Stony terrain – a snapshot from the Ministry of Defense

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The Ministry of Defense is far from being a civilian body for formulating defense policy and exercising civilian authority over its operators.

We present here the first results of an analysis of the current composition of the Ministry of Defense in Brazil (MD). Created in 1999, as an indication that elected civilians are responsible for “guarding the guardians” [1], the Ministry of Defense suffered a lot of resistance, notably the fear of loss of power by the military segment, disagreements and internal competition between the three forces and lack of civilian labor [2].

The Ministry of Defense aimed to deconstruct the idea “defense is something naturally military”, which confuses defense policy with military policy. The positive initiatives that followed its creation, despite its limitations, include the publication of the National Defense Strategy, the National Defense Policy and the Defense White Paper (and its subsequent revisions). As for the composition of human resources, a civilian career was never created for the Ministry of Defense, although the work has become more specialized. Even in PT governments, the rule was one of accommodation in the face of possible conflicts with military interests. [3].

In this way, it is indicated that the Ministry of Defense was never effectively “civilized”, that is, there was no replacement of military personnel by civilians in key decision-making posts. [4]. The appointment of civilians to the post of defense minister, a practice interrupted by Michel Temer, is just one aspect of the issue. We understand that the main reason for this was the correlation between civil and military forces, as the Armed Forces (FFAA) remained with a lot of political capital and high popular prestige compared to other organizations, such as parties, in addition to being well organized to defend their interests. In practice, even when the minister was a civilian, he was perceived as a representative of the FFAA before the government, and not as the voice of civil authority before the FFAA. The Ministry of Defense bureaucracy did not even manage to consolidate communication between the singular forces, as the choice of strategic projects shows.

The Bolsonaro government is largely controlled by the Military Party (Penido, Kalil, 2021). The hypothesis raised here is that, in the case of the Ministry of Defense, militarization would be even more profound. In this text, we investigate only one of the aspects of this (re)militarization, the most evident: the profile of Ministry of Defense servants. For this, a set of data was collected regarding its five administrative units - Central Administration, Superior School of War (Rio de Janeiro), Superior School of Defense (Brasília) [5], Hospital das Forças Armadas, and Management and Operational Center of the Amazon Protection System (Censipam) –, as well as the six companies/autarchys linked to the MD, namely: Management Company of Naval Projects (Emgepron, Navy), Material Industry Bélico do Brasil (Imbel, Army), Amazônia Azul Defense Technologies (Amazul, Navy), NAV Air Navigation Services (Aeronautics), House Construction Fund for Navy Personnel (CCCPM), Air Force Real Estate Financing Fund ( CFIAE). Although the Pandiá Calogeras Institute is part of the MD's organizational structure (Dec. 9.570/2018, chap. II, al. f), it was not even mentioned in the Ministerial Cabinet's response letter. All of the data presented originates from official letter 26423/ASPAR/GM-MD (Minister Walter Braga Neto), issued on 30/09/2021, as a result of information request 996/2021, prepared by Federal Deputy Patrus Ananias (PT/MG ).

The inquiries made to the Ministry are listed below. The considerations at the end of this text address the following questions: What is the total number of servants in the Ministry of Defense? Of this total, which are employees of the Ministry of Defense itself? How many public servants are currently working at the Ministry of Defense and what is their origin? How many of these employees are hired? What is the type of contract and the duration of the contract? As for the civil-military composition, the questions were: How many civil servants are military? How many are active and reserve? What Force do they come from and what are their patents? Are there members of other security forces? With regard to civilians, how many are there and what is their professional background? How many commissioned management and superior advisory positions does the Ministry have? How were they distributed among civilians and military? Finally, which companies and agencies are linked to the Ministry of Defense? How many soldiers are in these companies, are they active or reserve, what is the singular Force of origin and what is their rank?

Since political time is different from academic time, we present here some first considerations, without prejudice to later reviews.

(a) There is a clear predominance, including the number of employees, of military personnel in relation to civilians in the Ministry of Defense; (b) there is a predominance of active duty military personnel in the Ministry of Defense, with an average of 18% of contracted reserve military personnel; (c) when analyzing the active x reserve composition in companies linked to the Ministry of Defense, this number changes completely, settling around 50%; (d) the largest number of MD civilian employees are at the Hospital das Forças Armadas (HFFAA); (e) the smallest number of civilians (4% of those allocated to the Ministry of Defense) is in the ESG in Brasília, precisely the unit recently renamed the Higher School of Defense, which contrasts with its Latin American counterparts. The unit also stands out for the profile of outsourced workers linked to it: reserve soldiers; (f) only 3,3% of the Central Administration has its own staff from the MD, which means that it is equipped by the military, who maintain control over the formulation of policies in the area and over the budget; (g) the resistance of the Navy and Air Force with the creation of the MD is justified, as the body was dominated by the Army, which occupies 53% of the posts in the Ministry of Defense. In the case of related companies, the Navy predominates; (h) there is a significant number of non-commissioned officers and enlisted men in the MD, whose tasks, it seems, can be carried out by civilians. The suggested hypothesis is that the Ministry of Defense wants to maintain a body of officials subordinated to military discipline; (i) proportionally by rank, colonels stand out in the analyzed sample. The generals are concentrated in the central administration, with 5%, precisely in the strata where policy is decided. These patents stand out even more in companies linked to the MD, in which 24% are general officers or senior officers; (j) only four civil servants from other security forces are assigned to the Ministry of Defense: three from the federal police and one from the federal road police, all allocated to Censipam.

In short, the Ministry of Defense is far from being a civilian body for formulating defense policy and exercising civilian authority over its operators, the FFAA. The scenario, which was already bad, got worse. The next governments will find extremely difficult terrain.

* Ana Penido is a postdoctoral researcher at the San Tiago Dantas Program (UNESP – Unicamp – PUC-SP).

*Suzeley Kalil is a professor of International Relations at Unesp.

*Nilton Tubino é advisor to federal deputy Patrus Ananias (PT-MG).

Originally published on the portal tricontinental.



[1] FUCCILLE, LA; WINAND, ECA (2018). "Defense Ministry". In Saint-Pierre, HL; Vitelli, MG (org.). Dictionary of security and defense (eBook). SP, Ed. Unesp Digital.

[2] FUCCILLE, LA (2006). “Democracy and the military issue: the creation of the Ministry of Defense in Brazil”. Doctoral Thesis IFCH (Advisor: Eliézer Rizzo de Oliveira). Campinas (SP), Unicamp, digit.

[3] CORTINHAS, J.; VITELLI, M. (2020). “Limitations of reforms for civilian control over the armed forces in PT governments (2003-2016)”. Brazilian Journal of Defense Studies, 7(2): 187-216, Jul/Dec.

[4] BAÑÓN, Rafael OLMEDA, José. A. (1985). The Military Institution in El Estado Contemporáneo, Madrid, Alianza Editorial.

[5] The Nucleus of the Superior School of War in Brasília was renamed the Superior School of Defense by determination of Decree 10.806/2021. However, the letter of reply states: “Escola Superior de Guerra (Brasília Campus)”


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