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Release No: 533-96
September 17, 1996


The Department of Defense announced today new measures to protect military forces from terrorist attacks. "To begin with, as we decide where and how to deploy our forces overseas, we will place the threat of terrorism front and center," Defense Secretary William J. Perry said in a letter to President Clinton.

The changes include the issuance of a new DoD-wide directive on force protection and the appointment of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the focal point for force protection. "The Department's actions make force protection an integral part of mission accomplishment," Deputy Secretary John P. White announced at a Pentagon news conference.

Gen. Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and retired Gen. Wayne Downing also participated in the news conference.

On June 25, 1995, 19 U.S. airmen were killed by a truck bomb outside the Khobar Towers housing facility in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Secretary Perry appointed Gen. Downing, former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, to assess the circumstances surrounding the bombing and to recommend improvements in force protection. The findings and recommendations of the Downing Task Force Assessment of U.S. Central Command and the Khobar Towers bombing reaffirm major changes already underway in the department's approach to force protection.

The Downing Assessment was attached to a report Dr. Perry sent to the President and Congress entitled "The Protection of U.S. Forces Deployed Abroad." In his report, Perry laid out numerous force protection measures DoD has taken, both before and after the Khobar Towers attack.

"The attack on Khobar Towers should be seen as a watershed event pointing the way to a radically new mind-set and dramatic changes in the way we protect our forces deployed overseas," Dr. Perry said in his report.

Immediately following the attack, Perry ordered a fundamental re-evaluation of U.S. force posture in the Arabian Gulf Region which led to a major realignment of forces. Deployed forces in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf region began relocating from urban areas to more isolated locations that were easier to protect. At the DoD's request, the Department of State implemented an "authorized departure" of all U.S. Government dependents from Saudi Arabia and DoD withdrew command sponsorship for dependents of most permanently assigned military members, which had the practical effect of an orderly, mandatory return.

Perry also directed the commanders of all Unified Commands to look at force protection in their areas of responsibility and report back to him on how best to deal with the rapidly escalating threat to U.S. forces. Their ideas and recommendations have been incorporated in the force protection initiative the department is undertaking.

White said Downing provided exactly what DoD asked for: a tough, hard-hitting look at the Khobar Towers bombing, and a broad a broad assessment of force protection measures throughout the Central Command area of responsibility. The department has taken the following actions in response to the principal recommendations:

Revised the principal DoD directive dealing with combating terrorism to provide an improved, single standard on force protection.

Designated the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the principal advisor and the single DoD-wide focal point for force protection activities. Gave designated local commanders increased responsibility and authority for force protection. Realigned force protection responsibilities in Southwest Asia between the Department of Defense and the Department of State. Initiated efforts to improve the collection and timely dissemination of intelligence on threats to U.S. forces Established a new division of responsibility on force protection matters between the United States and host nation officials. Raised the funding level and priority for force protection and increased efforts to harness advanced technology to the force protection mission.

In addition, Perry asked the Secretary of the Air Force to examine disciplinary and other issues raised in the report concerning how the Air Force supports forces deployed to combatant commands

Secretary Perry concluded in his report that "terrorists cannot win unless we let them." In a letter to the President accompanying the report he stated his confidence that as these new initiatives are implemented, they will minimize risks and keep the U.S. military fully engaged in defending U.S. interests around the world.

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