General Douglas Fraser Highlights Role of Brazil as Regional Leader
By Dialogo August 02, 2012
In March, a journalist from Brazilian military magazine Tecnologia
& Defesa, one of the country’s most prestigious publications,
took part in the Senior Editor’s Conference organized by Díalogo magazine at the
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Journalist Kaiser Konrad, who specializes in
defense topics, took advantage of the opportunity to interview General Douglas
Fraser, Commander, SOUTHCOM. During almost one hour in his sunny office in Miami,
Florida, Gral. Fraser discussed the relationship between the Brazilian and U.S.
armed forces, Brazil’s role in the fight against Transnational Organized
Crime, the use of unmanned aerial aircraft for military missions and the possibility
of having the South American giant choose Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet for its
Air Force, among other topics. Kaiser Konrad captured that conversation into a piece
that Tecnología & Defesa highlighted in its latest edition.
Diálogo reproduced it below.
Q.: Could you elaborate on the cooperation that USSOUTHCOM has
with the Brazilian Armed Forces and how this can be improved? Regarding the joint
operations and exercises performed between our Armed Forces, what is the importance
of this integration?
A.: We have very close and enduring relationships with the
Brazilian Armed Forces today. We routinely conduct exercises with one another. In
fact, last year Brazil hosted part of “Peacekeeping Operations – America,” an
annual exercise we conduct with many of our partners around South and Central
America, and the Caribbean. Brazil hosted this exercise. And this is an exercise
that brings together those countries that contribute to peace keeping operations.
And, it’s a way that they can coordinate and prepare for their missions for
peacekeeping operations wherever they support those operations by the United
Nations. We have an exercise called UNITAS, which is the longest running maritime
multilateral exercise in the world. It’s been held for over 50 years, and Brazil
hosted this exercise last year as well. And, we have very good cooperation again as
we work with our respective navies. CRUZEX, a Brazilian exercise, as you know better
than I do, that the U.S. participated with F-16s and also KC-35s last year as well.
So, we are not only supporting U.S.-sponsored exercises, we are supporting Brazilian
exercises as well. The Brazilian Navy also supports our diesel-electric submarine
program with the U.S. Navy. This helps us work with submarines that we don’t have in
the U.S. Navy. And, as you look beyond exercise programs, you look at the mission to
support the detection and monitoring of illicit trafficking as it moves through the
Caribbean and the Atlantic. Brazil is also supporting those activities by
coordinating ships that are in the eastern part of the confluence of the Caribbean
Sea and Atlantic Ocean. This is an area where we don’t have a lot of ships. We see a
lot of great exercises and we are always looking for more opportunities. Allow me to
add that Brazil’s Air Force has also participated in our exercise called “Red Flag.”
They flew to Las Vegas and participated in this training exercise. I see great
opportunities already and we will continue to pursue more in the future.
Q: Brazil is slowly becoming the natural regional leader. What
is the importance of having our countries follow common goals in the field of
Hemispheric Defense, especially on the safety of the South Atlantic, which is a
strategic zone for the 21st Century?
A: I’ll expand. Look at the entire Atlantic Ocean. It is an
important strategic region for both of our countries. There are a lot of commercial
trade routes that use the South Atlantic. Brazil has a very good understanding of
that maritime traffic today. But, as we watch the concerns with illicit trafficking,
we are seeing more of that traffic going across the Atlantic from South America to
Africa. We are also seeing some of it move from the Caribbean through the Atlantic
into Europe. I think that together with our interest in the Northern Atlantic,
Brazil’s interest in the Southern Atlantic and the fact that we trade with one
another, and with Europe and Africa, coupled with the importance of sustaining
security in the Atlantic is critical to both our countries and the entire Western
Hemisphere. So, the way we conduct that regional and bilateral relationship between
the U.S. and Brazil, but also internationally – for instance with the Dutch and the
UK, there’s a lot of international interest in sustaining security in both parts of
the Atlantic. From my standpoint, that is an area of increasing opportunities for
cooperation between not only our navies, but our air forces, and others; as we look
for mutual concerns for the security of the Atlantic.
Q: The F/A-18 “Super Hornet” by Boeing is being offered to the
Brazilian Air Force modernization program. Our fighter aviation has been using U.S.
made aircrafts for decades, and we can highlight the F-5, which after almost 30
years of operation was modernized and currently represents the top of the line of
Brazilian Air Force aviation. In 2008, it showed its value during the Red Flag
exercise held in the U.S. What are the benefits for the Brazilian Air Force, and for
the integration of the future technological projects of the Brazilian defense
industry, on choosing the Super Hornet and in continuing with the use of a U.S.
aircraft? Since you have been following this subject closely, what is the magnitude
of the U.S. offer from the strategic point of view of the relationships between both
A: The F/A-18 is a very capable and combat-tested aircraft. From
my point of view there is no better option for the Brazilian Air Force than the
F/A-18. Also, I think the importance of Brazil choosing the F/A-18, is that with
this purchase comes aircraft support, and it really helps us continue the
relationship, and the training, and the awareness of how one another operates. And,
as we found during our responses to the Haiti earthquake, the better we understand
one another, the better we operate during a crisis. It’s a natural fit. As you
mentioned earlier, the security of the South Atlantic, Brazil’s potential
involvement in other crises in the future, all make a natural linkage when our
systems support one another. From a commercial standpoint, Boeing is a global
company, and they have a lot of business and technology connections around the
world, so I see them as a “door opener” for Brazilian companies into a global
network in a way that may not be open with other competitors. Brazil will get to
decide that based on their merits and based on their needs. The transparency of our
acquisition system and the training and support that comes with that is very well
known as well. And, the U.S. has put together a very attractive technology transfer
capability; however, not as much as Brazil has been asking for, but this is due to
propriety and security issues. It’s the same kind of package we offer to other
countries, there is no difference. Putting all those pieces together, I think it is
a very good fit for Brazil and the U.S. because I think it will help enhance
Q: Since 2004, Brazil has been sending troops to and has
commanded the military force in MINUSTAH. Since you have been following this work
closely, especially during the earthquake in Haiti, can you evaluate the military
participation of Brazil and the command of MINUSTAH?
A: Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH is critical to the success of the
response on an international basis. I see MINUSTAH as the core that a lot of the
international efforts rally around. MINUSTAH, under Brazil’s leadership, was the
organization that sustained security within Haiti during a critical time and allowed
all the other international support to flow in. We’ve talked frequently about the
relationship between General Floriano Peixoto, the commander of MINUSTAH at the
time, and General Ken Keen, who was my Deputy Commander at the time. The fact that
they had trained with one another and were familiar with one another made a natural
link. Brazil’s leadership, their example for other contributing countries in Latin
America and across the world, has played an important role throughout MINUSTAH. They
have helped with the support, coordination and speed of the response. They’ve helped
with the rest of MINUSTAH to sustain a secure environment. They’ve helped support
the growth of the Haitian National Police. So I have nothing but complimentary
things to say about Brazil’s role in supporting the UN, MINUSTAH and the U.S. armed
forces as we came in to support that relief effort. That doesn’t end with the
response effort. We still have a very close relationship with MINUSTAH, we still
work on an annual basis with them and the government of Haiti to discuss our plans
in case there is another disaster that impacts Haiti in the future. That planning is
still coordinated very, very deliberately so our relations continue to be very, very
close. Also, I would like to continue to say that I have great admiration for
General Floriano Peixoto and I consider him a personal friend.
Q: Is there the possibility of creating a kind of JIATF-S (Joint
Interagency Task Force-South in Key West) in the region (Southern Cone)? What is the
purpose and the importance of this force?
A: From a U.S. perspective, JIATF-S has been a very successful
organization. It focuses on a very specific part of this mission with a lot of other
coordination. They are only responsible for the detection and monitoring of maritime
illicit trafficking, not for any of this activity on land. So, they work as an
interagency with U.S. law enforcement, U.S. intelligence organizations and U.S.
military, with liaisons from 13 different nations, to include both law enforcement
as well as military. They would not be able to carry out their mission if it was not
for each of these organizations contributing to its success. The intelligence
information comes from law enforcement organizations determining the vessels and
aircraft to monitor. After that, the information is passed to a group and they then
assign capability to monitor that traffic until it gets to a location where a ship
or a host nation can intercept that vessel, stop it, and retain individuals for
prosecution. Each interception is done by a military vessel with a law enforcement
authority on board. This is because the military does not have the lawful capability
to stop and arrest. The only way that all those pieces can be put together is
through a joint interagency task force. I think this model can work beyond the U.S.
but, it will be very complex. As you know, [in] working within government structures
there’s a lot of authorities and coordination that must occur. My understanding is
that Brazil is looking at establishing a similar organization to JIATF-S to
coordinate their activities within Brazil and that they intend to link with the
JIATF-S model. I think that’s a good model and that’s probably the best way to start
the formation of a regional JIATF because every government needs to be able to put
those pieces together themselves. Once they have established that capacity, being
able to link it to other organizations and potentially putting in or overseeing a
JIATF would make sense. From our standpoint, JIATF-S has become a model for
interagency operations within the U.S. government.
Q: South American countries, like Brazil, have been using
unmanned aerial systems (UAVs) for Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR)
missions with the intent of identifying illicit activities, such as smuggling and
drug trafficking. The counter insurgency airplane Super Tucano has been utilized by
the Brazilian Air Force, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic for
patrolling missions in their national airspace to intercept illegal flights of drug
trafficking aircraft. Would you, as a combat pilot, be able to evaluate the
importance of the use of these new technologies toward the fight against illicit
activities in the region?
A: I think there is a role for UAVs for missions that require a
lot of endurance. They have a very applicable role for ISR missions. I think there
needs to be a deliberate place where we use them. Within missions, we have pursued
opportunities to use UAVs. We have used an experimental UAV with a maritime search
radar on it. We call it the Cassador program. We flew it in conjunction with the
government of Panama, off the coast of Panama for a three-month period and found it
had considerable utility to provide awareness of maritime traffic. The UAV itself
and the information it provides is just one piece of an entire system. That piece
provides support, but the information it receives must be delivered to an
organization that can take advantage of the information and then direct forces to
respond to the information. There’s a benefit from this aspect. As you look at
working with UAVs in jungles, for example, they are pretty good for seeing activity
on rivers but not for seeing through jungles. So, the U.S. is working on developing
one that can have fully penetrating capability that allows us to see inside the
jungle canopy. There are opportunities for the UAV. I think it plays an important
role in supporting counter illicit trafficking.
Q: Because Brazil has borders with almost all of the South
American countries and its largest territory, do you believe it can be a regional
leader in the war on transnational crime?
A: Brazil has to be a leader just because of its geographic
proximity and size. Also, the potential impact of trafficking in Brazil, plus the
relationships and agreements Brazil makes with its neighbors and other regional
organizations will be critical. I see Brazil as the natural leader. It will have an
interest in all illicit activity because of the potential of it moving through
Brazil. We also talked earlier about the Atlantic, so there’s a natural connection
with Brazil. We have a very good relationship with Brazil. We have common security
interests. A secure, stable Western Hemisphere is in both of our country’s
interests. I believe [that] through Brazil’s leadership, and in working with the
U.S., this is a natural way to strengthen two key and capable countries. It’s
critical and very important to the future that we strengthen our
Q: The Super Tucano aircraft currently has been used by many Air
Forces including Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic for
surveillance and border protection to intercept narcotrafficking aircraft. You are a
fighter pilot, what is your evaluation about the use of this specific aircraft for
this mission? Did you fly the Super Tucano? Are you able to talk about this
experience and what you think about the aircraft?
A: The Super Tucano has proven itself an excellent multi-role,
light air support aircraft. It has been successfully used by Colombia against
narcoterrorist groups like the FARC and by the Dominican Republic to significantly
reduce illicit air tracks entering Dominican airspace.
Embraer has also helped our two countries build important and
mutually-beneficial connections. Two thirds of Embraer’s products come to the
U.S. and two thirds of the inputs for Embraer products come from the U.S. Those
facts speak loudly of Brazil’s growing contributions to technology cooperation in
our hemisphere. It is one of the areas of cooperation we hope to deepen with Brazil
as we work to strengthen our partnership further in the coming years. I had an
opportunity to fly in the Super Tucano in December and was impressed. I found the
Super Tucano to be a nimble, strong, responsive, very maneuverable fighter with
refined, well designed controls and displays. I easily adapted to its feel and the
ease with which it flies. Although I didn’t get the chance to fly tactical maneuvers
with the Super Tucano, I was very impressed.
Q: With respect to the narcotrafficking, what are the measures
that the region needs to become effective in a better fight against it? What is the
importance of Brazil in this?
A: To be successful against illicit trafficking we’ll need to
apply constant national and international pressure across the Hemisphere on
transnational criminal organizations, coordinate our efforts and programs to disrupt
their operations, and support holistic efforts that address the root causes that
allow these organizations to thrive. It will require more than just military support
to law enforcement. It will require whole-of-government approaches that emphasize
building resilient communities, enhancing socio-economic opportunities, and
enhancing the civilian capacity and presence of the State. Our collective efforts
will require long-term commitments. Brazil is already a regional leader in
countering transnational organized crime. For example, Brazil played a pivotal role
in facilitating improved trilateral counterdrug efforts with Bolivia and the U.S.
Its extensive military and interagency capacity-building engagement with the U.S.
and the region is demonstrative of the country’s steadfast commitment to working
with the international community to counter Transnational Organized Crime
*Kaiser Konrad is a Brazilian journalist specializing in defense topics and
an independent collaborator of Diálogo magazine.
Congratulations to General Douglas Frases, for his wise words to Brazil,an allied country, and the way he expresses the interests and needs that America as a whole needs to grow, to put an end to the scourge of organized crime, about the importance of the union of Nations for this purpose by joint training. The only thing I wish for America as a whole is that wise people like you get unity as tight as possible between all these countries that make up our great and wonderful continent. Wars go and come, and they only bring misfortune, but the biggest victory would be the common approach of all the countries that make up America. This would be the greatest achievement of the United States. This would be the greatest achievement of all AMERICA.