Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2014

The Defense Acquisition Trilemma: The Case of Brazil

Patrice Franko

January 2014

Institute for National Strategic Studies


Brazil is a puzzling new strategic player. Currently, its economic clout is not supported by strong operational military capabilities. To make its military instrument commensurate with its new geopolitical weight, Brazil is undergoing military modernization. But it faces a security trilemma: it must choose among long-held aspirations of sovereignty, integration into the global value chain, and economic sustainability. Acute tradeoffs are being avoided by leveraging diversification of global partnerships into a wide but shallow defense supply chain integration. With its new global reach, the Brazilian defense industrial base is not a continuation of the defense industry of the 1980s. Instead, complex industrial relationships and civil society engagement create a critical disjuncture from the inward looking pattern of the earlier phase. Strengthening legal frameworks between the United States and Brazil to support defense cooperation would allow private-sector initiatives to deepen bilateral ties.