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1998-03-18 21:50:11


Secretary of Defense Announces New Deployment Force



On March 17, Secretary of Defense William Cohen gave a speech to the National Press Club on the creation of a new rapid deployment force. It is designed to protect one or more of 120 American cities. This is necessary, he said, because of the threat of terrorist attacks on our cities.

Problem: How can the military protect all 120 -- and all the others -- from the institutional equivalent of a coordinated terrorist attack on the same day? Also, what happens to all the other cities on earth, which will suffer the same effects? If they aren't prtotected by a rapid deployment force, what happens to the world economy?

His speech was followed the next day by a military press release on the new nature of warfare: aimed at America's cities. The brigadier general who was cited in the release says that such an attack on an American city is inevitable.

The day after it happens to just one city, how do you think the stock market will do? The bond market? The urban real estate market?

What happens to these markets if the breakdown takes place everywhere?

Terror is not good for markets. Terrorists understand this.

The Millennium Bug won't be good for markets, either, for the same reason.

I keep wondering: How does a rapid deployment force respond rapidly if its own communications system is not 2000-compliant? Where is the rapid deployment force for the rapid deployment force?

Here are selections from Secretary Cohen's speech. Somehow, I failed to see front-page coverage in the U.S. press. Or back-page coverage.

* * * * * *

I thought I might talk for a few moments, at least, about the subject of Iraq, where we stand in the crisis with Iraq, what Saddam Hussein's obligations are to the world and what he has to do to gain relief from the economic sanctions. Also the larger threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, what the United States is doing about it -- not only in Iraq, but here at home. . . .

Iraq also claims it destroyed 157 bombs filled with biological agents such as anthrax -- a single spore of which can kill within a matter of four or five days. The Iraqis, again, offered no credible evidence of this destruction. Iraq claims it destroyed 130 tons of chemical agents and over 15,600 chemical munitions. The Iraqis have failed to demonstrate the destruction of any of this. Iraq claims it destroyed enough precursor chemicals to manufacture 200 tons of VX -- a mere drop of which can kill within a matter of a few minutes. Still they offer no convincing evidence.

So Iraq has made declaration after declaration, each one supposedly full, final, and complete, but each one false. . . .

Iraq is one of at least 25 countries that already has or is in the process of developing nuclear, biological, chemical weapons, and the means to deliver them. Of these, many have ties to terrorists to religious zealots or organized crime groups who are also seeking to use these weapons. Chemical and biological weapons we know are the poor man's atomic bomb -- cheaper to buy, easier to build and extremely deadly.

Our American military superiority presents -- if I can use that word again -- a paradox. We have a super power paradox. Because our potential adversaries know they can't win in a conventional challenge to the United States forces, so they're more likely to try unconventional or asymmetrical methods such as biological or chemical weapons. But we can't afford to allow this vulnerability of ours to turn into an achilles heel.

That's the reason that back in November I announced the creation of a new threat reduction agency. This agency is going to serve as the Department's focal point for our technical work and our intellectual analysis that's required to confront this threat, recognizing that these weapons may be used and used early on future battlefields, and that's now a key element of our war planning. We also recognize there's no silver bullet, there's no single response to this threat. Instead we've got to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We have to protect ourselves by deterring their use, and we have to prepare for the possibility that yes, they could be used right here in domestic America.

Prevention has to be the first and foremost line of defense in our Threat Reduction program, the so-called Nunn/Lugar program. We are helping to destroy and to dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. We are also actively participating in a range of arms control and non-proliferation regimes to reduce the chance that rogue regimes are going to acquire these weapons of mass destruction.

But I also have to recognize that despite all of these efforts, proliferation is likely to occur. So the second line of defense must be to protect ourselves through deterrence and through defense. We've made it very clear to Iraq and to the rest of the world that if you should ever even contemplate using weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, any other type -- against our forces, we will deliver a response that's overwhelming and devastating. . . .

So we're building a third line of defense that's grounded in domestic preparation. The Department of Defense is leading a federal effort to train the first responders in 120 American cities. The police, the firefighters, the medical technicians who are going to be first on the scene of an attack -- we are now in the process of helping to prepare these first responders.

Today I am announcing the creation of the military's first ever rapid assessment teams to ensure that the Department of Defense is even more prepared. We are going to establish ten separate and special National Guard teams that will be dedicated solely to assisting local civilian authorities in the event of a chemical or biological attack. These teams are going to arrive quickly, they're going to assess the scene, and then to help ensure that these affected areas get federal assistance in whatever form is necessary. . . .

This new initiative is going to be the cornerstone of our strategy for preparing America's defense against a possible use of weapons of mass destruction. . . .

But I believe, based upon the report that we have filed, there are some 25 countries who now either have these weapons or are in the process of developing them, that it's a threat which will continue to spread by virtue of the spread of technology, by access to information over the Internet and other means of acquiring this information that we're likely to see groups -- they could be either state sponsored or transnational -- who will acquire them at very little expense and be able to develop the means of delivering them.

So we have to be prepared. This is not something that is a scare tactic, it's a reality. We're likely to see more and more of it in the future. . . .

We are in the process of inoculating everyone in the military. We are starting first with those who are in the region. We began by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hugh Shelton and myself, receiving the first shots. In fact I had my second vaccination yesterday. I don't recommend it to everybody here, but we feel it's important we send a signal this is something that all of our military men and women must have and should have in the coming months and years. So we have a policy of inoculating everyone in the military including the Guard and Reserve.


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