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Brazilian and U.S. Marines Sign Cooperation Agreement

Diálogo spoke with Brazilian Marine Corps Major General Nélio de Almeida to learn the details of this partnership.
Marcos Ommati/Diálogo | 13 May 2019

Brazilian Marine Corps Major General Nélio de Almeida is commander of the Marine Corps’ Doctrinal Development and president of the institution’s Veterans Association. (Photo: Marcos Ommati, Diálogo)

To create more opportunities for knowledge exchange and combined training between Brazilian and U.S. Marines is the main objective of a five-year plan representatives from both forces, Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) Major General Nélio de Almeida, commander of the Marine Corps’ (CFN, in Portuguese) Doctrinal Development and president of the force’s Veterans Association, and Major General Michael F. Fahey III, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, signed in February 2019. Maj. Gen. Nélio welcomed Diálogo in his office at Ilha do Governador, Rio de Janeiro, to share details on the agreement and discuss other topics of interest to the navies of Brazil the United States, and countries of the region. 

Diálogo: Could you share more details on this agreement and the reason for the five-year limit?

Maj. Gen. Nélio de Almeida: There is a series of conferences named ONIC [Operational Naval Infantry Committee] U.S. Southern Command designed a few years ago. These meetings address common matters and knowledge exchange in different areas. The last one was a sort of follow-up in which we worked with two plans. One is a biannual short-term, covering two years, and the other is a long-term five-year plan. The five-year term was established some time ago. We believe that it would be difficult to anticipate the future beyond five years of combined work with the United States. Two years is enough to reconcile the fiscal year, which happens in the middle of the year for the U.S., whereas for us, it matches the calendar year. Because we all rely on the budget, we formulate a two-year plan as a way of taking the appropriate actions internally in Brazil and in the U.S. This is the reason for the two and five-year plans. The five-year plan is more generic, it includes everything that we wish to do, whereas the two-year plan is more detailed, with the objectives for the exchanges, etc.

Diálogo: What are those objectives and exercises?

Maj. Gen. Nélio: The classification we adopted is from the U.S. They divide these engagements into two phases: key leader engagement and joint [among the forces] and combined [with more than one country] exercises. This basically defines how the interaction will occur. These areas incorporate practically all of our activities. For instance, planning, firing support, aviation assets and armored vehicle use… there are virtually no limits. Any activity for which we want to exchange knowledge, both theirs and ours, is discussed during these meetings, and each side takes into consideration what can be done for each of these activities. The U.S. demonstrated great interest in our engagements to guarantee law and order [GLO], because this is something they do not have. Additionally, they always show interest in riverine operations. On the other hand, our Marine Corps is more interested in aviation assets use and planning, in addition to other tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Diálogo: Is there anything similar to ONIC with other countries?

Maj. Gen. Nélio: No. We have exchanges organized with other countries, but they are not as well structured as the ones with the U.S. We have exercises with Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, and on the other side of the Atlantic, with South Africa. Those are essentially the strongest countries when it comes to combined exercises with Brazil.

Diálogo: For several years U.S. Marines have been participating in Formosa, an exercise conducted annually in Goiás. Are there other exercises in which marines from friendly nations regularly participate? Which ones? Do Brazilian marines reciprocate by participating in exercises abroad? 

Maj. Gen. Nélio: Regarding Formosa, if we gauge from knowledge exchange, we receive a lot more from the U.S. marines than the other way around. We are always very interested in special operations and health support areas, because they have combat experience and more developed doctrines in these fields than we do. On the other hand, their exchange is more technical, concerning activities that our people carry out differently, which I believe they learn from and include in their tactics, techniques, and procedures. 

Diálogo: Is it true that the Brazilian Marine Corps doctrine comes from the U.S. Marines?

Maj. Gen. Nélio: Yes. In terms of doctrine, in the beginning, after a few engagements, we basically became a guard troop. However, after World War II, we realized the value of amphibious operations. But our training system was focused on creating courses in our Army, which in turn was feeding from the French mission’s doctrine as well. Over time we began to send individuals to study or complete exchanges in the U.S. These two aspects were combined, and today we can say that we have our own doctrine, customized to our needs, our challenges.

Diálogo: What does MB do to bring the development of doctrine closer to operational forces’ practices?

Maj. Gen. Nélio: The doctrine always aims at the operational. It gathers broad concepts, philosophy, thinkers like Alfred Mahan, and adapts to current situations, because it evolves with technology and needs. From this point we consider tactics, techniques, and protocols of action.

Diálogo: Does the Navy’s General Staff (EMA, in Portuguese) greatly influences the development of doctrine?

Maj. Gen. Nélio: Yes. EMA is responsible for the Brazilian Navy doctrine. However, more than 10 years ago, MB decided to decentralize the doctrine into Sectorial Directorate Agencies, the General Command being one of them. As such, EMA primarily handles high-level doctrine. EMA’s major doctrinal document is the Naval Military Doctrine [DMN], which establishes how the Navy conducts their activities. It states basic tasks, naval power, and types of operations, and offers some details on the direction of each operation. DMN defines three major areas: naval warfare operations and activities, which is combat with a high level of attrition; limited force operations, such as GLO and other lower intensity operations; and non-combat operations, such as humanitarian aid. These are the three major fields of work. Doctrine also governs MB’s planning as a whole. From this point on, the Sectorial Directorate Agencies, the largest ones being Naval Operations Command and General Command, are the main developers of the detailed doctrine. Each of them provides as many details as possible. In a nutshell, this is the framework of MB’s doctrinal system. 

Diálogo: Brazil will host UNITAS naval exercise this year, and the policies will differ from previous editions, with a greater focus on humanitarian aid and disaster response [HA/DR]. Is this correct? 

Maj. Gen. Nélio: Yes. This year UNITAS Amphibious will return and will be combined with UNITAS Atlantic. The marines used to conduct the exercise here, while the Navy would carry out exercises with the U.S. Navy. The fact that the U.S. Marine Corps is an independent force is an additional challenge for the exercise. This time, the exercise will be fully integrated, which is preferable for an amphibious operation.

Diálogo: What about interoperability?

Maj. Gen. Nélio: We have changed our position because we need three elements to develop interoperability: intelligence exchange, integration of command and control systems, and a common planning doctrine. We can achieve the same anticipated effects, either from an HA/DR activity or from any other operation. This is why we focus on HA/DR, because the current environment demands it, and requires integrated operations. We faced many challenges during the activities that followed the earthquake in Haiti, and Brazil was already there, leading, and aware of the situation. When the U.S. arrived, with different coordination, there were differences. This is an issue that everyone agrees on, and we are focusing on this area.

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