Jonathan Karr

Project SIVAM


Project SIVAM (System for the Vigilance of the Amazon) was conceived in 1990 by the Brazilian government as a means to monitor and determine the region's potential, limitations, and realities.  In 1992 at the UN Conference on the Environment and Development in RIo de Janeiro, the project was announced publically to the world.  By 1997, Raytheon began work as the project's largest contractor after approval of the project by the Brazilian Senate.  The other two major partners in the project are Fundação para Aplicações de Tecnologias Críticas (ATECH), a Brazilian Foundation focusing on the application of critical technology and its US subsidiary, Amazon Tech ; and Embraer , a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer.  Work on the project is expected to be completed within five years, by the end of 2002.  The first operational product of the project, new satellite receiver / processing system to generate images of the region was available in June 1999.  By June 2000, Raytheon delivered the first laboratory aircraft of the project to the Brazilian Air Force.

The four major categories of the project include: The technical infratructure for the project will consist of both forty-six land and air-based stations.  Air-based stations will include synthetic aperture radars, multispectral scanners, optical infrared sensors, high frequency direction finding equipment, and communications and non-communications exploitation gear.  Much of this will be installed onto three remote sensing aircraft, modified versions of the Embraer ERJ- 14.   All of the data collected will then be funelled to one of three processing stations (Manuas, Porto Velho, and Belem) in Brazil.  A general processing center will be installed in Brasilia.

Information generated by the surveillance systems of the project will be used for:


Since the project was conceived in 1990, critics of the project have called it an extravagance and a toy of the military.  Yet despite budget cuts, the project has survived.

The project has also been surrounded by cloud scandal.  Rival bidders have accoused one another of trying to bride Brazilian government officials.  A 1996 World Press Review article in fact stated that "investigations have show that [Raytheon] use bribery to get the contract."  The major piece of evidence in the case seems to have come form a 1995 wiretap of Julio Cesar Gomez dos Santos, a special advisor to President Cardoso, which indicated a that a Raytheon lobbyist may have bribed a Brazilian senator to gain backing for the SIVAM project.  Brazil's president blocked a parliamentary investigation into this matter, and so that project has remained on course.

Other critics of the program feel that it is merely a way for gringos to spy of Brazil.

Evironmentalists beleive that the project's real goal is national security and not protection of the environment.  In theory forestry officials, environmentalists, and tropical ecologists will be able to gain access to the data collected by the system.  This however, supposes that such people will have the resources to analyze the data.  For example, when the project was initially proposed, only a
mere $5 million was appropriated for the National Amazon Research Institute in Manuas.  By 2001 the budget had been cut to $500,000.   According to Luiz Gylvan Meira Filho, science-policy chief for Brazil’s Science and Technology Ministry , "SIVAM is not a tool for scientific research . . .  It was created so the government can better carry out its job of protecting the Amazon region.”

There is also some feeling that the law enforcement component of the project is doomed to fail as well without additional resources.  The federal environmental authority is severely understaffed and is currently faced with a $20 million dollar shortfall this year.  The army this year had to release 44,000 recruits and the air force had to ground its planes for weeks at a time this year due to a lack of funding.   
Defense experts say the radar will be a "toothless tiger," with the Brazilian military banned from shooting down suspect aircraft.

Evaluation - SIVAM's Problems

From what I have read up to this point, there seem to be some serious problems with project SIVAM.

The first problem with the program is the controversy that surrounds Raytheon and allegation sof the comany using bribery as a means of ensuring that it would be selected by the Brazilian government to execute the program.  Rumors of bribery, from what I can tell have never been dispelled.  The issue was table when the Brazilian president blocked a full investigation into the subject.

The second problem that I have found with SIVAM is the project's funding.  Although the government seems eager to spend $1.4 billion to build and infrastructure with which to monitor the Amazon, there appears to be a serous lack of funding for analyzation of any collected data.  Agencies responsible for conducting any such analyzations are understaffed and underfunded.  One article I read suggested funnelling Brazilian college graduates into the project.  However, the article added that the Brazilian university system is already taxed and therefore is not prepared to handle such a task.  Furthermore, since the major Brazilian universities are not located in the Amazon, it seems unlikely that such a program will occur in the near future.  Another article I read seemed to emphasize that analyzation of the data is at this point largely theoretical, that is that if agencies had the funding and staff to perform such analysis, they would have access to the data.  The fact, however, remains that these agencies do not have the resources to do so.  One example of this is the National Amazon Research Institute, whose initial meager budget of $5 million has been cut to just $500,000.   This lack of funding even seems to extend to the law enforcement component of the project.  For example, last year the Brazilian army was forced to turn down 44,000 recruits due to budget constraints.  Another example of this is the federal environmental authority, which is faced with a $20 million shortfall this year.

The third isse that I have found with the project is that there seems to be a degree of secrecy surround it.  This may not may not be a problem.  I am just curious as to why the world's major newspapers have given so little attention to such a massive project.   The Washington Post for example, has only published two articles on the project ever;  the New York Times and LA Times have each only published three articles.  The majority of the press attention on the project surrounds the Embraer planes.  Ther articles however, are largely found in national security and defense industry journals.  Even the bribery scandal received very little press.  In fact, the issue never reached the Washington Post or New York Times.  There were however, articles published by the LA Times, Boston Globe, and Associated Press, but I was unable to get electronic access to those articles.

Evaluation - Implication of SIVAM for Mission 2006

Having read about a serious lack of resources with which to analyze all the data being collected, there does seem to be something that the Mission 2006 class could offer the SIVAM project, manpower to analyze the data.  Raytheon in fact, already appears to be committted to training people to develop applications for analyzing the collected data.  The other thing the class could offer the SIVAM project is funding or links between organizations willing to fund such projects and organizations capable of analyzing data.

My suggestion to those people in the class who have volunteered to meet with representatives from Raytheon is first to get more information about the project.  Since there has been little press about the issue and the project's main website is only available in Spanish, details of the project are very limited.  Furthermore, there seems to be some discrepancy of the details of the project.  For example, I have seen the number of land-based monitoring stations vary from a low of 46 to a high of 900+.  The number of planes involved in the project seems to have an equally variable number.  Specific to the water group, we would like to get information on what the SIVAM project will be capable of in terms of monitoring river pollution, flow volumes, evapotranspiration, aquatic biota, sediment flow, and rainfall.

Secondly, I would ask the Raytheon representatives as to what an outside group like our class could contribute to the project if not offer our assistance to them.  The problem here is that Raytheon is not ultimately in charge of the project.  That rests with the Brazilian government, but perhaps Raytheon would be able to link our class with representatives from the government.

In summary, I think that the SIVAM project has great potential.  My fear is that this potential is being wasted with a lack of funding for analyzation of the data.   This does however, leave some opening for our class to make a contribution or more likely propose a contribution to SIVAM.  In terms of the options Kip listed on the board on Friday November 1 (ignore, capitulate, etc.) it seems like we should move to cooperate with the SIVAM project.  We should not however, limit ourselves to cooperate with this one project.  There are many, many large-scale Amazon monitoring projects like this one, which we could potentially work with.  Where this project does not appear to make much use of remote satellites for data collection, other projects offer that capability.


"Amazon Region Requirements and SIVAM Capabilities"

"Raytheon Plays a Key Role in the Goverment of Brazil's System for the Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM)"


"Brazil's President Inaugurates Amazon Monitoring System "

"The Amazon Fortress" Margolis, Mac.  Newsweek 2002

"Brazil spies on Amazon loggers" BBC News July 25. 2002

Kowalski, B. J. "Brazil: Amazon snafu" World Press Review April 1996

"Raytheon Watch" J. Whitfield Larrabee & Associates

Last updated: 11/03/2002 | Send comments to Jonathan Karr