South American air forces’ chiefs seek mutual solutions to current cyber and space security challenges, as well as transnational threats.
“Cooperation as a Strategy Towards Progress” was the opening theme of the South American Air Chiefs and Senior Enlisted Leader Conference, held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, on November 4-8, 2019. For the first time, the conference included a concurrent seminar for senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs).
“I look forward to the cooperation and camaraderie that is fostered during your time here, as we not only focus on topics such as space, cyber, and transnational threats, but also hear from each other on our shared capabilities and challenges,” said Major General Andrew Croft, commander of U.S. 12th Air Force, Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH), which hosted the event.
During his opening remarks before more than 50 attendees, including members of the air forces of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru; representatives of the U.S. Air National Guard’s State Partnership Program; and different units of the U.S. Air Force, Maj. Gen. Croft said: “Our shared neighborhood is currently experiencing some challenges […] and these challenges compounded with malign states and actors in the region are threatening our democracies and our shared values […].When politics are uncertain is when we as our nations’ militaries must be most certain. Certain in our core values, certain in our capabilities, and certain in our cooperation to maintain security in our hemisphere.”
The meeting included presentations about the capabilities of each air force, their advances in space and cyber security, and transnational threats. The air chiefs conducted bilateral meetings, along with a guided visit to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group and to the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces.
Space and cyber security
“Space and cyber security are two factors that can spread different aggressions or threats in the world and end up affecting the interests of a nation; that’s why every state has the right and responsibility to protect its citizens, their property, and their valuables from these potential threats,” said Lieutenant General Juan José Janer, commander of the Aerospace Command of the Argentine Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The Argentine Air Force is responsible for protecting the air space to safeguard national interests.”
Lieutenant General Raúl Hoyos de Vinatea, head of the Peruvian Air Force’s General Staff, said during his presentation that the Peruvian Air Force had entered the era of cybersecurity. “Most importantly, a cyberdefense law was passed, since there was no legal framework and we were hesitant to execute cyber space operations, for fear of doing something illegal to non-authorized systems,” said Lt. Gen. Hoyos. “The law provides us with the legal framework to support cybersecurity and execute operations in this field.”
For his part, General Ramsés Rueda Rueda, commander of the Colombian Air Force (FAC, in Spanish), spoke about transnational threats that arise in his country and stressed that FAC plays a very important role in the fight against narcotrafficking. “We are denying narcotraffickers the use of airspace, but they are flying outside the territory; we want to counter narcotrafficking, even outside national borders.”
While air force chiefs held bilateral meetings with Maj. Gen. Croft, NCOs and sergeant majors had a parallel agenda to analyze issues relevant to their responsibilities, such as the importance of professionalization of new generations of NCOs, as well as the new challenges in space and cyber security.
“We are part of the leadership team, and we are just as committed to the mission as our commanders. We need to come together with our commanders so we can understand the full picture of what they need,” said AFSOUTH Command Chief Master Sergeant John Storms. “It’s important to recognize that the culture of empowering the enlisted force sometimes does not necessarily grant enough authority and autonomy, so it requires a culture change to get there, and we at AFSOUTH are willing to help them in every way we can to speed up that process.”