For 25 years, the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies has been seeking to establish ties of cooperation among the different countries of Latin America, creating a network of professionals who are leaders in security and defense in the hemisphere, and able to offer shared solutions to contemporary challenges. This is one of the reasons the center offers a variety of courses over the years, such as the Strategy and Defense Policy course. Forty-eight students from various countries graduated from the course on October 28 in a ceremony held at the National Defense University (NDU), where the Perry Center is located, at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C.
“For more than a month you were an active part of our center and our community. First in the virtual phase where you interacted frequently in forums and participated in driving discussions. Then, two weeks ago, you started the residential phase of the course. Some came to our center for the first time, others are already part of our alumni,” Dr. Paul Angelo, director of the Perry Center, said in his address to the students. “Today this closing event brings to a close a day full of emotions. The groups presented an academic evaluation with the most relevant challenges and perspectives for the design and implementation of defense strategies, adaptation, modernization, and transformation processes — an institutional reform.”
During their stay at the Perry Center students were able to analyze the scope and variety of perspectives on global, hemispheric, regional, and national security challenges and issues to address threats to the Western Hemisphere. “It is my sincere wish that this course has served to better prepare each of you, to effectively participate in defense and security strategy and policy formulation processes in your own nations throughout the region. We are your friends and partners in this effort,” U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Michael Plehn, NDU president, said.
The relationships established, in addition to learning how other countries with similar problems operate, were the most relevant aspects of the course, most students who spoke with Diálogo said. “It is always good to update information, to update concepts, to update approaches. There are no new trends, there are new threats,” Rear Admiral (ret.) Hugo Verán Moreno, director of the Strategic Management for Defense and Crisis Management course, from Peru’s Naval War College and a graduate of the Perry Center, said. “I think the Perry Center reflects that updated knowledge, and it is always good to maintain or establish relationships with people from other countries who are involved in security and defense issues, or who will be involved in defense issues in the future, who have different visions according to each country, even though we are very similar.”
For Brazilian Navy Captain (ret.) Fortunato Lobo Lameiras, deputy director of the Advanced Strategic Policy Studies course at the War College in Rio de Janeiro, “the most interesting thing about this course is that it combines theoretical and practical experiences. That is, we have lectures, mandatory readings and then, after each reading, we have a one-day exercise based on a fictitious country. What contributed the most was to see the difference. It was working with eight, nine colleagues, who have nine visions and mainly nine different approaches to the same problem.”
The keynote speaker at the ceremony, Ambassador Todd D. Robinson, assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, best summed up the overall sentiment at the conclusion of the course. “Hopefully you spent some time expanding your networks across international boundaries. Why? First, because no country can fight this fight on its own. Second, because criminals don’t let international boundaries stop them from bringing pain and misery and death and destruction to your communities. Working together, be it reaching across borders or just two colleagues in different agencies, brings results.”