Cooperative Defense Initiative Seeks to Save Lives
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, April 10, 2000 The bottom line to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is the Cooperative Defense Initiative could save thousands of lives throughout the Persian Gulf region.
Consulting with area leaders on the initiative has been one of Cohen's major agenda items on his trip through the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. He unveiled the program in March 1999 and called it an effort to focus attention on what military planners see as a future threat in the region.
“The proliferation of chemical and biological agents could be catastrophic damage to civilian societies,” he said here April 10 during a press conference. He said he is trying to make the gulf states aware of the threat and to talk about ways to reduce it.
A defense official traveling with Cohen said the CDI has five pillars: active defense, passive defense, shared early warning, consequence management and medical countermeasures. The initiative builds on U.S. efforts in other parts of the world.
“It has come out of and is a logical extension of programs we started for our own forces in the United States, but also programs we have with NATO and Korea and Japan,” the official said. “It is something we need to do in the [Persian Gulf] region.”
He called the threat obvious: With no inspectors present, Iraq may be reconstituting its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Iran, too, is pursuing a weapons of mass destruction capability. Both countries have missiles capable of delivering such weapons.
The United States plans to work bilaterally and multilaterally with regional partners to develop capabilities in each of the five initiative areas. The partner nations are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Jordan.
“Some countries will look at the issue and want to respond to it in a different way than their neighbor,” said the official. The Kuwaitis, for example, up close to Iraq, may put more emphasis on passive defense -- buying protective masks and suits, stockpiling antidotes -- than the Omanis, at the other end of the gulf, who might be more interested in the shared early warning segment of the initiative.
The official said the Kuwaitis, the Jordanians, the Saudis and the Bahrainis “are probably the ones who have been most energetic in understanding and embracing and in taking concrete steps toward this [initiative].”
Shared early warning is an important piece of the initiative and requires multilateral cooperation. “We want to make sure that everybody gets the early warning of an attack,” the official said. The United States is setting up a system that can warn of a missile launch. This requires an agreement and an interoperable communications network. The United States would provide the information for the network; no new radars or satellites would be required.
Active defense means intercepting and destroying missiles. Today, that means the Patriot missile system. The Saudis and Kuwaitis have the system and the Egyptians have budgeted to buy the system. “We’re beginning to look at how we integrate that with our forces,” the official said. “How do we make sure that that piece is responsive to the threat?”
Passive defense includes doctrine, protective gear and medical stockpiles. It also entails making sure the armed forces are prepared to work in a contaminated environment, and determining how a contaminated environment would be cleaned up.
The medical piece is already under way. U.S. and regional medical experts have met to discuss the problems associated with an attack by a weapon of mass destruction. This covers such things as recognizing when you’ve been attacked by a biological weapon and containing the problem so it doesn't inadvertently spread.
Consequence management happens once a weapon explodes or an accident occurs. DoD is helping train first responders in 120 U.S. cities how to recognize what’s happening and what to do. That same expertise would be available under the CDI. The State Department would have a big chunk of this piece of the initiative.
Now the initiative will move from theory to practice. The U.S. Central Command is sponsoring a variety of exercises that will bring together all those involved to learn more about the problems associated with the threat. The first exercise is set for May in Bahrain.
Prince Sultan, the Saudi minister of defense and aviation, suggested the Gulf Cooperation Council meet solely to discuss the initiative. U.S. officials see this proposed meeting as a positive step.
The United States would like to see progress made every year in as many areas as possible. “Each country must decide where they are going to put their emphasis, where they are going to put their resources,” the official said. “That’s not something we are going to tell them to do.”