The Strategic Affairs Secretariat (SAE), 1990-94

When Collor de Mello became president in 1990, he replaced the military-dominated SNI with the civilian-led Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos (SAE) or Strategic Affairs Secretariat. One of his first acts as president was to dismiss 144 officers from the SNI. Under the Collor presidency, the SAE emerged as the most important actor in formulating Brazil's security policies. In part, its influence was derived from its direct access to the president. The SAE's oversight responsibilities included Brazil's nuclear, space, missile, armaments, and intelligence programs. In an example of role expansion, however, the SAE drafted the 1992 Multiyear Plan, a document formulated previously by the Ministry of the Economy's National Planning Secretariat, and continued to have a strong military presence. Such broad activities led some to refer to the SAE as a "super ministry." In addition to the SAE, there are service intelligence agencies.

Despite attempts to make the SAE more open, there was virtually no congressional oversight of SAE activities. On September 26, 1991, President Collor submitted a bill for congressional supervision of the SAE's intelligence-gathering activities. According to the bill, the secretary of the SAE would be required to submit a confidential report to Congress every six months. Congress criticized several provisions, including the exemption from congressional oversight of intelligence activities of the armed forces and Federal Police; a penalty of imprisonment for three to ten years for breaches of confidentiality by Congress; and the formation of a joint congressional committee to monitor the SAE, thereby bypassing the committees that already existed within the Chamber of Deputies (such as the Committee on National Defense) and the Senate.

By mid-1992 it was clear that the SAE had not been "demilitarized," as suggested by Collor. Reserve and active-duty military officers continued to head most of the departments and coordinating sections. Nor did the SAE effectively oversee Brazil's intelligence apparatus. There was evidence that the intelligence branches of each service did not report to the SAE. In October 1992, President Itamar Franco appointed Admiral Mário César Flores to head the SAE. Some considered this military appointment a setback for the "demilitarization" of the SAE because Flores was Collor's minister of navy and was considered a leading proponent of Brazil's nuclear-powered submarine program.

In 1995 President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who assumed the presidency on January 1, nominated Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg to head the SAE. A seasoned diplomat, Sardenberg was a former ambassador to Moscow and the United Nations, and was widely published on issues relating to Brazil's foreign and security policies. President Cardoso also announced the creation of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Agência Brasileira de Inteligência Nacional--ABIN).

Source: Library of Congress Country Studies: Brazil