DoD News Briefing

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre
Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Recall of George Washington to Active Duty
Mount Vernon, Virginia
Saturday, July 4, 1998


Today, the American homeland faces a new and different danger. The threat is not from overt invasion, but from the sinister dangers of chemical, biological and cyber warfare. Chemical and biological weapons are a poor man's atomic bomb. They are easier to build, to hide, and to deliver to their targets. They are especially appealing to small terrorist cells and known individuals who can not challenge American military superiority on the battlefield.

As in Washington's time, America is not yet fully prepared for this new challenge. We too must organize, plan, and act anew. We too must recognize that complacency and delay is dangerous. President Clinton and Secretary of Defense Cohen have made preparing the American homeland against chemical and biological weapons a top priority. The continental United States has not confronted a direct threat to its territory in this century precisely because we have confronted threats before they touched our shores. But this is a new era, where adversaries can bring their fight to our doorstep. National security now must assume a new dimension.

The Department of Defense and the intelligence community must work hand in hand with law enforcement to deal with this far-reaching threat. We are taking steps to improve our knowledge of hostile elements and their plans. We are reorganizing the Defense Department to integrate our approach to counter-proliferation of these terrible new weapons, and we are launching new programs to help local emergency response forces to mitigate the effects of chemical and biological attack.

Gen. Ralston is one of the key leaders in our department's planning for the future threat. Like George Washington, he is working to organize and streamline our organization in the Department to ensure we are efficiently organized to provide homeland defense in this new era. Gen. Reimer has been a visionary leader preparing the army for the future. Like George Washington, he has created path-breaking new approaches to integrating the Army, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard into a total Army approach to defend this country.

Two hundred years ago, America called on its foremost citizen soldier. Today, we are calling on our citizen soldiers in the National Guard and in the Reserves. Homeland defense is in the finest tradition of the National Guard. Well-trained and equipped militias were indispensable in securing the independence we celebrate this weekend. Our Guard and Reserve forces are indispensable components in our plans to secure us from today's threats to the American homeland. Gen. Reimer has been a tireless advocate for an expanded role for the Army Reserve and the National Guard in homeland defense.

America is fortunate to have leaders of this caliber and dedicated men and women who are willing to set aside the comforts of civilian life, put on the uniform of our armed forces, and prepare for all of us a defense against future adversaries. And on this day, we should especially thank those men and women who serve both as citizens and as soldiers: guardsmen and reservists who see a continuing opportunity and responsibility to serve, even as they pursue private, personal careers.