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Defense Week WMD & Domestic Preparedness Conference
Remarks by Charles L. Cragin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs), Washington, D.C. , Thursday, October 15, 1998

Thank you, John, for that kind introduction. I am delighted and honored to be here today. And I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Department of Defense’s role in the federal response to domestic terrorism.

I want to talk about how dynamic the world of emergency response has become. I want to try to communicate how rapidly things are changing in this arena. And I want to say up front that things will continue to change, as we work together with our other federal, state and local partners to define roles and missions, as we work together to determine how we as a nation will defend against and respond to weapons of mass destruction.

But before I address the changes of recent times, I would like to turn back the clock a little. I would like to tell you about an event -- a speech, actually -- which took place in the early 1950s. President Eisenhower tried to reassure a nation fearful about its ability to prevail in the Cold War. "Our real problem," he said, "is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow."

Eisenhower’s thoughts and fears were inextricably entangled in the awesome web of nuclear Armageddon. He knew well that errors in judgment or planning could swiftly lead to the annihilation of the nation, the destruction of civilization.

Today, the nuclear concerns of Eisenhower and the other great Cold Warriors of his generation appear to us as fading memories. Nearly a decade has passed since the all-encompassing Soviet threat collapsed into a cloud of ideological irrelevance.

The age of superpower rivalry has been eclipsed by a new era of peace, freedom and partnership around the globe, where democracy and freedom of choice are ascendant. But our victory in the Cold War does not obviate the vital necessity of taking action today to ensure the strength of our nation tomorrow.

The ending of the Cold War may have advanced international stability and security, but it also brought with it the ominous specter of a global and uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the technology and expertise needed to produce them.

As Secretary Cohen has said on many occasions, WMD constitute the greatest threat the world has ever known. He has called WMD "the poor man’s atomic bomb," for they are relatively easy to make, acquire and transport; and their consequences if used can be catastrophic.

The federal government is taking concerted action today, across a wide variety of fronts, to respond to the threat of WMD. Through the historic Nunn-Lugar legislation, we have participated with Russia in destroying nuclear missiles, warheads and bombers; and we are on the verge of destroying tons of chemical weapons.

In order to deter attacks against the United States, we are continuing to sharpen our military spear. Force protection efforts remain at the top of our security agenda. So we are constructing safer buildings and bases around the globe. We will continue to vaccinate the Total Force against anthrax. And we will continue to strike at terrorists, no matter where they find sanctuary.

But we as a nation must now also face the fact that the front lines in the war against terrorism are no longer only overseas -- they are also right here at home. As Secretary Cohen recently said, we must face the fact that "the next terrorist attack will come to U.S. soil in a bottle or a briefcase."

We are determined to ensure that we are prepared for a deadly chemical or biological attack against our country. A comprehensive and coordinated government-wide interagency effort is now underway. In the spirit of Eisenhower, we seek vital answers today that will help us defend against the monstrous weapons of tomorrow.

But our search presents us with an unprecedented paradox: With no peer competitors, we are the world’s only superpower. And yet, despite our unchallenged strength abroad, we may prove to be weakest here at home.

Like Achilles’ unprotected heel, our most vulnerable targets may be found in the unsuspecting sinews of our homeland. Future adversaries will seek to confront us, not on the battlefields of foreign lands -- at the time and place of our own choosing -- but here at home, asymmetrically.

Under the direction of President Clinton and Secretary Cohen, and in partnership with Congress, plans, policies and laws are being developed to help us prepare better for the day when terrorists or rogue nations threaten us with unconventional means. President Clinton believes we must do more to protect our civilian population from the scourge of chemical and biological weapons. That we must prepare better to respond to attacks against our homeland.

Last May, in his commencement address at the Naval Academy, President Clinton announced that the government would do more to protect our civilian population from these threats. If terrorists release bacteria, chemicals or viruses to harm Americans, we must have the ability to identify the pathogens or substances with speed and certainty.

The President’s plan will improve and enhance our medical and public health surveillance systems so that the alarm can be sounded. Specifically, the President has signed Presidential Decision Directive 62 ("PDD 62") -- the Combating Terrorism directive -- which highlights the growing threat of unconventional attacks against the United States.

My friend and colleague, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, outlined PDD-62 for you yesterday. By bringing a program management approach to our national counter-terrorism efforts, it details a new and more systematic method of fighting terrorism. And it established the Office of the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-Terrorism to oversee national counter-terrorism efforts.

Like the executive branch, Congress is working hard to provide the necessary leadership to help the nation define the scope of the problem we face and develop appropriate response strategies.

Congress is directing studies, reviewing programs and building new laws and policies to help guide and implement our new national approach to unconventional threats.

Congress has directed that $10 million be spent by the National Guard Bureau to conduct a study on how best to maximize the Guard’s inherent strengths in responding to WMD incidents. That study is ongoing.

These efforts clearly show that we are making real, tangible progress toward our goal of an enhanced homeland defense. But that goal -- the goal of an America safe and secure from asymmetric threats -- now rests heavily on our Reserve components, our National Guard and Reserve forces.

Defending our homeland against unconventional threats will be one of the most important missions of the next century; and the Guard and Reserve are ideally suited for it.

They live and work in nearly four thousand communities across the country. They are familiar with local emergency response plans. And they have well-established links to the fire, police and medical emergency personnel who are always the first to arrive at the scene of any incident -- the nation’s "first responders."

As a result, the Guard and Reserve comprise a highly effective source of trained manpower and expertise. With the additional training and equipment called for the FY99 defense budget, our Guardsmen and Reservists will soon be available to support local, state and federal authorities in managing the consequences of a WMD incident.

This approach -- to use the Guard and Reserve in WMD response -- is founded on the notion that disaster relief is primarily a mission for state and local agencies. And it clearly acknowledges the essential role played by those who will be first on the scene.

So the goal of the federal government in providing military assistance to civil authorities is not to supplant but to support -- local incident commanders will always retain ultimate authority.

But should a weapon of mass destruction actually be used, responders -- be they local, state or federal, civilian or military -- will confront unique and daunting challenges.

Survivors of an incident will need medical assistance. That assistance will have to be immediate and massive.

Survivors will need information on where and how to get additional help. Specialists will have to identify the nature of an attack and restrict access to hazardous areas. Other will be needed to decontaminate those areas. And rescue and medical personnel will need to perform their missions of mercy without themselves becoming casualties, and turn victims into patients.

To help meet these urgent needs, last May President Clinton announced the establishment of ten rapid assessment and initial detection (RAID) teams, which will be located in each of the ten federal regions.

The RAID teams will be on-call to deploy rapidly, assist local first responders in determining the precise nature of an attack, provide medical and technical advice, and assist with the identification and arrival of other state and federal response assets.

Each RAID team will consist of twenty-two highly skilled, full-time National Guard personnel who will act as the tip of our national military response spear.

Beginning this month, the members of these teams will be hired and will begin extensive and rigorous training, with the teams to be fully operational by 2000. State-of-the-art, off-the-shelf equipment will be procured and assembled for each team.

Working groups composed of representatives from local, state, interagency, and military organizations are developing the training and operational doctrine for the units. This doctrine will closely parallel that used by civilian first responder organizations.

But the department is doing even more to develop a national WMD response strategy.

As part of this plan, each of the Reserve components is being called upon to play a role. Particularly the Army Reserve, which is rich in talent and manpower devoted to chem-bio and medical support missions.

Overall, the department’s plan calls for the initial establishment of up to 170 reconnaissance and decontamination teams that will be trained and equipped to support the rapid response elements as part of our wider national efforts. This plan is highly cost-effective, since those teams will be drawn from within existing Reserve component force structure.

Our goal as we move into the 21st century is to have in place an effective, integrated and flexible response mechanism, able to respond to a wide range of unconventional threats against our homeland.

The Guard and Reserve now stand at the center of these efforts. Their purpose will be to protect our citizens, save lives, and help manage the awful aftermath of mankind’s most insidious and deadly weapons.

But the world of domestic preparedness and response is highly dynamic; and no single agency acting alone can address the problem in its entirety. That’s why we are in the process of deepening our interagency ties and developing a coordinated approach.

We at the Department of Defense realize that this approach is necessary if we are to avoid confusion, both within the federal government and in terms of our ability to communicate effectively with the first responder community. And we are working hard to understand the concerns of state and local authorities regarding the federal role in the process.

In many respects we share the same concerns, especially regarding the need for a lead federal agency for WMD and the need for the federal government to speak with one voice on this vital issue.

The department, along with its federal agency partners -- the FEMA, the DOJ, the Public Health Service and others -- is working hard to ensure that we address problems through a coordinated approach.

Both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice have recently conducted forums with first responders.

Without exception, the number one request of first responders has been for the identification of a single federal agency to lead the training and equipping of first responders. In their words, they seek the ease, convenience and predictability of "one stop shopping."

In an effort to respond to this need, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice are working to develop an interagency agreement which establishes DOJ as the lead federal agency for the federal domestic preparedness program.

Let me emphasize that our combined efforts will not be a one-time training event.

Through the development of the RAID teams and the other supporting chem-bio elements, we are in the process of developing a national standard -- a set of procedures and equipment requirements that comply with those of the myriad agencies and localities now working this problem.

Technology in this dynamic field is evolving rapidly, and our goal is to place the Department of Defense and the nation at the forefront of technological advancement. With cities worried about filling potholes, they cannot all be expected to worry about acquiring costly new WMD-related equipment.

And while the Federal government, specifically through the Department of Justice and, to some degree, the Department of Defense, have undertaken loans of equipment and grant programs, we believe that there is still a vital need for the new RAID concept.

At the heart of this notion is an effort to develop a capability at the state level to support state and local communities.

We are developing and fielding a model to help firefighters and law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to identify the equipment and procedures they need. And for those who can’t afford those capabilities, for those cities and locales not ranked within the nations largest cities, we are developing a capability to help fill in the gaps.

There are clear applications for this process as it regards force protection.

The department’s plans to develop rapid response elements for domestic use are now being cross-referenced with its overseas force protection efforts.

So we are building a response mechanism, a response capability, that can in theory be used by both military and civilian responders, both at home and abroad, in towns and at military installations.

And we are doing even more to ensure that Department of Defense doctrine is infused with these new efforts, procedures and requirements. From joint publications to field manuals, from schools to staff colleges, we are working to embed WMD procedures and training into the way we do business.

This effort is particularly pronounced at those schools that produce qualified personnel to perform WMD functions. The training of the RAID and other elements will mirror our efforts to work across both service and interagency lines to develop mutually supportive programs.

We are working to ensure that the people who actually respond are prepared to work together to meet the needs of the people affected by a WMD incident.

Extensive training will include teaching and course work provided by the Army Chemical School, the Defense Nuclear Weapons School, the Army Medical Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Academy, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, FEMA, and the Department of Justice’s Center for Domestic Preparedness.

In addition, in the FY99 National Defense Appropriation Act, Congress has appropriated money for, and directed the creation of, a first responder training facility at Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

We are also developing the support systems necessary to sustain the response teams.

  • Systems to ensure the most effective technology.
  • Systems to ensure that fielded equipment can be maintained and replaced when necessary.
  • Systems to develop and deliver training, using distance learning and simulation.
  • Systems to provide reachback to experts, laboratories, and computers from the assessment teams at the scene.

This is a monumental undertaking. But we face a monumental threat.

I began my remarks with a reference to Eisenhower.

I want to close by quoting another great Cold Warrior: J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb. He once said that, "the atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country."

As we now stand on the threshold of a new century, we see that Oppenheimer’s "different country" is filled with both promise and the profound potential for new forms of destruction.

Our path is clear.

We must work together to develop national standards, to infuse new technology, and to integrate activities throughout industry, the private sector and the federal government. This undertaking will require determined effort, dedicated teamwork and a long-term commitment.

We look forward to working with you to protect our citizens from the deadly terrors of weapons of mass destruction.

Thank you.