Joint Staff Develops Division to Help Prevent Terrorism
By Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 1996 Gen. John M. Shalikashvili recently called for a rapid military response against terrorism -- and to ensure he got one had his plan in motion even as he spoke.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rallied Joint Staff members in a mid-October Pentagon meeting. Earlier, he had approved the concept of a new anti-terrorism and force protection division in the Joint Staff Operations Division and appointed Marine Brig. Gen. James T. Conway as its first director. The new organization stood up operations with an initial cadre of 14 members and is destined to total 37 by Feb. 1.
"The chairman has realized that we are probably not pre- eminent in terms of our ability to combat terrorism and ensure force protection," Conway said. "He wants to bring that capability on line with the rest of our capabilities, and that's our job."
The initial priority for the terrorism division will be to address any directives or requirements given the chairman by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry.
The division will also thoroughly review and take action on the Downing task force report, released Sept. 16. The task force studied circumstances surrounding the June 25 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. airmen and injured 450 others.
The terrorism division will work with each Joint Staff directorate, various intelligence agencies, the U.S. State Department, the FBI and each service to establish a working relationship and gain knowledge to focus its efforts.
"We're going to organize similar to what I think most other staffs are organized on the Joint Staff," Conway said. "This was a conscious decision made by the chairman to break it down into four branches or divisions."
The division's job involves developing a mindset throughout the military to continuously consider the protection of forces against terrorism at the forefront of every mission or task, Conway said.
"Our concern is that a terrorist will look to the weakest link when an attack is planned," he said. The key, he said, will be to anticipate and not to base actions and responses based on the last terrorist attack.
Conway said he is convinced the high quality people already assigned to the division are the best the services have to offer, and they are already accomplishing what the chairman has instructed.
"There are a lot of things that require out-of-the-box thinking, some unconventional thought that has to be applied," Conway stressed. "It's what we're going to have to do if we're going to bring this division into its proper orbit with our premiere capabilities." (Roberts is editor of J-Scope, an electronic newspaper for the Joint Staff.)