In 2017, structural changes shaped the Brazilian Air Force. General Nivaldo Luiz Rossato, commander of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese), takes stock of the main operations conducted in 2017 and shares his plans for 2018.
Diálogo: What key aspects guide FAB’s current restructuring, initiated in 2016 under your command?
General Nivaldo Luiz Rossato, commander of the Brazilian Air Force: The restructuring we planned is in line with the most modern developments, from the standpoint of information technology and simulation resources, as well as the administrative management process and governance procedures. We understand that by concentrating on air units and reducing the size of our bases, we will obtain operational benefits while also reducing operating costs. As for FAB personnel, we also reduced the number of career staff and instead took on more temporary personnel, leveraging professionals from the labor market, such as engineers, doctors, and reporters, as well as technical staff. These changes do not imply dismissal of individuals. We simply stop hiring new people for FAB, replacing them with temporary professionals. We estimate that in 20 years, we will achieve a troop reduction of 20,000 to 25,000 people.
Diálogo: Which of the changes marked as priorities already started?
Gen. Rossato: The restructuring was set to roll out over a 25-year period to 2041, when FAB will turn 100 years old. The presidential decree that regulates changes in the Air Force’s organizations was signed in June 2017; but before that, we had started many steps and some have already been completed. For example, we already decommissioned and transferred units that operate normally. As for our priorities, one of the issues we identified as necessary has to do with the culture of our personnel within FAB. If we change the structure, we also have to change the mindset. Therefore, we are improving training for our officers and commanders. We also extended the duration of our General Staff training course and provide opportunities for our service members to study at universities in Brazil and abroad. We have to convince all our officers and graduates to adapt to the new times, new technologies, new management processes, as any company does in the marketplace.
Diálogo: In 2017, you visited the United States 12th Air Force [at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona]. Among other topics, the discussion with officers from that military organization dealt with their management processes. What can FAB learn from the U.S. Air Force about this?
Gen. Rossato: When I was there, we attended a presentation on their force’s operations, and saw the similarities to what we did here at FAB. But they have been working for many years with this structure we are only building now. On that occasion, it became clear how military personnel in each field dominate information about their area of responsibility. In FAB, we want it to be like that: for our officers, upon reaching the rank of captain or major, to define his position and master the knowledge of that chosen field, be it logistics, control of airspace, or an administrative or operational area.
Diálogo: In mid-2017, FAB held the Multinational Exercise Amazon 1 (Amazonas I), an unprecedented mission that involved three neighboring countries at once. What are the prospects for doing an exchange with the air forces of South America?
Gen. Rossato: We already have airspace control transfer agreements with Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Colombia. These exist for more than 15 years. Amazon 1 was the first exercise to involve three countries, but we do that kind of training regularly with the United States and another nation. Our next step is to ensure automatic transfer of air traffic control and not be restricted only to exercises—meaning that it becomes a practice among air forces.
Diálogo: Among FAB’s achievements that marked 2017, Operation Ostium remains one of the largest defense initiatives implemented on Brazil's borders. How do you evaluate the performance of this operation?
Gen. Rossato: The defense of the nation’s airspace is the Brazilian Air Force’s main constitutional mission. This monitoring, including border areas, has been carried out 24 hours a day for more than 40 years. With Operation Ostium, initiated in March 2017, we strengthened our border patrol operations to curtail the transport of illegal goods by air. The numbers from Operation Ostium allow us to make a very positive assessment. Through this operation, we were able to reduce unidentified air traffic in the border region by nearly 80 percent. For example, from March to August, more than 150 interceptions were made. In addition to the seizures released to the media, it is important to highlight the intelligence work, the mapping of air routes, and the coordination with other security agencies. Fighting illegal activities on the border requires a joint effort.
Diálogo: What does FAB plan or expect for 2018?
Gen. Rossato: Despite what many people think, the restructuring of the Brazilian Air Force is not recent. It was thought up for many years now, and started being put into practice in 2016. Among our main objectives for these changes, which seek to ensure FAB’s existence and evolution in perpetuity, are the administrative and operational reorganization of the force. We seek continuous improvement in our processes and increasing effectiveness in the resources—whether human or material—available to the force for its end purpose. This year , that became more evident due to the transfers of some air squadrons and the segmentation of some areas of our training and operations. We will still have more changes that will occur in the first quarter of 2018, such as new shipments of air squadrons. The objectives will be achieved gradually, and adjustments will be ongoing, since the restructuring process is somewhat dynamic and we make corrections throughout its implementation. Our major goal is for our institution to be better prepared by 2041, when it turns 100 years old.