Brazilian National Defense Sector Gains More Ground in the World of Academia

Adding national defense to the list of sciences studied in Brazil encourages the creation of more courses in this area at the master's and doctoral levels, and facilitates access to information on the subject to those in academia.
Nelza Oliveira/Diálogo | 19 July 2017

Capacity Building

Minister of Education José Mendonça Bezerra Filho, and Brazilian Army General Décio Luís Schons, the director of the War College (front row, from right to left), at the signing ceremony for the addition of defense sciences studied in Brazil, held in the ESG’s auditorium. (Photo: ESG Collection)

The Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC per its Portuguese acronym), through the National Education Council (CNE, per its Portuguese acronym), has added national defense to the list of sciences studied in Brazil at the master’s and doctoral levels. There are now some civilian and military institutions offering sensu stricto (strict sense) courses related to this topic which did not exist prior to the regulation. By formalizing the subject, it becomes better known in academia and facilitates approval by the Foundation for the Coordination of Graduate Education (CAPES, per its Portuguese acronym), which is connected with MEC, for more courses in the area, whether they are requested by civilian or military institutions.

The Brazilian Army made the request to CNE, and a favorable finding was published in the Official Gazette on May 15th. For the military, this initiative opens up a new world of well-qualified professionals who will compete for defense careers in the future. Students interested in this subject will now have greater access to strategic studies on issues that most affect national sovereignty.

“This finding was a regulatory necessity. It is formal recognition that this is an area capable of attracting financing and training at the master’s and doctoral levels. With the creation and inclusion of this new field, CAPES now has the conditions necessary to list defense in its records and insert it as a knowledge area, allowing institutions to offer the course,” explained Councilman Luiz Roberto Liza Curi, CNE’s president and the author of the finding. “I think this qualifies the training of our human resources in a specialty that includes various subspecialties which must tie strongly to defense issues in other areas, not only for defense against invasion,” he added.

More civilian involvement

Seizing the moment, the Brazilian War College (ESG, per its Portuguese acronym) will propose that CAPES do a sensu lato (broad sense) evaluation of its pilot course for the International Defense and Security specialization, which could become the first sensu stricto course at that institution. Created in 1949, ESG is an institute within Brazil’s Ministry of Defense for political, defense, and strategic research and study, open to service members and civilians alike.

“From the time it was created, ESG already had that pluralistic vision of bringing together civilians and service members from the three branches of the armed forces. The selection process is done through public notices and by invitation to civil institutions and businesses,” explained Brazilian Navy Rear Admiral Antonio Ruy de Almeida Silva, a graduate advisor at the ESG’s Graduate Studies Coordination Office. “When speaking of defense, the institution that most spreads the topic in the civilian world — I would even say to academia and the defense sector — is ESG. Our intention now is to have sensu stricto master’s and doctoral [programs] within the scope of CAPES,” he continued.

Rear Adm. Ruy said that studies in the defense area have progressed greatly since 2005, when the Ministry of Defense launched the Program to Support Scientific and Technological Research and Education in National Defense (Pró-Defesa, per its Portuguese abbreviation), to promote cooperation between civilian and military institutes of higher learning in order to implement projects that produce scientific and technological research, as well as developing sensu stricto graduate courses in the field. For Brazil’s public and private institutions to be able to apply for financing from Pró-Defesa, they must have sensu stricto graduate programs recognized by MEC, with areas of concentration or lines of research in national defense, or must present a viable implementation project for those research areas.

Brazilian Navy Rear Admiral Antonio Ruy de Almeida Silva is the graduate adviser at the ESG’s Graduate Studies Coordination Office. (Photo: Nelza Oliveira, Diálogo)

Among the projects considered by the program are those from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, entitled “Developing Composite Materials for Use in Military Vehicles,” and from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, entitled “Developing Biotechnology Tools for Rapid Detection of Pathogen Agents Potentially Used as Biological Weapons.” Rear Adm. Ruy also cited the creation, also in 2005, of the Brazilian Defense Studies Association, a civilian academic association that brings together professors and researchers pursuing studies linked to national defense and international security.

“After that, several programs emerged. In reality, the recognition of defense now is a continuation of the process, a consolidation. It doesn’t end here. These are stages in a process that will keep moving forward: a larger opening, a greater understanding, bringing in civilians to learn about defense programs and to participate in defense policies. The more civilians and legislators who participate in these defense programs, the more credibility, legitimacy, and resources will be directed to this area,” Rear Adm. Ruy stated.

Academic exchanges

For Sergio Felicori, a specialist in public policy and governance at the Pandiá Calógeras Institute (IBED, per its Portuguese acronym), a research and advising portion of the Brazilian Ministry of Defense, the university can contribute to defense by producing technology, engaging in dialogue with the intellectual elite in society, preserving the history, and generating knowledge that is applied to strategy and international security.

“We feel this is a great step towards recognizing the defense area as a scientific field of study. That opens the door for implementing specific lines of defense research at universities and other institutions of higher learning,” he pointed out.

Since last year, IBED has promoted the Voluntary Service Program (PSV, per its Portuguese acronym), which offers students and researchers an opportunity for greater contact with defense issues, as well as grants for university academic work in this area, both in undergraduate and graduate courses. IBED designates tutors who provide access to databases and networks of contacts, giving scientific and technical guidance and acting as intermediaries with other institutions and researchers.

In return, the Ministry of Defense is able to use the content the researchers create for the benefit of national defense activities. For 2017, the areas of research offered were Amazon, Blue Amazon, Defense Culture, Defense Economics, Strategic Environment, Peacekeeping and Defense Operations, and Parliament.

“The themes developed through these projects relate to some of the Ministry of Defense’s priority issues in the areas of strategy (South America and the southern Atlantic, including the west coast of Africa) and defense economics,” explained Carlos Timo Brito, a public policy and governance specialist at the Ministry of Defense and coordinator of IBED’s Volunteer Service Program. “In addition to the contributions these research programs are making to the improvement of policies and activities developed under this portfolio, it is hoped that this will bring our governance closer to academia,” he concluded.

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