Without Everyone’s Participation, There is No Hemispheric Defense
By Dialogo September 07, 2012
Interview with Army General, Daniel E. Castellá, Uruguayan Chief of Defense
Army General, Daniel E. Castellá, Uruguayan Chief of Defense, took a break from his participation at the South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC 2012), in Bogotá, Colombia, from July 24-26, to grant Diálogo an exclusive interview. Gen. Castellá reflected on the role that the military has in unconventional and sometimes controversial, yet essential tasks for the country; as well as the need to carry out military operations in coordination with the hemispheric ministries of Defense.
Diálogo: General Castellá, your presentation was on the modernization of the Armed Forces in Uruguay. Could you talk to us about this issue?
General Daniel E. Castellá: The state’s need for professionalization, modernization and improvement in the efficiency of the Armed Forces, like any modernization process, necessarily involves an investment. This raises the need for balance in between the need for change, the budgetary possibilities (that are characterized by a process of planning the five-year expenditure), the political priorities and objectives that the National Defense Policy sets, in the assumption of the risks of political deficiencies that are not achieved.
Modernizing and improving the efficiency of our Armed Forces, partly involves the modification of the structure of expenditure, readjusting the percentage of the budget destined for investments and operating costs destined for the operational aspects, and therefore, leading to a balanced distribution between them. The five-year budget allocation is fundamental for our modernization process to flourish. Currently, the budget of the Armed Forces is unbalanced. Of the 77 percent of the gross domestic product that the State intended for military defense, only 5 percent goes to investment, and a large percentage of it is assigned to supplies for administrators and not for operational purposes. Additionally, there is a trend to increase the proportion of operating costs (salaries and supplies) to the detriment of investment.
Diálogo: In Uruguay, do the Armed Forces support the police as occurs in other countries in the region?
Gen. Castellá: The Armed Forces make up the organized branch, equipped, educated and trained to execute the military acts that the National Defense imposes. Its fundamental mission is to defend the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, safeguarding the country’s strategic resources and contributing to the preservation of the republic’s peace. In times of peace, without failing to fulfill its core mission and under the express authorization of the Minister of Defense, the Armed Forces may provide services or collaboration in socially relevant or publicly convenient activities, which are framed precisely for public safety. Therefore, the fundamental mission of the Armed Forces should be the main criterion in organizing their forces’ design and use, while all secondary missions must not interrupt the required capabilities for the fulfillment of the primary mission. In accordance with Article 20 of the Constitutional Law of National Defense, , the Armed Forces could eventually participate in supporting the public security forces in tasks related to the preservation of order and peace in internal affairs, when called upon by the Armed Forces high command in the event of a serious internal crisis that has exceeds the capacity of state agencies and institutions, as defined by the Constitution.
Diálogo: And when it comes to a natural disaster, relief to a neighboring country, is it also something that has to be authorized by the president?
Gen. Castellá: The involvement of Military defense in extraordinary situations includes support during civil defense activities (conflict situations) and civil protection (catastrophic situations or natural disasters), with the goal of mitigating the negative effects and achieving prompt restoration of normal conditions of the lives of citizens. The participation of the Armed Forces during defense activities and civil protection is conducted by the National Emergency System (SINAE). Coordination and response is executed by management at the highest level, through the General Defense Staff’s advice to the Defense Minister to determine the scope and capabilities available for crisis and emergency response, both nationally and internationally.
Diálogo: General Castellá, Brazil and Argentina have ceased to be drug transit countries, and have become consumers. Is this also occurring in Uruguay? Have you seen an increase in the violence as a result of drug trafficking?
Gen. Castellá: Research from the Interior Ministry indicates there is an increase in violence from the consumption of drugs. It should be clear that these are issues that currently are not directly related with the mission assigned to the Armed Forces.
Diálogo: What is importance of the bilateral or multilateral military agreements in combating this and other threats?
Gen. Castellá: The general concept is to continue with the bilateral, regional and hemispheric meetings. We’re part of the regional Union of South American Nations; a defense system is also identified in Central America and the Caribbean, and there is another system certified by the United States, Canada and Mexico. We need to look for a way to coordinate these systems, perhaps through the hemisphere’s Defense Ministers. For this, these meetings must continue. The Defense Ministers of the Americas meeting would be the cusp, and from which all possible coordination would be conducted to guide the process of hemispheric security. So I think that it would be difficult to have a hemispheric defense system that does not take into account all the above mentioned systems.
Picture 091012-General Daniel E Castellá