Research and History from the Depths of the Sea

Research and History from the Depths of the Sea

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
January 22, 2018

The mission of the Chilean Navy’s Strategic Studies Center (CEDESTRA, in Spanish) is very specific: to conduct research and analyses—principally of a forward-looking nature—related to the Chilean Navy's strategic areas. Topics like security and defense, military sociology, and international maritime law are some of the lines of investigation the institution spearheads in the area of military studies for more than two decades.

The work of CEDESTRA focuses on advising the Navy General Staff to prepare the institution for future scenarios with strategic planning. “It’s an enormous challenge to lead CEDESTRA because of the multiple issues we work on,” said Chilean Navy Vice Admiral (R) Jorge Ibarra Rodríguez, executive director of CEDESTRA. “The challenge is to be an organization that the Chilean Navy can count on for its research in different areas.”

Since its creation in 1991, the center moved into various facilities and is now located in Valparaíso, Chile, at the Navy General Staff's facilities. In addition to the research topics it spearheads, CEDESTRA creates room for discussion, exchange, and knowledge in the areas of security and defense, among other topics.

The center

CEDESTRA focuses on two specific areas: research and institutional outreach. Research focuses on developing strategic studies on national security and defense, maritime history, military sociology, international maritime law, and maritime interests, among others.

Through its institutional outreach, CEDESTRA coordinates activities with academic centers of the Armed Forces of Chile, including the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies, the Center of Aerospace Strategic Studies, the Chilean Air Force, and the Army General Staff Center for Military Studies and Research. CEDESTRA also implements activities and maintains agreements with public and private universities, and carries out international exchanges with countries throughout the region.

CEDESTRA orients its academic tasks according to directives from the Chilean Navy's strategic development plan, known as the Ocean Directive. The directive allows CEDESTRA to work on its regular research topics and stay open to new research areas such as the politics of inclusion, Antarctica, the environment, etc.

Special study areas

“Naval history is no longer approached solely from the perspective of naval combat,” said Susana Iduya Guerrero, CEDESTRA historian and researcher. “We currently have a more complete view, including strategic, political, and social points of view.” Naval history is not very developed in Chile, Iduya said, so the fields of naval history and military sociology have become new disciplines.

“Military sociology as a discipline is not very common in the military field,” said Chilean Navy Captain (R) Omar Gutiérrez Valdebenito, a specialist in military sociology. “My responsibility is to follow social transformation processes that have an effect on society and how these impact the military institution.”

“The social transformations are so innumerable and fast that suddenly it's hard to say which impacted the Armed Forces most in the past few years in Chile,” Capt. Gutiérrez said. “Maybe the most relevant for the Chilean Navy has been the incorporation of women.” The Chilean Navy counts about 25,000 uniformed personnel, of which 10 percent are women. Women have been a part of the Navy since 1936, when the institution incorporated the first nurses and administrative staff. But it was in 2003, when uniforms were regulated to take into account the distinct insignia for ranks and specialties.

According to Capt. Gutiérrez, military sociology studies how naval forces prepared and adapted its organizational culture for the inclusion of women, as well as their performance within military ranks, including life aboard a military ship, participation in combat, and leadership within the organization, among others. “From military sociology, we have the chance to alert the institution with respect to upcoming changes and challenges,” Capt. Gutiérrez concluded.