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Senate Grills Myers on Homeland Defense, Transformation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2001 – President Bush's nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff faced questions about terrorism and the emerging threats the United States faces during Senate testimony Sept. 12.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers categorically put to rest a rumor that the Air Force shot down the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.

"The armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft," he told Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin. "When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked. But we never actually had to use force."

(Since the testimony, reports have spread that passengers heard news reports about terrorist airliner crashes in New York and Washington and rushed their hijackers to prevent their plane from being used as a suicide weapon. The airliner crashed in an unpopulated area; the cause is under investigation.)

Given the events of the last week, homeland defense was key in many of the questions posed to Myers. He told senators that homeland defense has been debated in the Pentagon during the Quadrennial Defense Review, "and it's still being debated."

Myers, currently the vice chairman, previously has commanded the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Space Command. "We had plans to deploy our fighters to defend from external threats," he said. "I never thought that we'd see what we saw the last few days, where we had fighters over our cities defending against a threat that originated inside the United States of America."

He said DoD a role in homeland defense, but one that requires more thought. "What that role is, I am not confident I know that answer today," he said. "But I just know that the debate needs to take place now."

The past week's events have shown that local civil authorities do not have all the resources needed to cope with a major catastrophe.

"There is going to be a reliance, I believe, on some of the capabilities that we have inside the department," he said. "So we need to sort through those issues so the next time we have a terrible tragedy, that we are ready to act in a unified way, in a focused way."

Myers also spoke about the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction. He said the National Guard is "ideally suited for the mission."

"It's the mission they can train for. God forbid, we'll never have to use them, but if we do, they'll be ready, they'll be trained," Myers said. "I think those missions are perhaps more natural for the National Guard than some of the current missions."

Transformation of the military was another hot subject for Myers. "Inside the Department of Defense we have unity of effort for transforming and, for that matter, modernizing our forces," he said. Parts of that effort include guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the staff, the work that the services will do, and the development of joint operational concepts, he said.

He said a major part of the transformation effort will be done by the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. "They've got the role of experimentation, which will lead our transformation efforts," he said.

Focusing efforts of all areas of DoD -- the acquisition, requirements and programming and budgeting communities -- is important to making transformation work, Myers said.

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