The Brazilian War College (ESG) hosted the 23rd Ibero-American Defense College Directors Conference, held August 29-September 2. Diálogo spoke with the ESG commandant, Brazilian Army Lieutenant General Adilson Carlos Katibe, about the conference and other topics.
Diálogo: How important is that conference? And how important is it that it was held in Brazil on the bicentennial of the country’s Independence?
Brazilian Army Lieutenant General Adilson Carlos Katibe, Brazilian War College commandant: First of all, allow me to thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Diálogo Magazine, which is an important vehicle for the dissemination of security and defense issues in our hemisphere. The conference was held as part of the Ibero-American Defense College Commanders Association. This association encompasses 19 countries, 17 of which are from Latin America and the other two are from Europe, which are Spain and Portugal. This is our 23rd edition and its main objective is to promote the integration of countries that have a common history, culture, and challenges. This enables the exchange of experiences, contributing to the development or improvement of solutions and mutual support in general. The main theme at this conference was the participation and performance of the armed forces in activities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We had several presentations and activities related to the participation of the armed forces, which provided a lot of lessons that member countries of the association can apply, particularly at a time like this, when everyone is together. The conference is now back to being presential. In the last two years, due to the pandemic, the conference was held virtually. The last face-to-face was in 2019, and here we are again this year. And of course, when the time came to offer to host our conference, Brazil was very motivated, because of the opportunity to celebrate the bicentennial of our Independence. And as you see, we are holding the conference close to September 7 [Brazil’s Independence Day], so it’s a very opportune moment.
Diálogo: You mentioned exchanges between colleges. Could you describe some relevant exchanges?
Lt. Gen. Katibe: Every year, courses, seminars, and symposia are conducted between the schools. There are bilateral memoranda and agreements that will better regulate the functioning of common activities. Of course, there is a main umbrella, which is the Defense College Commanders Association, but institutionally a bilateral approach is more productive. We also have mutual contributions and publications. So, some experts from one school contribute to another. We, in this conference, had the responsibility, which is normal, to work on the consolidation of a publication. I even have this publication here, titled Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, and New Technologies in the Defense Area, which was the theme for which the various schools, even those that were not present — because not all of them could come in person — contributed and sent articles by experts from their countries. With this, we made our book, which content is quite relevant, because it provides experiences in such a thrilling area that cyber is today. This is the kind of work that is carried out within the scope of the Association. In addition, we do teacher exchanges, with teachers who come to the school to teach or participate in courses and other activities, such as seminars, and come here to Brazil, for example. Study trips are some other very common activities, which aim to get to know these other educational establishments, that is, both students and teachers go as a delegation to another country. We also receive the visit of other countries and we go to get to know the educational establishment itself, the strategic structures of that country, the prominent descriptions in the area of defense, and as such, we bring the possibility of enriching the content of the courses held in the school.
Diálogo: What did Brazil most importantly bring to this conference and what will continue to benefit the country after its conclusion?
Lt. Gen. Katibe: Brazil is a country of continental dimensions and it needs to find solutions for very varied challenges. So, in this exchange that we bring into a conference, where there is interpersonal relationship, where you establish this closer contact in the form of joint work or presentations, you bring our country’s experience so that other nations can take advantage of our capabilities. And of course, we also have extensive experience in the area of security and defense that we can share with other countries, particularly in Latin America. This year is the fifth time that we host the conference. Of the 23 editions, Brazil hosted five. So, it is also another possibility that Brazil offers. We have all the conditions and, from what I have seen so far at the conference, I think that all the members who had the opportunity to come here in person are quite satisfied with what we offer in terms of structure for the operation of the conference.
Diálogo: You mentioned visits to other international institutions. What is the ESG’s level of involvement with institutions like the William J. Perry Center or the National Defense University, both in the United States?
Lt. Gen. Katibe: We have several memoranda of understanding, agreements. Among those, I want to highlight, as you mentioned, the Perry Center Institute, a partnership of several years and the fruit of an increasingly close relationship. This year, we have 10 different activities scheduled. Of these, eight have already taken place. There are courses, seminars, symposia. Two of these courses have already been held here at the school with the participation of more than 40 students. One of them is the Governance and Defense Course and the other is the Policies and Strategies in the Face of Complex Threats Course. All of them have very interesting content, and we had faculty from the Perry Center come to contribute in a hybrid way — one week in person and another as distance learning — here at the school, in addition to the other activities that we provide, to our professors even, to participate in the course there at the Perry Center. They leave here and help to conduct and participate in both the planning and the execution of the courses. Another very interesting activity we have is with the Inter-American Defense College in the United States. To give you an idea, we are going to participate at the end of the year, in the last activity of the master’s degree, and one of our professors will contribute with the final planning, with the formatting of this exercise that ends the year of discussion and study of this course.
Diálogo: Does the ESG already offer a master’s degree? Is there the possibility of a doctoral program as well?
Lt. Gen. Katibe: Well, the master’s degree is actually from the Inter-American Defense College. We participated in the final exercise of that course, but the ESG has its own master’s degree in two lines of research, which is the area of Defense and International Relations. That course was created in 2018. The first class started in 2019. We are in our fourth class. It’s a two-year course, which is open to civilians and military personnel. There is a public notice for the candidates with the criteria to follow. Subsequently, our master’s degree faculty makes the selection according to the curriculum presented and the proposed research work. If there is interest (because it has to be aligned with these two lines of research), the selection is made.
Diálogo: The conflict between Ukraine and Russia brought to the surface some issues, especially in the cyber area, which had not been put to the test in real life. You showed us a book that talks about cybersecurity. Is there a course at the ESG on cybersecurity?
Lt. Gen. Katibe: This is an opportunity to give you first-hand information that we are actually in the process of creating a cybersecurity course, which we dubbed the Advanced Cybersecurity and Defense Course, which will deal with this topic at the political-strategic level. There is nothing like it in our country and I think that few countries, if any, do offer training at the political-strategic level. We have a lot of initiatives in our country at the operational level, such as cyber defense and structures of institutions, but very much at the operational level. But before that, it’s important to address the political-strategic level to direct the operational effort, and we intend to contribute to that area, because we see a gap. We are not the ones talking about this; it is precisely the institutions interested in this type of training, the Armed Forces and other institutions that deal with the subject, such as the Federal Police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency. For the structure of this course and the elaboration of our course plan, we made a deep study, with several consultations with experts from these institutions. There are many other agencies as well.
Diálogo: The ESG is 73 years old. How do you see this institution in five or 10 years, and what is an important lesson learned?
Lt. Gen. Katibe: The school has a faculty of the highest level. We’ve had great thinkers and geopoliticians here. We have a great training capacity; we have a rich history, a great tradition, but we can’t stand still in time and we have to be in a constant process of modernization, updating our pedagogical content. The course that is being done today is different from the one that was done last year, which is different from the one from two years ago, and is better, improved. It brings relevant and current themes to be studied. And, for this, our school has to have a modern, capable structure, with motivated personnel, proud to be part of a truly distinctive team, with all the work structure, so that they can carry out their activities and functions well, and I am sure that the combination of these factors is the secret to success. The ESG has history, but it is eager to build much more. And we want to be a part of this.