10 January 2001

Message of the Secretary of Defense

At the dawn of the 21st Century, the United States now faces what could be called a Superpower Paradox. Our unrivaled supremacy in the conventional military arena is prompting adversaries to seek unconventional, asymmetric means to strike what they perceive as our Achilles heel.

At least 25 countries now possess or are in the process of acquiring and developing capabilities to inflict mass casualties and destruction: nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons or the means to deliver them. For example: North Korea is building and selling long-range missiles, has chemical and biological warfare capabilities, and may have diverted fissile material for nuclear weaponry. Iran, with foreign assistance, is buying and developing longer-range missiles, already has chemical weapons, and is seeking nuclear and biological capabilities.

Iraq which prior to the 1991 Gulf War had developed chemical and biological weapons and associated delivery means, and was close to a nuclear capability, may have reconstituted these efforts since the departure of UN inspectors from Iraq in late 1998.

Libya has chemical capabilities and is trying to buy long-range missiles. Also looming on the horizon is the prospect that these terror weapons will increasingly wend their way into the hands of individuals and groups of fanatical terrorists or self-proclaimed apocalyptic prophets. The followers of Usama bin Laden have, in fact, already trained with toxic chemicals. Fears for the future are not hyperbole. Indeed, past may be prologue. Iraq has used chemical weapons against Iran and its own people. Those behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing also were gathering the ingredients for a chemical weapon that could have killed thousands here in the United States.

I have been concerned about the security threats posed by proliferation from the day I took office as Secretary of Defense. Completely halting proliferation is not possible, but stemming it is both vitally important and achievable. To that end, the Department of Defense (DoD) is playing an active role in technology transfer and export controls and in the implementation of arms control and nonproliferation regimes. DoD is participating in the on-going effort to improve transparency under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, DoD is implementing inspection and monitoring requirements of several U.S. treaties. And under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, DoD is assisting the states of the Former Soviet Union in preventing the further proliferation of NBC knowledge and capabilities.

However, recognizing that proliferation has and will occur, it is also essential that we do our utmost to provide protection for our forces overseas, and indeed, to take steps to mitigate the consequences of a terrorist act using such weapons here at home. I strongly believe that preparation is itself a deterrent. That is why I directed in the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review that an additional billion dollars be added over the subsequent five years to the Department of Defense Counterproliferation Initiative. Through this effort, we are making important strides in improving the preparedness of our troops to operate effectively despite the threat or use of NBC weapons by an adversary:

Combatant commanders have adapted plans to account for the threat or use of such weapons. Efforts continue to further enhance the full range of theater missile defense systems.

Significant strides have been made in developing and fielding improved chemical and biological (CB) detection and protection equipment.

Military commanders are adapting training standards, doctrine and concepts of operations to ensure the readiness of U.S. forces to carry out their missions under chemical and biological weapons conditions.

Enhancing the capabilities of our Allies and international partners is also an integral part of this Initiative. We have a mature effort underway within the NATO Alliance, and a number of bilateral activities with specific NATO allies. We also have initiated programs with friends and allies in Asia and in the Middle East, including the Cooperative Defense Initiative with Persian Gulf states. At the same time, as part of a federal interagency effort, the Defense Department is doing its part to assist and advise cities and communities across the nation in coping with the catastrophic consequences of an attack that unleashes these horrific weapons on U.S. soil.

This new edition of Proliferation: Threat and Response, the second since I became Secretary of Defense, updates information about the nature of the proliferation problem and describes the policies and programs the Defense Department is carrying out to counter this growing threat to American citizens, armed forces, and allies. The race is on between our preparations and those of our adversaries. There is not a moment to lose.

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