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Security Cooperation with Latin America.

The United States Air Force (USAF) Security Cooperation activities with Latin America are building strong relationships with our neighbors and coalition partners to secure the hemisphere and facilitate power projection. The United States takes great interest in Latin America because of geographic proximity, economic ties, and our shared democratic ideals. Without effective security cooperation, central and southern nations could lose sovereignty to narcotics trafficking, radical terrorists affiliated with Hamas and al Qaeda, and illegitimate states that join forces to present a serious threat to peace and stability. Therefore, bilateral and regional programs in Latin America are of particular importance.

Transformation efforts by the Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force, International Affairs (SAF/ IA), focus on building, sustaining, and expanding relationships as key enablers to our expeditionary air and space force and mutual security interests. Strong relationships are founded by working with our partners to determine requirements and develop capabilities to achieve internal host nation goals as well as facilitate coalition integration. There are a number of bilateral and regional programs, such as the Chilean F-16 Peace Puma program and the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA), which illustrate the ongoing development of relationships between countries within the Western Hemisphere.

The Chilean F-16 Peace Puma program will be the cornerstone of a twenty-five year period of close cooperation between the USAF and Chilean Air Force (CAF). The Peace Puma program will provide Chile with the latest in multi-role fighters, thereby strengthening the region's air defense and strike capabilities. In January 2006, the Chilean Air Force will take delivery of the first of ten Block 50 F-16s. These state-of-the-art aircraft represent the very best aspects of the security cooperation program in pursuit of our two nations' mutual goals. Peace Puma will support the defense and security requirements of our Chilean partners in the most expeditious and cost effective manner possible. They will be the centerpiece of our Air Force-to-Air Force relationship and are a significant milestone furthering U.S. and Chilean relations as our nations adapt to overcome the threats poised by regional and global adversaries.

In addition to hardware upgrades, the Peace Puma program serves to enhance professional relationships and foster technical expertise. Developing personnel is vital to security cooperation as our nations organize, train, and equip for defense challenges across the spectrum of military operations. Airmen-to-Airmen programs build professional relationships based on shared tactical and operational competencies, and personal relationships based on trust and shared experiences. These professional and personal relationships are the foundations we are laying in Chile, much as we did with the Royal Air Force in WWI and WWII. In addition to Chile, we are expanding these cooperative relationships throughout Latin America by developing regional goals and programs. One of these programs is the Conference of the American Air Chiefs (CONJEFAMER).

In 1961, General Thomas D. White, then Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, first conceived the idea of a Conference of the Air Chiefs of the Americas (CONJEFAMER) to "promote greater understanding and cooperation among the air forces of the Americas with a view toward hemispheric security." The first CONJEFAMER was designed to bring freedom from risk, danger, doubt, anxiety, or fear, and to create an environment of confidence among the air forces in the Western Hemisphere. For the last 45 years, the air chiefs of twenty-four countries (eighteen members and six observers) have met and focused on similarities rather than differences, to shared ideals, experiences, and interests in a cooperative, apolitical atmosphere with a mutually agreed upon procedure and protocol.

From this first conference, grew the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA), with the annual CONJEFAMER as its centerpiece event. SICOFAA consists of five committees: Personnel, Information, Operations, Logistics, and Science and Technology. Committee recommendations are forwarded to the CONJEFAMER for action by the air chiefs. For 4 years, through a cold war and other world crises, SICOFAA has continued the tradition of meeting annually. This year, the USAF hosted twenty commanders and representatives at the XLV CONJEFAMER held 5-8 June 2005, at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.

At the 2005 CONJEFAMER, the Air Chiefs agreed to carry out twenty-one separate items for the 2005-2006 cycle. Included is an agreement of "Cooperation Information Exchange Amongst SICOFAA Members Regarding Unidentified Aircraft," which establishes data exchange procedures between member countries when dealing with unidentified flights in the region. The air chiefs also agreed to study the impact of commercial air traffic control on global military air operations as the increasing volume of civilian air traffic may restrict military air operations. The study may lead to the development of a multi-national proposal to designate airspace for military aircraft. In addition, the Air Chiefs agreed to adopt a strategic planning process for SICOFAA activities.

The most valuable asset of CONJEFAMER continues to be the venue it provides members to meet as a full body as well as conduct bilateral or multilateral meetings. The bilateral and multilateral meetings, though not an official part of the conference, have proven to be an integral part of building trust and confidence. This year alone, the USAF was able to meet bilaterally with ten countries to discuss security assistance and cooperation issues. Among the issues discussed were ways to expand and re-vitalize personnel exchanges, modernize aircraft fleets, and cooperate on combating illicit air traffic.

From its conception, SICOFAA has grown into a vibrant organization with a great future, pursuing collective interests in the Americas. SICOFAA reaffirms the long-standing principle to maintain and to strengthen the environment of trust and professional cooperation among the Western Hemisphere's air forces. SICOFAA's motto affirms the spirit of cooperation with, Unidos-Aliados (United-Allied).

SAF/IA has many successful projects helping to achieve the mission of building, sustaining, and expanding relationships that are critical enablers for our expeditionary air and space forces conducting global operations and fighting the war on terrorism. While SAF/IA conducts security cooperation activities worldwide, and while there are many ongoing successful initiatives in the Americas, the Peace Puma program and SICOFAA are two significant programs strengthening collective security and coalition integration.

About the Author

Colonel Curt Connell, USAF, is the chief of the Americas Division, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, Headquarters USAF, Washington D.C. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Masters in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle. His professional experience includes piloting the T-37, C-141, C12, and E-4B aircraft. Additionally, he commanded the E-4B squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Harvard University on a National Defense Fellowship.

Colonel Curt Connell, USAF Chief of the Americas Division, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs
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Author:Connell, Curt
Publication:DISAM Journal
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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