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DoD's Re-evaluation of the Force Protection Posture
By Secretary of Defense William J. Perry's , No location specified, Monday, September 16, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 80-- DoD's Re-evaluation of the Force Protection Posture Terrorists cannot win unless we let them, and sacrificing our interests them is not an option. Therefore we must gird ourselves for a relentless struggle in which there will be many silent victories and some noisy defeats.

 

Volume 11, Number 80

DoD's Re-evaluation of the Force Protection Posture

From Secretary of Defense William J. Perry's Report to the President on the Protection of U.S. Forces Deployed Abroad, released Sept. 16, 1996.

The attack on U.S. forces at Khobar Towers has dramatically underscored that for U.S. forces deployed overseas terrorism is a fact of life. Every terrorist attack provides lessons on how to prevent further tragedies. However, the Khobar Towers attack should be seen as a watershed event pointing the way to a radically new mindset and dramatic changes in the way we protect our forces deployed overseas from this growing threat. This report reviews the Khobar Towers attack, the context of our Persian Gulf force deployments, the force protection measures taken before and after the attack and lessons learned for all of our military operations.

The Attack. Khobar Towers is a compound built by the Saudi government near Dhahran that housed the residential quarters of almost 3,000 U. S. military personnel of the 4404th Air Wing (Provisional), along with military personnel from the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia. U.S. military personnel first occupied this compound in 1991 during the coalition force buildup before the Gulf War.

Shortly before 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday, June 25, 1996, a fuel truck parked next to the northern perimeter fence at the Khobar Towers complex. Air Force guards posted on top of the closest building, Building 131, immediately spotted the truck and suspected a bomb as its drivers fled the scene in a nearby car. The guards began to evacuate the building, but were unable to complete this task before a tremendous explosion occurred. The blast completely destroyed the northern face of the building, blew out windows from surrounding buildings and was heard for miles. Nineteen American service members were killed, and hundreds more were seriously injured. Many Saudis and other nationals were also injured.

The response of our forces at Khobar Towers to this tragedy reflected their thorough training and bravery. The buddy system worked, and every injured airman received on-the-spot first aid before being escorted to the clinics. Medical teams, both military and civilian, American and Saudi Arabian, performed commendably without rest for many hours and, in some cases, despite their own wounds.

Once the immediate steps were taken to care for the injured, search for survivors and account for everyone, the command of the 4404th Air Wing began to reconstitute itself to carry out its Southern Watch mission. In less than three days, the skies over southern Iraq once again were being patrolled by the coalition in full force.

The June 25 bombing attack remains under investigation by the Saudi Arabian government, assisted by large numbers of forensic experts from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has responsibility within the U.S. government for investigating terrorist attacks against Americans overseas. The Department of Defense knows neither who the perpetrators of this attack are nor who sponsored them.

Why Are We in the Gulf. The attack on Khobar Towers has raised questions about the need for our presence in the Arabian Gulf region and Saudi Arabia in particular.

Our security interests in Saudi Arabia date back to 1945, when President Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz on his way home from the Yalta Conference. The United States has had a military presence in Saudi Arabia since the early 1950s. During most of this time, our presence has been well under 1,000 uniformed personnel and civilian employees, in addition to their families, engaged in training and advising the Saudi Arabian military. The United States Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia was established in 1953 to assist the regular Saudi military under the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. In 1965, a U.S. Army program manager's office was established to help in the modernization of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

Our presence in helping the Saudis modernize their military and absorb new equipment was welcomed and unobtrusive. The kingdom was a benign environment in which tens of thousands of American civilians lived and worked, particularly since the oil boom of the 1970s. Since 1977, our military assistance, including the salaries and expenses of our uniformed personnel and civilian employees, has been fully funded by the Saudi Arabian government.

Saudi Arabia has never hosted foreign military bases of any nation. While Saudi Arabia and its gulf neighbors generally welcomed an American military presence in the region after Great Britain ended its security responsibilities east of Suez in the early 1970s, they preferred that presence to be "over the horizon." For the United States, this presence was manifested primarily by our naval Middle East Force in the Arabian Gulf. While the United States made use of the Saudi air base at Dhahran in the early years of the Cold War, U.S. combatant forces were rarely deployed to the kingdom. The major exception before the Gulf War was during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, when American AWACS [airborne warning and control system] and tanker aircraft were deployed to Riyadh.

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, dramatically changed the security dynamics and the U.S. presence in the region. The United States, acting to protect its vital interests, led a coalition of Western and Islamic forces that deployed over half a million men and women to the gulf to defend Saudi Arabia and the smaller gulf states and to free Kuwait from Iraq's brutal occupation. Through operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, they won an impressive victory, although the threats to the region from aggressor states were not completely destroyed.

The primary American interest that we acted decisively to protect in the Gulf War was access to the vast energy resources of the region, i.e., nearly two-third[s] of the world's proven oil reserves upon which our own economy and those of the entire industrial world depend so heavily. This fact alone would have justified our actions in 1990-1991, but America also has other vital interests in the region. The security of Israel and Egypt and the gulf states themselves was endangered by Iraq's aggression and desire to dominate the politics of the region. Coupled with the end of the Cold War, the coalition victory allowed the United States to move forward on the Middle East peace process in a manner not previously possible. America also has vital interests in protecting U.S. citizens and property abroad, and in ensuring freedom of navigation through the air and sea lanes that connect Europe and the West with Africa, Asia and the Indian Ocean, all of which pass through and alongside the Arabian Peninsula.

Our Current Mission. When President Bush sought King Fahd's permission to deploy American forces to Saudi Arabia in 1990 for the buildup to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, he made a commitment that we would depart when our wartime mission was concluded. The United States sought no permanent bases or operational presence on the Arabian Peninsula, and that continues to be our policy.

However, the threat to U.S. vital interests in the region from Saddam Hussein's regime did not end with Desert Storm. While the Desert Storm coalition ejected the Iraqi army from Kuwait in 1991, the goal of the coalition was not to dismember Iraq or advance to Baghdad to change the regime. Saddam Hussein has remained in power in Baghdad and continues to ignore or obstruct the U.N. Security Council resolutions that defined the terms of the cease-fire, particularly the requirement to disclose and destroy all weapons of mass destruction), nuclear, chemical and biological, and their long-range means of delivery. Consequently, at the invitation of the gulf countries, a coalition of forces, primarily from the United States, Great Britain and France, has remained in the region to enforce the U.N. resolutions. These forces include the 4404th Air Wing, the unit that occupied the Khobar Towers facility.

In the years since the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's regime has undertaken overt acts threatening peace in the region. In 1992, in response to Iraqi repression of the Shia, the coalition created Operation Southern Watch. In 1993, the Iraqi regime plotted to assassinate former President George Bush during a visit to Kuwait. In response, the United States launched cruise missile strikes against the Iraqi intelligence headquarters.

In 1994, the Iraqi regime again moved forces toward the Kuwaiti border with an intent to launch another invasion. U.S. forces responded with a rapid buildup, using host nation bases, including those in Saudi Arabia, and the Iraqis turned back. The U.N. subsequently passed UNSCR [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 949, which limits Iraq's right to deploy military forces in southern Iraq -- the area defined by the coalition as south of 32 degrees north [latitude].

In August 1996, Saddam Hussein, again in violation of U.N. resolutions, attacked without provocation the Kurdish city of Irbil. He then declared the two no-fly zones, established in the terms of the cease-fire and after Saddam's repression of the Kurds, null and void. The United States and the United kingdom extended the southern no-fly zone to 33 degrees parallel and launched a series of missile attacks against Iraqi air defenses.

We have been able to respond to Iraq's continued provocations and threats to the peace and stability of its neighbors because the United States, together with its coalition partners, France and the United Kingdom, has maintained a strong military presence on the Arabian Peninsula, principally Saudi Arabia, since the end of Operation Desert Storm. Our forward presence not only allows us to respond quickly, but to monitor Iraq's compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions with respect to both repression of the Kurds and direct military threats to the gulf states. This forward presence includes:

 

  • Nearly 5,000 U.S. Air Force men and women in Operation Southern Watch who conduct combat air missions from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq that restricts Saddam Hussein's ability to oppress his people and threaten the peace and stability of the region;
  • U.S. servicemen and women who support the work of the United Nations Special Commission charged with discovering and destroying Saddam's programs to develop and produce weapons of mass destruction, efforts which Iraq continues to oppose. This effort includes U-2 surveillance missions over Iraq to assist with UNSCOM's monitoring responsibilities.
  • U.S. Army Patriot air defense batteries that have been deployed to protect our forces and major Saudi population centers at Dhahran and Riyadh since 1991 and regular rotations of battalion-sized armor units that exercise in Kuwait;
  • The U.S. Navy Middle East Force that has been greatly expanded from a few surface combatant ships to include the presence of an aircraft carrier battle group and a Marine amphibious ready group throughout most of the year;
  • Robust military exercise programs with every gulf state, unheard of before Desert Storm, that contribute to the operational readiness of all our military forces and help deter Iraq as well as Iran, which also has hegemonic ambitions coupled with a military modernization program that is out of all proportion to its defensive needs;
  • Pre-positioned equipment -- a full brigade's worth in Kuwait, another two brigades' worth afloat, and we are building up to a fourth brigade's worth in Qatar. This equipment allows us to insert a substantial deterrent force onto the Arabian Peninsula in a fraction of the time that it took us in 1990.

Maintaining the U.S. military presence in the Arabian Gulf has not been easy for our uniformed personnel who have served repeated tours of duty in a harsh environment. It places a serious strain on ships, aircraft and other equipment operating at high tempo. While the cost of our presence has been greatly eased through generous host nation support contributions from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other gulf countries, the monetary cost to the United States remains high. But this residual cost and the other sacrifices associated with our presence are justified because they protect vital U.S. national interests at stake in the region.

Our experience clearly shows that an immediate and forceful response to Saddam Hussein's provocative actions has been effective in causing his regime to back off from threatening moves each time it has been foolish enough to try them. It is far more cost-effective to be in a position to deter Saddam Hussein than have to fight another war.

In addition, should deterrence fail, we are, without question, in a better position to defeat aggression than we were in the summer of 1990 prior to Desert Shield. Then, it took more than four weeks to place meaningful combat power ashore. Today, we can do so in four to five days, using the combination of forward presence and measures that we have taken to improve our ability to deploy rapidly. We demonstrated this potential in October 1994 with great success, and we continue to exercise with the equipment for both training and deterrent purposes.

Terrorist Attacks. The terrorist attacks on the OPM/SANG in Riyadh last November and on Khobar Towers in Dhahran last June were not only attacks on American citizens and forces, they were also an assault on our security strategy in the region. Our military presence in the region is opposed by Iran and Iraq, obviously, but also by home-grown dissidents in some countries of the region. The opposition includes extremist groups who are not only cold-blooded and fanatical, but also clever. They know that they cannot defeat us militarily, but they may believe they can defeat us politically, and they have chosen terror as the weapon to try to achieve this. They estimate that if they can cause enough casualties or threat of casualties to our forces, they can weaken support in the United States for our presence in the region or weaken support in the host nations for a continued U.S. presence. They seek to drive a wedge between the U.S. security strategy in the gulf and the American public, and between the United States and our regional allies.

Before the terrorist attacks, Saudi Arabia had long been seen as an oasis of calm and safety in the turbulent Middle East. Americans, both military and civilians alike, felt secure and generally welcome, albeit within a very different and restrictive culture compared to the United States or in Western Europe and elsewhere our forces were stationed overseas. Our approach to security matters in the kingdom reflected this attitude, which was the reality until recent years. We lived and worked in urban environments and considered them on a par with Europe or Japan. While U.S. military security practices around the world were tightened following the Beirut bombings in 1983, we felt little danger in Saudi Arabia. Our presence in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War had been requested and agreed to by the Saudi government. Indeed, our presence contributed significantly to our host's defense.

The location of a large number of our personnel and our major combat air operations in the Dhahran region reflected this sense of well-being. The air facilities were excellent, and the Saudi government provided good-quality residences and office facilities in the nearby Khobar Towers complex. That complex had been built by the Saudi government and was offered to the U.S. military for use during the Gulf War. It continued to be used by U.S. military personnel after Operation Southern Watch began.

The depth of feeling among strongly conservative Saudi elements that opposed inviting Western forces to the kingdom in 1990 and remained opposed to our continued presence was slow to emerge clearly. There was evidence of anti-regime activity and a rise in anonymous threats against American interests, especially following the additional troop deployment in October 1994.

Resentment over the costs of the Gulf War and the continued high costs of military modernization, and discontent over strains in the social fabric of the kingdom, even from normally pro-Western Saudis, were recognized but not considered a threat to American military security. Since our personnel worked on Saudi military installations and lived in guarded compounds, any risks were seen as manageable by maintaining a low profile and following standard personal security practices. Force protection was actively pursued, but in the context of a stable and secure environment.

Following the November OPM/SANG bombing, that environment was re-evaluated, the threat level assessment was raised to "high" and extensive improvements were made in all our Arabian Gulf region facilities. In addition, we received a number of intelligence indications that new attacks were being contemplated against American forces and that Khobar Towers could be a target. What these indications lacked was warning of the specific kind of attack that occurred. However, they caused our commanders to put in place a wide variety of new security measures.

At Khobar Towers alone, over 130 separate force protection enhancements were undertaken -- barriers were raised and moved out, fences strengthened, entrances restricted, guard forces increased. The enhancements were aimed at a variety of potential threats, ranging from bombs to attempts to poison food and water supplies. The enhancements may well have saved hundreds of lives by preventing penetration by bombers into the center of the compound. The approach, however, was one of enhancing security of existing facilities despite their overall limitations, and this proved insufficient to protect our forces.

The climate of calm and safety in Saudi Arabia vanished with the November 1995 bombing of the OPM/SANG office in Riyadh and the highly sophisticated attack on Khobar Towers, which used a bomb now estimated at more than 20,000 pounds. It became clear that we needed to radically rethink the issue of force protection in the region and that our conclusions from this effort would carry implications for the protection of our forces around the world.

Relocate, Restructure and Refocus. Immediately following the Khobar Towers bombing attack, we undertook a fundamental re-evaluation of our force posture in the Arabian Gulf region. The guiding principles were: We would continue to perform our missions; force protection would be a major consideration; and other tradeoffs could be made. Essentially, we looked at the mission tasks as if we were planning the operation from scratch within a very high threat environment.

Consequently, we came to the conclusion that a far different force posture was appropriate. After extensive discussions with the senior Saudi leadership, I ordered a major realignment of our force posture in Saudi Arabia, an effort known as Operation Desert Focus. This new posture will greatly enhance force protection, while still permitting us to accomplish our missions. The effort, which is nearing completion, is two-pronged.

First, with the full cooperation and support of the Saudi Arabian government, we began immediately to relocate our deployed air forces (the 4404th Air Wing) from the Saudi air bases located in urban concentrations at Riyadh and Dhahran to an isolated location at the uncompleted Prince Sultan Air Base near Al Kharj, where many coalition forces were located during the Gulf War. While our personnel will be living in tents initially, we will be able to construct very effective defenses against terrorist attacks.

This relocation effort, which will require over 1,400 truck loads to accomplish, is well under way. More than 500 tents, most of them air-conditioned, have been erected to house more than 4,000 troops and provide dining and recreation facilities, communications sites, and maintenance and operations facilities. The refueling tankers and reconnaissance aircraft from Riyadh were the first to arrive last month, and the move of the fighters and other aircraft from Dhahran is almost complete. More than 2,000 additional military personnel were deployed to Saudi Arabia temporarily to assist in this effort to provide security for the moves, erect facilities and provide services at the base until permanent arrangements are in place. The Saudi Arabian government has assumed responsibility for constructing permanent facilities. The isolated location and large size of the Prince Sultan Air Base allows for extensive perimeters and avoids intense concentrations of troops.

Some of the units in Saudi Arabia cannot be relocated without degrading their effectiveness. Our USMTM and OPM/SANG security assistance personnel who train and advise the Saudi military must be in close proximity to their Saudi counterparts in the capital and at various bases. Our Patriot missile battery crews must be located near the urban areas and air bases that they defend. While these units must continue to work where they are now, we are taking steps to improve their security by consolidating them and moving them to more secure housing areas, providing more guards and barriers, and taking other steps to enhance their protection and lessen the impact of any future attacks.

Second, the department has re-examined its personnel assignment policies for Saudi Arabia. While the majority of the operational forces with the 4404th Air Wing are on temporary duty and deploy on rotational assignments for up to 179 days at a time before returning to their home bases, many of the DoD personnel permanently assigned to Saudi Arabia with OPM/SANG and USMTM are on multiyear tours accompanied by their family members. At the time of the Khobar Towers bombing, we sponsored nearly 800 military dependents in Saudi Arabia alone. This no longer seems prudent.

At my request, the Department of State implemented an "authorized departure" of all U.S. government dependents from Saudi Arabia in July 1996, which provides monetary entitlements to any families who wish to leave. In addition, DoD has withdrawn command sponsorship for dependents of most permanently assigned military members, which had the practical effect of an orderly, mandatory return. Nearly 300 dependents arrived by charter aircraft in Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 18. While families are disrupted and some are undoubtedly displeased by this change in policy, I believe it was the correct choice. Military members understand personal risk and accept it by the nature of their profession. That is not true of their dependents, especially children, and we cannot allow them to remain in harm's way.

In the future, nearly all permanent assignments in Saudi Arabia will be one-year, unaccompanied tours. There are some assignments where the nature of the job requires longer tours for continuity and familiarization with the host government, and we have identified 59 billets that will be permitted to be accompanied by dependents. School-aged children will not be allowed under any circumstance under current conditions.

Other Initiatives. We also looked beyond Saudi Arabia, first to the other countries on the Arabian Peninsula where we have DoD personnel, both combatants and noncombatants alike. In Kuwait, we will move exposed Air Force personnel onto the Ali Al Salem Air Base where they will live temporarily in tents, as at Prince Sultan Air Base at Al Kharj in Saudi Arabia. In the United Arab Emirates, we have completed moving our Air Force personnel from an urban hotel onto a UAE air base, where they will also live in temporary facilities. In both cases, we have received strong support from the host countries.

The situation in each country in the gulf is different in terms of dependent numbers, threat and security exposure. We decided to reduce the number of family members in Kuwait through a program of accelerated attrition. In the future, there will be only about 30 billets designated for accompanied tours. In Bahrain, we are looking at reducing our numbers through gradual attrition matching the normal rotation cycles of personnel. We have decided to leave the dependent status as is in the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Yemen, affecting approximately 65 family members.

After the Khobar Towers bombing, I also undertook a process to examine more closely the adequacy of our force protection measures for our troops around the world. On July 17, I sent a message directing all commanders in chief to look at force protection in their areas of responsibility and report back to me by Aug. 1 on how best to deal with the rapidly escalating threat to U.S. forces. I urged them to be innovative in their approaches to dealing with the terrorist problem. As a minimum, I asked that they answer the following questions:

 

  • Should our troops remain in all present locations?
  • Should they be moved from urban areas?
  • Is an adjustment required in dependent status?
  • How much should force protection interfere with the mission?
  • Is intelligence focused to deal with the terrorist threat?
  • How can we work more effectively with host nations on force protection measures?

I have incorporated many of the recommendations and ideas from the CinCs in the force protection initiative the department is undertaking. Each of the CinCs responded personally with detailed suggestions of additional force protection improvements that could be undertaken without compromising the mission. The CinCs' suggestions fell into the following key categories:

 

  • Establish location of forces as a critical factor in force protection considerations. Crosscheck with dependent security assessment.
  • Tailor anti-terrorism training to increase situational awareness of deploying personnel.
  • Provide more focused anti-terrorism intelligence to field units.
  • Improve interchange with host nations on intelligence and security matters.

I have incorporated many of the recommendations and ideas in the force protection initiative the department is undertaking. Terrorists will always search out and strike at the weakest link in our chain of defenses. Our goal is to find and strengthen those weak spots and we are doing just that.

Force Protection vs. Mission. The relocation of our forces in Saudi Arabia and the change in personnel assignment policies are just two examples of the need to rethink fundamentally our approach to force protection around the world. Prior to the Khobar Towers bombing, our force protection measures focused on incremental fixes to existing arrangements rather than consideration of radical changes in force posture. Incremental fixes in force protection can always be trumped by attacks of greater magnitude.

To stay ahead of the threat, we now see that we must always put force protection up front as a major consideration with key other mission goals as we plan operations and that that parity must be maintained throughout the operation. Changes in threat level must trigger fundamental reconsiderations of force protection and cause commanders to re-examine this issue as if they were designing a new mission. Moreover, commanders must be empowered to do this.

The task of protecting our forces would be easy if we were willing to abandon or compromise our missions, but that is not an option. We have global interests and global responsibilities. Those require our forces to be deployed overseas to protect our national security interests. And our troops cannot successfully complete their tasks if they are required to live in bunkers 24 hours a day.

How then can we accomplish our missions without compromising their success or abandoning them altogether? The answer is that we will require tradeoffs in other areas, such as cost, convenience and quality of life. This is a tough answer for our men and women in uniform, who will live in less comfortable surroundings and spend more time avoiding and defending against terrorism, and it is a tough answer for them and their families, who must experience the loneliness of unaccompanied tours. We will have to compensate for these changes and greater hardships in order to continue to maintain the superb quality force we have today.

Putting force protection up front as a major consideration along with other mission objectives around the world will require a fundamental change in the mind-set with which we plan and carry out operations. It also requires structural changes in the department. Many of the initial actions we are taking are directed only in part at the Southwest Asia theater. They all have global implications.

The Downing Assessment. On June 28, three days after the Khobar Towers bombing, I issued a charter for an assessment of the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragedy and appointed Gen. Wayne A. Downing, United States Army (retired), to head the assessment effort. I asked Gen. Downing to give me a fast, unvarnished and independent look at what happened there and offer ideas on how we can try to prevent such a tragedy in the future. The final report was delivered to me on Aug. 30.

Gen. Downing has given me that unvarnished and independent review of the Khobar Towers bombing and a tough critique of past practices and attitudes. His report confirms my belief that we must make a fundamental change in our mindset.

On the whole, I accept Gen. Downing's recommendations, and I believe we can take effective action to deal with each of the problems identified in his comprehensive report. His conclusions have by and large validated the initiatives we have already launched, and many of his recommendations already have been implemented through the changes we have made. Where his recommendations have identified additional changes that should be considered, we have a process under way either to implement them or to put them on a fast track to decision. Gen. Downing's report is an important contribution to changing our entire approach to force protection and provides evidence of the need for changes in the way we do business. ...

We have taken the following actions in response to the principal recommendations regarding force protection in the report.

 

  • Issue DoD-wide standards for providing force protection.

DoD has maintained a variety of directives and standards related to force protection. These documents have been of great use to organizations and have served us well. However, as Gen. Downing has indicated, the diversity of these documents and their "advisory" rather than "directive" nature may have caused confusion. In my judgment, this is largely a result of the continuing transition the department is making under Goldwater-Nichols [DoD Reorganization Act of 1986] to joint operations under combatant commands.

To correct this situation, I have revised and am reissuing this day DoD Directive 2000.12, "DoD Combating Terrorism Program." This new directive requires that the approaches previously set forth as suggestions in DoD Handbook O-2000.12-H be implemented as the DoD standard. In applying this standard, commanders and managers must take account of the mission, the threat and specific circumstances. The new directive also implements other new initiatives I have identified elsewhere in this report.

 

  • Give local commanders operational control with regard to force protection matters.

Under the traditional peacetime command and control arrangements, force protection is the responsibility of the CinC through the service component commanders to the local commanders in the field. In the U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility includes Saudi Arabia, the service component commanders exercised operational control of deployed forces from their headquarters, including for force protection. But the commander, Joint Task Force Southwest Asia, exercised tactical control over forces in theater that are operating specific missions in support of Operation Southern Watch. Thus force protection responsibilities and tactical control were not in the same hands.

Following the attack on OPM/SANG in Riyadh last November, the commander in chief, U.S. Central Command gave additional responsibilities to the commander, JTF-SWA, for coordination of force protection in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Following the subsequent attack on Khobar Towers in June, CinCCENT has directed the commander, CJTF-SWA, to assume full responsibility for force protection of all combatant forces deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch.

With respect to force protection, CJTF-SWA now has authority and responsibility to establish policy and directive authority to implement and enforce the CinCCENT force protection policies and directives. Tactical control and force protection are now in the same hands. Service component commanders continue to maintain operational control of combatant forces deployed in support of JTF-SWA.

CinCCENT will also investigate the feasibility and advisability of establishing a CENTCOM forward headquarters that could assure force protection responsibilities for all forces on the Arabian Peninsula. I have also directed all CinCs to review and make recommendations on similar command structure changes for force protection in their areas of responsibility.

The DoD directive I have issued establishing DoD-wide standards for providing force protection now requires that each CinC review the command arrangements for every joint task force when it is established and periodically thereafter with regard to force protection responsibilities. The directive also requires that the CinCs report to me any decisions to vest operational control for force protection matters outside a joint task force commander and to detail the reasons why this decision has been made.

 

  • Designate the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the principal adviser and the single DoD-wide focal point for force protection activities.

Gen. Downing's report correctly recognizes the need for a stronger centralized approach to force protection within DoD. There indeed should be a single individual designated as responsible for ensuring that our policies will result in adequate force protection measures being taken and for auditing the performance of our units.

Because force protection measures must be carried out by our uniformed military organizations, I have therefore designated the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the principal adviser and the single DoD-wide focal point for force protection activities. He will review and coordinate these activities in the context of broader national security policy matters with the undersecretary of defense for policy. The chairman will establish an appropriate force protection element within the Joint Staff to perform this function.

As the primary, high-level advocate for force protection, the chairman will help ensure that this requirement is placed as a major consideration along with other mission goals as we plan military operations and that focus on force protection is maintained throughout the operation. The chairman will also ensure that adequate force protection is a top priority for every commander at every level within our military organization and that commanders will be empowered to ensure that force protection measures respond to the unique situation on the ground.

As the key military adviser to the president and the secretary of defense, the chairman can also ensure that force protection receives a high priority in budgetary allocations. And as the representative of the joint forces, the chairman is also in the position to ensure a joint and uniform approach to force protection throughout the service components.

The instructions carrying out this recommendation are included in DoD Directive 2000.12 being issued today.

 

  • Move force protection responsibilities from the Department of State to the Department of Defense where possible.

In some cases, the Department of State, rather than the Department of Defense, is responsible for the security of military forces overseas, including force protection. This division of responsibilities can result in different standards of force protection, as highlighted by the bombing of the OPM/SANG in Riyadh in November 1995.

Immediately following that event, I directed that the chairman create a DoD Anti-terrorism Task Force to assess DoD anti-terrorism worldwide and to provide a report with recommendations to improve anti-terrorism readiness. The task force highlighted the bifurcated responsibilities for security of DoD personnel. In particular, combatant forces were under the authority of the CinCCENT, but U.S. military personnel assigned to OPM/SANG and USMTM were under the control of the U.S. ambassador for security matters. The final report and recommendations, completed just days before the bombing of Khobar Towers, called for a clarification of the division of responsibilities, including consideration of changes to the president's letter to chiefs of mission.

Because the Department of State was responsible for security at OPM/SANG, the secretary of state, in accordance with the law, created an accountability review board to review the security procedures in effect at the time of the bombing. The board's report also highlighted the bifurcation of responsibilities and noted it caused a confusion and a lack of clear guidance as to security responsibilities.

In light of that report and the subsequent attack on Khobar Towers (a facility under the security cognizance of the regional CinC), DoD has, working closely with the Department of State, undertaken to realign security responsibilities on the Saudi Arabian Peninsula.

The secretary of state and I have agreed that he should delegate force protection responsibility and authority to me for all DoD activities within the Arabian Peninsula that are not already assigned to, or otherwise under the command of, the CinCCENT. I will, in turn, delegate this responsibility to the CinCCENT.

The only DoD elements that will remain under the security responsibility of the chief of mission will be the integral elements of the country team (i.e., the defense attaché office, the USMC [U.S. Marine Corps] security detachment and the security assistance offices that are located within or in close proximity to their respective U.S. embassies in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman), those sensitive intelligence and counterintelligence activities that are conducted under the direction and control of the chief of mission/chief of station and any DoD personnel detailed to other U.S. government agencies or departments.

As force protection and anti-terrorism requirements are addressed in more detail by the other regional CinCS, similar realignments of force protection responsibility may need to be worked out with the secretary of state.

This arrangement balances the requirement for protecting DoD forces with the overall mission of the U.S. government overseas. The ambassador must be in charge of all activities that have a direct impact on the conduct of our nation's foreign policy. However, in those high-threat instances where the number of DoD forces in country assigned to the embassy exceeds the country team's ability to provide for their security, the regional CinC will be charged with ensuring their safety from terrorist attack.

 

  • Improve the use of available intelligence and intelligence collection capabilities.

Passive protective measures are always important, but the real key to better, more effective force protection against terrorism is to take active measures against the terrorists. This brings me to another major action we are taking in Saudi Arabia -- improving our intelligence capabilities. We do not want to simply sit and wait for terrorists to act. We want to seek them out, find them, identify them and do what we can to disrupt or pre-empt any planned operation. The key to this is better intelligence.

In Saudi Arabia, the U.S. intelligence community was providing 24-hour-a-day coverage of terrorist and terrorist-related activity. All of the available intelligence was widely distributed in theater. This intelligence support for force protection was very good in some areas, sufficient in others and lacking in at least one key area -- that of providing tactical warning of impending attack.

There was a strong relationship between intelligence threat reporting and the theater security posture. The physical and personnel security enhancements that were in place at the time of the bombing were based on vulnerability analysis that came from general intelligence threat reporting. The linkage between intelligence reporting and the operational commander's action is critically important, whether it involves intelligence threat information feeding physical security improvements or supporting target selection for precision weapons.

In the case of the threat to U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, the available intelligence clearly formed the basis for security planning and procedures. Intelligence reports drove the extensive security enhancements that were completed prior to the attack. We must not lose sight of the fact that U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia acted on the general threat intelligence available prior to the bombing and that information saved lives and injuries.

` We had intelligence and we acted on it, but we lacked the specificity necessary that would have made the critical difference in this incident. What was missing was the hard tactical warning of impending attack -- the information we needed to thwart the operation before it reached fruition.

There is no doubt that we can always have better and more precise intelligence, and we are continuously striving for that level of detail. I am reviewing the department's ability to meet this long-term requirement, and I have the active assistance of the director of central intelligence in reviewing intelligence policies and capabilities to acquire better tactical threat information from all intelligence assets.

I am also taking steps to address Gen. Downing's specific recommendations that we look at both how we make intelligence available and how we use it at small unit levels. I will work with CENTCOM and the military departments to implement those recommendations.

The goal is not only to have better intelligence collection, but to be better able to use it. We need to sort out the real and useful intelligence from the misinformation and disinformation that is also collected. One key to improved analysis at the Washington level is the Counterterrorist Center, which is now receiving higher priority in the face of the higher threat. But even with improved analysis in Washington, we still have to make this intelligence available in a timely way to the forces threatened and to combine national intelligence with the local intelligence being collected.

Among the steps we are taking to improve intelligence in the gulf region is augmentation of the Southern Watch fusion cell with counterterrorism analysts. We developed the model for intelligence fusion cells in Bosnia. We are replicating this model now not only in the gulf region, but around the world wherever our forces are deployed.

A fusion cell combines, in a timely way, national strategic intelligence, which we gather around the world, with local or tactical intelligence. That allows us to quickly "fuse" together the global picture and the regional picture to help us see patterns, keep information from falling through the cracks and to focus U.S. and our allies' intelligence services on the same pieces of information at the same time. Equally important, it emphasizes the timely delivery of useful information to the tactical commander. We also are leveraging technology to build the tools we need to manage information better over the long term.

Gen. Downing rightly identified that we must commit ourselves to sustained in-depth, long-term analysis of trends, intentions and capabilities of terrorists. This is a systemic issue, not just in terrorism analysis, that we must address across the board in our intelligence analysis and reporting. In recognition of this systemic problem, the department developed an initiative earlier this year for the intelligence community that will make a career-long investment in selective intelligence analysis to provide the skills and expertise the community needs to sustain proficiency against hard target problems.

 

  • Establish a workable division of responsibilities on force protection matters between the United States and host nations.

Gen. Downing correctly identified close and cooperative relationships with the host government as a key component of successful force protection programs in peacetime environments overseas. Without strong working relationships at all levels between U.S. and host nation officials, many force protection measures cannot be implemented.

Formal, structured relationships have their place and should be established where appropriate and possible. It is most important that those U.S. officials with responsibility for force protection, including all commanders responsible for activities in the field, work consciously to build personal relationships of trust and confidence with their foreign counterparts.

The department is examining its personnel policies and practices to ensure that they support this important objective. For example, we are increasing tour length for additional key U.S. personnel in Saudi Arabia, including the commanders of the USAF [U.S. Air Force] Office of Special Investigations and Security Police, allowing them to form deeper relationships with their counterparts.

 

  • Raise the funding level and priority for force protection and get the latest technology into the field and into the Department of Defense.

Since force protection is an integral part of every military mission, the costs are dispersed among the various mission expenditures such as training, equipment, and operations and maintenance. As a consequence, force protection expenditures traditionally are not isolated and treated as separate budget items. Moreover, when we are faced with unique force protection requirements, we fund them on an ad hoc basis. For example, on Aug. 9, after the Khobar Towers attack, Deputy Secretary [of Defense John] White invoked the food and forage authority to pay for moving our forces in Saudi Arabia and improving security. And on August 23, I requested additional funding for FY [fiscal] 1996 and FY 1997 force protection and anti-terrorism requirements in Saudi Arabia and around the world.

However, with force protection now given a higher overall mission priority, we need to ensure force protection also is given a higher overall budget priority in the allocation of defense resources. To do so, we must be able to collect, consolidate and track our disparate expenditures for force protection, and measure our total expenditures against the requirements.

I have initiated a comprehensive review of future funding for force protection, and I have designated force protection as a major issue for the FY 1998-2003 program review. All DoD components are scrubbing the latest budget estimates to ensure that no key projects related to force protection and anti-terrorism were omitted. Based on the responses received, the program review group will assemble options to augment spending for force protection activities in the defense program. The Defense Resources Board is scheduled to review the proposals and make decision recommendations to me in October.

Based on these budget reviews, the standard procedures for preparation of the program budget will be amended to facilitate the review of force protection requirements in future budgets. First, the existing procedures will be used to emphasize the high priority I am placing on force protection and counterterrorism.

The Joint Requirements Oversight Council will continue to evaluate force protection and provide recommendations to me. I will ask the CinCs to include force protection programs in the integrated priority lists they submit to me. This process will ensure that specific programs or program areas highlighted by the CinCs will be included in the program objective memoranda prepared by the services for the next defense program (FY 1999-2003). To enhance further this process, detailed program and budget displays will be required for all force protection and anti-terrorism programs to track funding patterns and to provide a solid basis for reviewing proposed force protection enhancements.

I have designated the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology as responsible for anti-terrorism technology development and asked him to expedite the adoption of new advanced technologies to meet force protection needs. This effort includes working with our allies, especially Israel and Great Britain, who have extensive experience in countering terrorism.

 

  • Determine culpability of individuals responsible for force protection matters in the chain of command.

On Aug. 30, 1996, without prior review, I transmitted the Downing report to the secretary of the Air Force for evaluation and appropriate action. Specifically, the Air Force was asked to examine issues raised in the report concerning how the Air Force organizes, trains and equips in order to support forces deployed to combatant commands. Additionally, I deferred to Secretary [Sheila] Widnall on any issues regarding the adequacy of individual acts or omissions.

In turn, the secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff designated the commander, 12th Air Force, as the disciplinary review authority and general court-martial convening authority regarding any actions or omissions by Air Force personnel associated with the Khobar Towers bombing. He is charged with reporting findings and recommendations to the secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff within 90 days.

Additionally, the Air Force is pursuing a top-to-bottom review of force protection policies that include procedures for physical security, training and equipment available for security police, intelligence support and personnel practices.

As we look at questions of accountability, we also need to concentrate on learning lessons for the future. The U.S. military has a long and admirable record of self-examination and correction. That process must not be sacrificed nor must we lose sight of the fact that the bombing at Khobar Towers was not an accident. It was a heinous act of murder committed by persons as yet unknown.

Summary and Conclusions. We live in an era of great hope. Our hopes are nurtured by the emergence of democracies around the globe, by the growth of global trade relationships and by expansion of global communications.

Terrorism hangs over this bright future like a dark cloud, threatening our hope for a future of freedom, democracy and cooperation among all nations. It is the antithesis of everything America stands for. It is an enemy of the fundamental principles of human rights -- freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Perpetrators and sponsors of terrorist acts reject the rule of law and basic human decency. They seek to impose their will on others through acts of violence. Terrorism is a tool of states, a vehicle of expression for organizations and even a way of life for individuals. We can expect the terrorists to continue to seek out vulnerabilities and attack. Terrorists normally prey on the weak, but even militaries have vulnerabilities and present targets with high publicity value.

America has global interests and responsibilities. Our national security strategy for protecting those interests and carrying out those interests requires deployment of our forces to the far reaches of the globe. When terrorists aim their attacks at U.S. military forces overseas, they are attacking our ability to protect and defend our vital interests in the world.

Our military presence in many areas provides the crucial underpinning that has made progress towards democracy and economic growth possible. We have the ability to project power far from our borders and influence events on a scale unmatched by any other country or organization. But as Gen. Downing points out in his report, terrorism provides less capable nations or even organizations the means to project a particularly insidious form of power, even across borders, and contest U.S. influence.

But terrorists cannot win unless we let them. Sacrificing our strategic interests in response to terrorist acts is an unacceptable alternative. We cannot be a great power and live in a risk-free world. Therefore we must gird ourselves for a relentless struggle in which there will be many silent victories and some noisy defeats.

There will be future terrorist acts attempted against U.S. military forces. Some will have tragic consequences. No force protection approach can be perfect, but the responsibility of leaders is to use our nation's resources, skills and creativity to minimize them.

We must learn from the Khobar Towers tragedy, taking advantage of the U.S. military's tradition of strengthening itself out of adversity. The actions outlined in this report, the lessons articulated by Gen. Downing and the ideas we have garnered from our military commanders around the world will strengthen our defenses.

 

Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.