According to an expose by generals, the Brazilian Army is scrapping situation; the crisis is so dire that there is the available ammunitions are enough for about an hour in a state of war.
Written by Celso P. Santos exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Yoana
The Army, which has the largest contingent among the three armed forces (203,000 effective), uses the same rifle, the FAL, manufactured by Brazilian company Imbel, for over 45 years. For strategic reasons, the military did not disclose the total number of assault rifles that they have in their inventory, but about 120 thousand units have over 30 years of use.
Cars, boats and helicopters are scarce in military bases. The rate of obsolescence of communications media exceeds 92% – and more than 87% of the equipment cannot be used again, according to the document of the Army. The uniforms of the recruit’s soldiers are imported from China and fade after a few washes.
“We lost our operational capacity, we know this gap. Obsolescence is great. Therefore, one of our projects seeks to recover the operational capacity. By 2015, we should receive $4 billion just for that”, said General Schneider Filho, responsible for research of the National Defense Strategy of the Army´s General Staff.
In a critique of the government’s defense policy of the Workers Party (PT), the opposition Congressman Luiz Carlos Hauly recalled that to destroy a nation, it first destroys its currency and its armed forces. “In 2004, you received 10% more than the average of federal employees, but today you receive 30% less”, said Hauly for a military audience that accompanied a debate of the Legislative Chamber´s plenary in Brasilia capital.
The Web site of the Defense´s Ministry provides graphs that present information of the spending of Brazil on Defense from 2003 to 2013. In proportion to their GDP, expenditures were $20 billion in 2013, only 1.44% of the GDP, it is a low amount compared to other South America´s countries and military powers.
Although the defense budget is one of the largest, the numbers are misleading, because more than 70% of the funds are used to pay for active and retired military personnel, leaving less than 30% for working capital and investments in new equipment. The big problem is that part of the budget left over for working capital and investments is always cut by the government, where there is a budget adjustment. The result is the limitation of equipment maintenance and reducing training, lack of fuel and supplies.
Two high dome generals, who moved to the reserve, recently said that Brazil is unable to react to a war. “I can tell you that we have ammunition for less than an hour of fighting,” says General Maynard Marques de Santa Rosa, former secretary of Policy, Strategy and International Affairs of the Defense´s Ministry.
“The amount of ammunition that we have, have always been minimal. It almost does not exist, mainly for pistols and rifles. Our artillery, tanks and much of the weapons were purchased in the 70 and 80. There is a misconception that there is no threat. But if it arises, we will not have time to reach the ability to react”, says General Carlos Alberto Pinto Silva, former head of the Land Operations Command (COTER), which coordinates all troops from the country.
“In the recent years, the Army has only managed to acquire a minimum of ammunition for education. Electronic warfare systems (radio, internet and mobile), artillery and armor are overcome technological generation. More than 120,000 rifles have over 30 years of use. Not enough funding resources”, says General Santa Rosa. He left the Army in February 2010, fired by former President Lula after calling the Truth Commission, which investigates cases of the disappeared in the dictatorship of “slander commission”.
According to the ‘White Book’, a document that gathers data on national defense, the Army has 71,791 armored vehicles, most of them purchased more than 30 years ago. Only one new model, the ‘Guarani’, delivered in 2012 and which is still under evaluation. An initial contract of $12 million was closed for the acquisition of the first 16 new tanks. In 2013, a new contract was signed for the acquisition of another 86 vehicles ‘Guarani’ at a cost of $69 million.
“No nation can give up having a strong army, which was intensively preparing for something that it hopes never to occur. People have to understand that you must have this spare capacity, always to be ready to give an answer one day if necessary”, says the general Fernando Vasconcellos Pereira, director of the Department of Education and Culture Army.
The National Defense Strategy (END), signed in 2008 during the government of Lula, provides for the re-equipping of the Brazilian armed forces in pursuit of development and international projection, targeting the achievement of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
The END has listed among the key points to protect the Amazon, border control and troop re-rigging, in order to obtain mobility and quick response to any risk. Cyber defense and recovery of flak are also among the factors of concern.
Congressman Izalci Lucas drew attention to problems of management and budget cuts involving the defense structure. “Projects such as the Integrated Monitoring and Control of Borders (SISFRON) that focuses on combating drug trafficking cannot function as it should because there are always budget cuts. Just see the cut of $12,5 billion in the 2014 budget”, denounced the Congressman.
According to General Walmir Almada Schneider Filho, of the General Staff of the Army, the force created 245 projects to try to achieve the objectives of the National Defense Strategy. However, few measures provided for in the decree had advances since then because the resources come gradually.