By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo December 09, 2018 Vice Admiral José Luis Villán, acting chief of the Argentine Navy General Staff, seeks to optimize combined work at his military institution. Since taking office in December 2017, Vice Adm. Villán focuses on consolidating combined operations to optimize interoperability. The Argentine officer attended the XVIII Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC) held in Cartagena, Colombia, July 23-26, 2018. He spoke with Diálogo about his participation at the event, peacekeeping missions, and combined operations, among other topics. The forum gathered leaders of the hemisphere’s navies to analyze issues of common interest. Diálogo: How important is Argentina’s participation at IANC? Vice Admiral José Luis Villán, acting chief of the Argentine Navy General Staff: IANC is the most important discussion forum at a regional level, where participants deal with issues of common interest for the navies of the Americas. The Argentine Navy participates since its beginnings in 1959. It’s an excellent opportunity for high-ranking naval leaders to meet and create bonds of friendship and mutual trust to favor better relations among institutions and, in turn, optimize assigned tasks at sea to serve our nations. Diálogo: The main topic at the conference is the responsibility of regional navies to counter narcotrafficking and related crimes. Why is it important for naval forces to come together to counter these scourges? Vice Adm. Villán: The navies’ responsibility against narcotrafficking arises from laws each nation enacted in this regard. The Argentine Navy is not responsible for this, as there are other institutions assigned to counter this scourge. As part of the nation’s military arm, the Argentine Navy only provides logistics support to these institutions. Narcotrafficking and other organized crime groups became transnational threats due to their magnitude, power, and connections worldwide. Undoubtedly, coordinated state action to confront these organizations is a must to counter them successfully. Not only at sea, but rivers also turned into main routes to carry out this illicit activity worldwide. That’s why states must carry out riverine and maritime interdictions against illegal trafficking, and the only way to succeed is through coordinated action among the responsible agencies of the nations involved. Diálogo: On July 24, 2018, President Mauricio Macri announced the modernization of the Argentine Armed Forces with new guidelines included in the national defense policy. Could you elaborate on this? Vice Adm. Villán: We are all immersed and involved in a dizzying evolution of international scenarios, which requires us to do a thorough and ongoing analysis of this matter, in a wide variety of aspects. One of them is to define risks, threats, and challenges that the national defense system must face. These, coupled with irrefutable technological advances, result in the need to modernize the Armed Forces and the whole national defense system. Political power, which drives national defense policies, defines the direction of defense efforts through the relevant laws, decrees, and resolutions passed. The National Defense Policy Directive is the key document that marks the start of a new defense planning cycle. Diálogo: In July, 58 members of the 52nd Cyprus contingent left to serve the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission. Why is it important for the Navy to take part in these missions? Vice Adm. Villán: Argentina has continually developed a policy of close involvement with UN initiatives to maintain peace and international stability. This policy materialized and continues along this path with the participation of the Armed Forces in multiple peacekeeping operations. The Argentine Navy provides support to the Joint Chiefs of Staff with personnel and equipment to fulfill its responsibility to deploy contingents in different places where the UN needs them. Diálogo: The INALAF and VIEKAREN exercises attest to the relevance of combined training operations the Argentine and Chilean Navies conduct. What’s the added value of these operations for the Argentine Navy? Vice Adm. Villán: These kinds of exercises enable us to strengthen mutual trust between both institutions and the bonds of friendship that unite Chile and Argentina historically. These exercises help optimize the level of interoperability between both navies through doctrine, procedures, and combined training in matters of common interest, such as peacekeeping operations, humanitarian aid operations, and control of maritime transit and pollution, among others. Diálogo: What joint and combined work lessons have you learned with the Combined Antarctic Naval Patrol (PANC, in Spanish)? Vice Adm. Villán: PANC is an example of coordination and cooperation between Argentina and Chile in the eyes of the Antarctic world. PANC attests to the teamwork and commitment to safeguarding life at sea and protecting the Antarctic environment, based on policies the respective states agreed upon in the Antarctic Treaty and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, to respect and reinforce their basic concepts. This cooperative effort clearly shows the excellent interoperability level reached in maritime operations among our operational teams, made possible through a long process of fostering mutual trust and friendship. Unified efforts to meet PANC’s goals allow for more effective and efficient operating means. Unless both countries’ assumed responsibilities are carried out under this framework, efforts would be unnecessarily duplicated, allowing for mutual interferences and decreased effectiveness to counter eventual problems. This is the main advantage PANC provides not only to our states, but also to Antarctica as a whole. Diálogo: What combined operations does the Argentine Navy conduct with the U.S. Navy? Vice Adm. Villán: The friendship between the Argentine Navy and the United States is long-standing and prevailed despite political ups and downs of our countries. Throughout the years, we carried out countless combined exercises. Now we have an excellent relationship with multiple cooperation exchanges that help us have a better understanding of institutional interoperability.