elements of that strategy.  First, the United States military will become smaller and leaner as we draw down from the two wars, but the great strength of that force will be its agility, its flexibility, its ability to rapidly deploy when called upon, and the fact that it will always be technologically advanced.  

            Second, we will rebalance our global posture to emphasize the threats in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Middle East, in recognition of the many challenges and opportunities in those regions. 

            Third -- and this is of particular importance when it comes to this hemisphere -- we will seek to reinvigorate our security relationships throughout the world by building innovative defense partnerships, building alliances, building relationships particularly in Europe, in Africa and here in the Western Hemisphere. 

            Fourth, we will ensure, as we must, that the United States military remains capable of confronting aggression and defeating any opponent anytime, anywhere.  We must have the capability to confront more than one enemy at a time, and to be able to defeat them.  

            And lastly we must prioritize and protect investments in new technologies -- those technologies for the future such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, unmanned systems, space, cyberspace, special operations and the capacity to quickly mobilize when necessary.  

            This new strategy recognizes that the United States must remain a global power, but that more and more nations -- more and more nations are making and must make an important contribution to global security.  We welcome and encourage this new reality because frankly it makes the world safer and all of our nations stronger. 

            It is with this strategic outlook that I’ve just described and this belief in the possibilities of new partnerships that I have come to Brazil.  Yesterday in Brasilia, Minister Amorim and I began a new dialogue directed by President Obama and President Rousseff when they met earlier this month in Washington. 

            The Defense Cooperation Dialogue has the potential to help transform United States-Brazil defense cooperation because it provides a way for our two defense establishments to focus on areas where there is an unfulfilled potential for our two countries to do much more working together.   

            With Brazil taking its rightful place as a global leader, we recognize that the nature of our relationship in 2012 is and should be fundamentally different from what it was in 1824 when the United States was the first country to recognize an independent Brazil, or in 1942, when Brazil made the decision to enter World War II alongside the United States and later became the only South American nation to send troops into battle during that war.  And also different from the 1980s and the 1990s when the U.S. assumed that it alone could provide security for this region.  

            Today, this is a relationship -- the United States and Brazil -- a relationship between two global powers, and we welcome Brazil’s growing strength.  We support Brazil as a global leader and seek closer defense cooperation because we believe that a stronger and more globally engaged Brazil will help enhance international security for all of us.  With our deepening partnership, Brazil’s strength is more than ever our strength. 

            We have already glimpsed some of the benefits in recent years as our defense relationship has moved steadily towards a closer cooperation.  Let me give you a few examples. 

            In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, thousands of United States and Brazilian military personnel worked side by side to provide emergency relief to the Haitian people.  It was our countries’ largest combined military operation since World War II. 

            Only a few months after the earthquake in Haiti, the United States and Brazil signed two important agreements to facilitate defense cooperation and the sharing of sensitive military information. 

            Our two militaries also have expanded joint training and exercises.  The United States military has been receiving more requests to participate in Brazilian-hosted military exercises and attend Brazilian military schools, like this school.  For example, U.S. military personnel are once again training in the Brazilian army’s Instruction Center for Jungle Warfare.  Our naval personnel are exercising together on a regular basis both near and far, from the shores of Rio de Janeiro to the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Africa.  And two years ago, the U.S. Air Force participated for the first time in the Brazilian Air Force’s CRUZEX multinational air exercise.  The U.S. Air Force looks forward to having Brazil participate in the Red Flag exercise next year. 

            And these are just a few examples of how much our cooperation has increased, has made our militaries stronger, and has advanced regional and global security.  I believe our defense relationship is now as strong as it has been at any point since World War II. 

            And still, I think we can all agree that there is much more that we can do together, and that it is in all of our interests to pursue a shared vision of deeper defense cooperation that advances peace and security in the 21st century.  

            The dialogue that Minister Amorim and I began yesterday, I believe will lay the groundwork to deepen cooperation across a range of areas in the future.  For example, both Brazil and the United States have outstanding, world-class scientific and research communities that would benefit from an increased sharing of information and joint research in areas of defense.  In the spirit of President Rousseff’s “Science Without Borders” initiative, I would like to find a way for our defense institutions to improve cooperation on research through exchange programs between our scientific establishments and joint research projects. 

            Along these lines, I believe that cybersecurity holds great promise for increased cooperation.  Cyber, as I said, in many ways represents the battlefield of the future.  Cyber has the potential to cripple a nation, to take down its grid system -- its power grid system, to take down its governmental systems, to take down its financial systems.  That is a real potential today.  Both our nations have critical infrastructure that is targeted every day for intrusion and potential attack.  For that reason, I believe both of our nations must leverage our extensive technical expertise and exchange more information on cyber policies, on training and on best practices.   

            Exchanges -- best practices on defense support for civil authorities could also be helpful as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.  I know the Brazilian people are very proud that their country will be hosting these very important events, and I congratulate you on this achievement.  The United States stands ready to share our own experiences and our own lessons learned in providing security for similar events of such global prominence.  

            Looking not only off the field, but beyond our borders, there are even more opportunities to heighten defense collaboration and cooperation in areas of shared interest.  For example, both of our nations have historic connections to Africa and have a strategic interest in the stability of that continent.  We should explore ways for our two militaries to work together to assist African militaries, such as by conducting combined exercises and by other forms of training to try to improve their ability to provide better security on what we all know to be a volatile continent.  

            Another international challenge is the threat of natural disasters, and here the United States and Brazil could move more closely to cooperate, to better respond when other countries -- particularly in this hemisphere -- call for international assistance in response to a major disaster. 

            As two economic powerhouses in this hemisphere, our two nations have built a flourishing trade relationship that includes extensive trade in the defense arena, but this, too, is an area ripe for growth.  In particular, the United States seeks to increase high-tech defense trade flowing in both directions between our countries.  

            I know that the United States export controls have sometimes created the impression that we seek to limit trade, but let me assure you that the United States strongly supports the sharing of advanced technologies with Brazil.  In fact, the United States government has approved close to 4,000 export licenses -- requests that were made each year involving the export of significant technology to Brazil, ranging from weapons and aircraft to integrated combat systems for navy ships and submarines.  This is on a par with the United States government’s license approval rate for treaty allies, for our closest partners.  Please make no mistake:  we will work with you to advance defense trade.  

            Perhaps the most prominent example of our willingness to partner with Brazil on advanced defense technology is the United States government’s offer to provide our Super Hornet fighter aircraft to the Brazilian air force.  This offer, which has the strong support of the United States Congress, contains an unprecedented advanced technology -- advanced technology sharing that is reserved for only our closest allies and partners. 

            But this offer is about much more than providing Brazil with the best fighter available.  With the Super Hornet, Brazil’s defense and aviation industries would be able to transform their partnership with U.S. companies, and they would have the best opportunity to be able to move into worldwide markets. 

            We fully understand that Brazil is not looking just to be the purchaser of a fighter aircraft, but rather a full-fledged partner in the development of cutting-edge aviation technology.  We share that goal, and I am hopeful that the Brazilian government will ultimately choose to purchase the Super Hornet for the air force’s next-generation fighter.  We have put forward a very strong offer and it is an offer that reflects how important we believe the partnership is between the United States and Brazil. 

            From deepening scientific exchanges and defense trade, to developing a common approach to meeting international security challenges in this hemisphere and beyond, I believe I will come away from my visit to Brazil deeply optimistic about the future -- the future of our defense relationship, and the future of our cooperation and the future of our partnership.  And in that light I look forward to hosting Minister Amorim in the next dialogue in Washington. 

            We understand that we won’t agree on everything.  No two countries, not even our closest allies, ever do.  But I do believe that our common interests, our common values are so great and the possibilities that come from our cooperation are so tangible that we must seize this opportunity to build a stronger defense relationship in the future. 

            Let me close by telling you about U.S. Army Sergeant Felipe Pereira, a 26 -- a 28-year-old Brazilian who moved to America at the age of 17 to learn English at a Nebraska college, and he now serves as a squad leader in the storied 101st Airborne Division. 

            Sergeant Pereira earlier this month was awarded one of the military’s highest decorations, the Distinguished Service Cross.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary valor on the battlefield in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  In the aftermath of a roadside bomb detonation that killed two of his teammates, Sergeant Pereira drove into enemy fire to evacuate wounded soldiers even though he was wounded himself. 

            His actions saved the lives of at least two others, and they reflect extraordinary bravery and extraordinary courage.  They are a tribute to him.  They are a tribute to his Brazilian heritage.  And they are a tribute to the close ties of family and affection that bind our two nations together. 

            May his example guide all of us to work together, to fight together for that dream of our parents’ -- the dream of a better and more secure life for our children and for a peaceful and more secure world for both of our nations in the 21st century.  

            Today the United States, Brazil, and for that matter all of the nations of this hemisphere, share a common destiny -- a destiny of hope, of peace, of prosperity, of security, and of democracy for all of our people.  

            Thank you very much. 

            Q:  (Speaking in Portuguese). 

            SECRETARY PANETTA:  In many ways, it represents taking into consideration all of the factors you just talked about.  We were -- the Defense Department, as a result of the budget problems we are facing, the Congress passed a Budget Control Act.  The Budget Control Act required that we reduce the defense budget in the United States by $487 billion over 10 years.  

            As a result of that, I felt it was important not to repeat the mistakes of the past.  Every time that we have drawn down after a conflict in the past, we have made some terrible mistakes that have hollowed out our force. 

            Whether it was after World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the fall of the Soviet Union, in each instance, what happened was that dramatic cuts were made across the board which hollowed out our force and weakened our defense structure for the future.  

            My problem is that, even though, after 10 years of war we are seeing, obviously, some successes in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the war on terrorism, that we still confront major threats in the world.  We're still at war in Afghanistan.  We still have to fight the war on terrorism; that while al-Qaida is weakened, there are elements of al-Qaida that still plan attacks on our country.  

            We have the instability of North Korea and Iran.  We have the issue of turmoil in the Middle East, of cyberwar.  All of these are threats that we must still confront.  So I made clear that we had -- we had several guidelines we had to follow.  Number one, we have to remain the strongest military in the world.  Number two, we cannot afford to hollow out the force.  When you cut across the board, you cut everything, you weaken everything.  That's what I mean when I say "hollow out the force."  

            Thirdly, we had to be balanced, look at every area in the defense budget.  And fourthly, we had to maintain our trust with those who have been fighting, the men and women of our military that have put their lives on the line.  

            So to do that, we felt it was important to develop a strategy, a defense strategy, that would meet those goals and provide the force we need not just now but in 2020 and beyond.  

            So what our service chiefs had to do is to look at the issues that were there, look at the lessons of the past.  Yes, the lessons of Iraq, the lessons of Afghanistan, the lessons of the world that we live in today, recognizing that under any circumstances, we were going to draw down some of our forces as a result of coming out of those wars.  

            So the decision was made, yes, we're going to be leaner, but we have to be agile, we have to be deployable, we have to use the lessons of special forces.  How can we move quickly when we have to deploy quickly?  And how can we stay technologically advanced?  

            And, frankly, we have to recognize where do we focus on where the biggest threats are in terms of our security.  Clearly, in the Pacific, North Korea, we have to be concerned about a potential war there.  The threats coming out of the Middle East.  And our decision was no, the United States cannot choose between one or the other.  We have to be able to confront the potential of a war in North Korea and, at the same time, be able to confront the threat of the closing of the Straits of Hormuz in the Middle East and be able to deal with both of those threats.  

            And so the force that we have to develop for the future has to be capable of meeting those kinds of threats.  And we are confident that it does.  

            At the same time, we can't avoid our responsibilities in the rest of the world.  And that's where this hemisphere comes into play. 

            To do that, what the United States has to do is to work with other countries to develop new partnerships, innovative partnerships, the ability to exercise together, to train together, to share information, to work together to build up our security capabilities in those areas.  And so that is a, in many ways, a new innovative part of the strategy that we're seeking to put in place.  

            And, at the same time, we have to invest.  This isn't just about cutting money.  We have to invest in the technologies of the future.  We have to invest in cyber.  We have to invest in unmanned systems.  We have to invest in special forces.  We have to invest in space.  We have to invest in the ability to mobilize quickly if we confront challenges in the future.  

            So we feel very good about the strategy we've developed because it is a strategy that was developed not because of the budget but because of what we felt we needed to put in place to keep our country strong for the future. 

            And it is a strategy, frankly, that we have presented to the Congress and to the country.  And the Congress -- and I think the country -- has accepted the fact that this is a good strategy for the United States as we move into the 21st century.  And I would recommend to all of you, as students, look at the elements of that strategy because, in many ways, it's probably -- there are elements of that strategy that Brazil and other countries ought to consider as you move forward.  

            Q:  (Speaking in Portuguese)  

            SEC. PANETTA:  As I mentioned in my remarks, I feel a close relationship with Brazil because of our common heritage.  This is a nation that was, in many ways, built by immigrants.  You have a very diverse population, similar to the United States.  And to your credit, you have recognized that, in a democracy, you have to respect the dignity of all of the people who live in this country.  And you have to provide a support system that respects the dignity of every individual in this country.  

            Those are the values of the United States, the values of Brazil.  It's what makes you strong.  That plus, obviously, the great natural resources that you have throughout your country, the great productive capability that you have in this country, the ability to engage in trade with the world, the remarkable natural wonders that you have from the Amazon to the beauty of Rio de Janeiro.  

            And all of that represents the kind of assets that are important to a country like Brazil to be able then to say that, based on those values, based on that history, based on that legacy, we are going to do everything we can to provide security for our people and to recognize that, beyond Brazil, we have a responsibility to try to help provide leadership in a world that, unfortunately, does not always share the same values and the same history.  

            So the United States and Brazil begin with a very important strength.  We both share the same values, the same history, the same legacy, the same respect for human values, have the same respect for human rights, the same respect for democracy.  

            And if we can, using that, begin to develop the kind of cooperative relationship that we have in the security area, I think our countries can not only help promote security in this hemisphere but can work together to try to promote peace in the world.  This is a -- this is the kind of partnership that is the future.  

            When I was talking with Minister of Defense Amorim, he was reflecting on the fact that, in the 1990s, Secretary Perry from -- who was in my position as secretary of Defense, met with him, I believe in Miami, and they discussed common issues.  But it was clear that, at that time, the United States was not supportive of countries like Brazil in the hemisphere developing their own military capabilities.  And there was a sense that the United States could provide security for this hemisphere.  

            In the world of today, we believe it is important for other countries to develop their military capabilities and to provide for security; security for their people and security for this hemisphere.  

            And the best way to advance that is to build the kind of partnerships and alliances that allow us to share our training, our exercises, our innovative capabilities so that we are working together to confront some common challenges.  

            We have some common challenges in today's world.  You have the challenge of drug trafficking which impacts on this country and throughout the hemisphere, throughout the world, the ability to confront that kind of challenge.  We have the common challenge of natural disasters that affect your country, affect our country, affect others in the hemisphere.  Our ability to cooperate together to meet the needs of the people is extremely important.  

            We have the threat of cyber which is a very real threat in today's world.  The ability to work together to develop a cooperative relationship in dealing with those issues is important.  

            The threat of those who would try to confront our countries in one way or another and undermine the stability of our countries, that's a real threat that we all have to confront.  

            So there are some common challenges, but the best way to deal with that in today's world is to work together, not apart, not separately, but to work together.  And that's why I'm here in Brazil is because this is an important place to start that kind of relationship.

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