September 5, 2011 U.S. Southern Command News Release – defpro.com
SANTIAGO, Chile | Military and civilian defense leaders from a dozen Western Hemisphere nations met here from Aug. 31 until Sept. 1 to discuss future military support for humanitarian assistance
and disaster relief missions in the region.
The leaders gathered during the 3rd Annual South American Defense Chiefs Conference, co-hosted by the Joint Staff of the Chilean Armed Forces and U.S. Southern Command.
U.S. and Chilean representatives were joined by counterparts from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, as well as observers from U.S.
Northern Command, the Inter-American Defense Board and Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies.
Chilean Defense Minister Andrés Allamand joined Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, Southcom’s commander, and Lt. Gen. Hernán Mardones, chief of the Chilean Armed Forces, in delivering opening remarks
during the event commencement.
This year’s conference included briefings, roundtable discussions and meetings focused on improving collaboration and coordination among regional defense forces assisting civilian agencies during
international relief missions.
The focus of this year’s conference supports an initiative announced by senior civilian defense leaders in November 2010 during the IX Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas held in
Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The initiative calls for the development of a common-technology platform to facilitate information sharing and a military assistance collaboration cell to enhance the
interoperability of regional armed forces supporting civilian emergency response agencies in future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
In response to the ministerial announcement, regional defense leaders and experts conducted working groups in Lima, Peru, and San Jose, Costa Rica, to develop a framework and explore
implementation options for the initiative.
“This conference will allow us to support the multinational military coordination efforts of the working groups,” Fraser told attendees prior to the start of the conference.
With that aim, participants also examined lessons learned during prior missions, explored improvement opportunities, and considered recommendations to further the goals of the Santa Cruz
Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Shepro, director of Southcom’s strategy, policy and plans directorate, briefed attendees on U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief collaboration efforts and
described the varying levels of interagency and multinational integration observed during past operations.
“The folks in the field naturally jump into coordination and collaboration,” Shepro explained, adding that similar cooperation and coordination at the operational and strategic levels -- where
interagency and multinational planners are often geographically separated -- is more challenging to jumpstart.
Because a common technology platform would facilitate greater information sharing and potentially improve coordination and collaboration at all levels, many conference participants expressed
their support for further developing the concept and implementing it during future exercises and operations.
Though exactly what the platform will look like and how it will be managed has yet to be determined, the working groups have identified what users will want, Shepro said.
“I think the consensus of the [working] groups … is that it be participant based … and meet their level of comfort to report what assets they can provide and to provide their understanding of the
situation,” he said.
Speaking to his counterparts about the Santa Cruz meeting’s agreement to establish a military assistance coordination cell, Fraser shared his perspective about the cell’s potential role in future
multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Fraser proposed that the cell not be permanent, but have protocols allowing for its activation and deployment to support
militaries in countries impacted by disasters when their government’s request for international assistance includes military components.
“Dealing with a disaster within a country is a full-time job for each of us,” Fraser said. “And to have a cell that can take some of the load off, but provide capacity as required, is very
Ideas and recommendations proposed in this year’s South American Defense Chiefs Conference will be shared with future working groups, who will use the input to formulate proposals for regional
defense ministers to consider during the next conference in 2012.
The South American Defense Chiefs Conference is one of three regional security conferences sponsored by Southcom each year to provide forums for dialogue and exchanges among defense and security
leaders from the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
This year’s conference in Santiago follows previous conferences with defense and security leaders from Central America and the Caribbean in San Pedro, Belize and Port of Spain, Trinidad.