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The Conference of American Armies' Specialized Conference on New Challenges to Defense in the 21st Century met in Columbus and Fort Benning April 7-11.
The conference, co-hosted by U.S. Army South and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, brought delegates from 16 member armies, one observer army, and two international organizations - the Conference of Central American Armed Forces and the Inter-American Defense Board - together to develop draft accords. Colombian army Maj. Gen. Gustavo Rincon Rivera, the secretary general of the CAA, provided the overall management of the conference.
Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, MCoE commanding general, served as the president of the conference and offered the key considerations for the week - understanding the role of armies and the problems and limitations they will face; integrating armies into joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational structures and forming concrete recommendations to the national Army chiefs that can be used as the basis for improved cooperation across nations and the armies in particular.
Delegates to the conference formed two working groups to identify and develop conclusions and recommendations, with assistance from subject matter experts from Brazil and Colombia.
Colombian Col. Pedro I. Molina Hidalgo focused one group on intelligence activities in border security, advocating for legislation and rules for the international sharing and integration of intelligence, structured in a way that provides flexibility and legitimacy to the process.
"Nations should ... determine the nature and scope of intelligence interactions among countries," Molina said. "There are a number of intelligence conflicts. Threats rapidly and constantly evolve, while governments evolve slowly."
Brazilian Lt. Col. Reginaldo Vieira de Abreu led the second group in considering interagency issues, pointing out that parity in decision-making authority (of the agencies involved) is key to planning, and that human rights is key in all operations. He said information operations and communication with society have become critical, offering overviews of several interagency operations in Brazil as examples.
Delegates signed the draft accords developed by the work groups during the closing session of the conference. Work will continue throughout the cycle to refine the draft accords for presentation at a preparatory conference in September 2015, for consideration at the commanders conference the following month.
In his closing remarks, McMaster said "... we are battling today the enemies that are really the enemies of civilization ... they exploit any weakness they can find, and that weakness oftentimes is our inability to work together ... they find the little seams and gaps between our security efforts, and that's why this conference is so important, because we can close off those gaps and we can stitch together those seams, working together."
The CAA is operating in its 31st two-year cycle. Responsibility for leading the cycles of the CAA rotates among the member armies.
The CAA promotes the functional relationship among armies and military agencies of the American continent, facilitating cooperation and integration among member countries, analyzing and evaluating defense and security issues of common interest in the Americas.
It was created in 1960 to become a discussion forum for experience exchange among American armies. It is made up of and led by armies from the american continent with the authorization of their respective governments.
Its purpose is the analysis, debate and exchange of ideas and experiences related to matters of common interest in the field of defense so as to increase cooperation and integration among armies and to contribute, from the point of view of military thinking, to the security and democratic development of member countries.