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Future Perils Call for Allied Effort

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

VIENNA, Austria, June 29, 1998 – Lacking resources to confront allied forces on the battlefield, future foes are likely to resort to more devious means, John Hamre warned NATO allies and Partnership for Peace members here.

Rogue states and terrorist groups will turn to computer viruses, poison gas and even nuclear weapons, the deputy defense secretary said June 22 at the 15th NATO Workshop. Hamre addressed about 200 representatives of allies and partners from throughout Europe, the United States and Canada during the workshop, a four-day meeting on confronting security challenges facing NATO.

"Our opponents of the future, be they nation-states, substate or transnational actors, will seek our Achilles heels [using] unconventional ways to attack our vulnerabilities," Hamre told the group. "Unfortunately, modern, post-industrial society provides many targets for future adversaries."

Their new "tools of terror," which can be used against civilian as well as military targets, include chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and cyberattacks against vital information systems, the deputy secretary said. "The United States firmly believes the threat from these weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is very real and is increasing."

Hamre's warning about unconventional weapons came the same day international news sources reported the United Nations had confirmed Iraq put VX nerve agent on missile warheads prior to the Gulf War in 1991. Army laboratory officials at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., detected the deadly agent on Iraqi missile fragments collected by U.N. officials.

The United States is taking steps to counter such nontraditional threats, Hamre said. U.S. officials are expanding the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program aimed at reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons in Russia, he said, and, "We would like to extend that program to help eliminate chemical weapons."

In an effort to consolidate treaty and threat reduction efforts, Pentagon officials created a new defense threat reduction agency, combining more than a dozen treaty and threat reduction programs into a single agency. "This new agency will be our focal point for our efforts to reduce nuclear, chemical and biological threats," Hamre said.

Defense officials are also earmarking $5 billion in defense dollars over the next six years for chemical and biological protection and counterproliferation. Emphasis is on developing remote detection systems and diagnostic techniques.

To protect individual American service members, Pentagon leaders have started giving the entire U.S. military mandatory vaccinations against anthrax. In his speech, Hamre predicted that eventually, the United States will offer voluntary vaccinations for all Americans.

Defense officials have also launched a new program dubbed "homebase defense" to protect citizens at home from these deadly weapons. National Guard teams are being trained to identify, diagnose and contain chemical and biological weapon attacks, Hamre said.

"A terrorist incident using chemical or biological agents will quickly outstrip the ability of local emergency authorities to deal with these threats," he said.

Just as U.S. leaders are acknowledging and planning for unconventional attacks, Hamre said, NATO, too, must begin to plan for such possibilities. Although the alliance has taken some important first steps, more needs to be done, he said.

In early June, NATO's newly created senior defense group on proliferation issued a report recommending ways the alliance can improve its defense posture. It highlighted the need to plan for possible attacks against civilian targets and the need for strong theater missile defense systems.

"The report made clear that much more needs to be done to prepare our forces and protect our citizens," Hamre concluded.

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