1998 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile


 

Statement by
Mr. Charles L. Cragin
|
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Reserve Affairs
Before the
United States House of Representatives

Committee on National Security
Military Research and Development Subcommittee
21 March 1998

The end of the Cold War, the breakup and dissolution of the Soviet Empire, and the ever increasing flow of sophisticated manufacturing technologies and information have raised the ominous specter of a global and uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These deadly, insidious weapons today constitute one of the greatest threats the world has ever known.

Porous borders, poor law enforcement, international criminal and terrorist networks, and corrupt, weak or beleaguered national governments have combined to make many new states highly susceptible to the sale, transfer or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction either within or across their territory.

This unrestrained international trade in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and technology is a direct threat to the national security interests of the United States and its allies. Preventing this calamitous commerce is now at the top of our security agenda. And so are terrorist threats, both domestic and foreign, which have proliferated with the ending of the Cold War. Countering terrorist activities, and especially those involving weapons of mass destruction, has become a central feature of our national security planning in the post-Cold War era.

Weapons of mass destruction are, as Secretary Cohen recently remarked, truly the poor man's atomic bomb-easy to make, easy to get and catastrophically lethal when used. And while counter-proliferation and force protection efforts must remain at the top of our security agenda, we must also prepare to deal with the consequences of a domestic terrorist attack involving chemical, biological or radiation weapons.

This week, Secretary Cohen announced an important new initiative regarding our nation's ability to respond to terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on U.S. soil. He announced the implementation of a plan designed to lay the cornerstone for a national strategy to provide military expertise to civil authorities in attacks involving such weapons.

Secretary Cohen has made it unequivocally clear that he wants the Guard and Reserve front and center in DoD's response plans for WMD terrorism here at home. The plan calls for using the National Guard and other Reserve component forces to support local, state and federal agencies in responding to a weapons of mass destruction incident, should it occur on U.S. soil.

To perform this mission, the National Guard and other Reserve components are being integrated into our national WMD preparedness strategy. A new office, the Reserve Component Consequence Management Program Integration Office, has been established within DoD to oversee this integration process. It reports directly to the Director of Military Support and, through that general officer, to the Secretary of the Army, the DoD Executive Agent for WMD Preparedness. This office will coordinate the identification, training, equipping and exercising of Reserve component WMD assets and manage their integration into national WMD response plans.

This on-going integration effort is one of the Department's highest priorities, not only because defense of the homeland is a national imperative, but also because the Guard and Reserve are ideally suited to support this most important mission.

Our Reserve component personnel 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 "first responders."

As a result, the Guard and Reserve represent a sustainable and highly effective resource pool of trained manpower and expertise. With the additional training and equipment called for in Secretary Cohen's plan, our Guard and Reserve will soon be available to support local, state and federal authorities in WMD consequence management.

Given their proximity to likely centers of attack, as well as their familiarity with local plans and procedures, the U.S. military Reserve components, including the National Guard, have an effective and substantial response capability. By tapping into and leveraging these inherent strengths, the Department of Defense can improve its overall capabilities to provide military support to civil authorities.

Due to its historic role in performing disaster response and relief missions in a state capacity-that is, before a disaster situation has been federalized by Presidential Declaration-the National Guard will be called upon to play a vital role in this new plan. But the other Reserve components will be equally engaged when federal response assets are requested by State Governors or ordered into action by the President.

The underlying premise of this plan is that disaster relief is-and must remain-overwhelmingly a state mission. However, if one of these weapons were used by terrorists on U.S. soil, the resources and energies of local first responders, along with those of their counterparts at the state level, may be quickly overwhelmed or exhausted. And working through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead federal agency for disaster response and consequence management, local and state officials would urgently require the provision of additional federal assets, including military assets.

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 mission without themselves becoming casualties.

The Department of Defense has an essential role to play in better preparing our nation to deal with these challenges. But that role, let me stress again, will be one of partnership and support. So when it comes time for the Department of Defense to lend a hand, the authority of local incident commanders will not be undermined. We at DoD, along with our partners in the Federal Response Plan, will be there to assist first-responding state and local agencies. More specifically, the National Guard and Reserve will be there, trained, equipped and ready to support local and state civil authorities.

At its core, the plan envisages the initial establishment of ten assessment teams, located regionally, that will be able to deploy rapidly, assist local first responders in determining the nature of an attack, provide medical and technical advice, and pave the way for the identification and arrival of follow-on state and federal response assets.

Each rapid assessment 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. The initial use of these teams will be under the direction and control of the State Governor, who can deploy them to assist local agencies quickly, before a National Disaster Declaration by the President. Additionally, the existence of interstate compacts allows Governors to deploy National Guardsmen, acting in a state capacity, to surrounding states, short of a Presidential Declaration.

A process is now underway within the Department of Defense to determine where across the ten federal regions these 10 assessment elements will be distributed.

The selection process will be based on several criteria, including: demographics of the response area (cities, counties, and states); identified threats or high-value targets; availability of National Guard airlift for the element; location of other military centers of excellence; location of supported federal response assets and teams; state support for fielding the elements; availability of interstate compacts to allow the element's use across state lines.

During Fiscal Year 1999, one response element will be established in the first quarter, with the remaining nine to be stood up over the following three quarters, three in each. There will be a limited response capability after FY1999, with fully-developed mission-ready elements in place after FY2000.

Complementing and supporting these rapid response teams will be specially trained and equipped decontamination and reconnaissance units, drawn from within the existing Reserve component force structure, specifically from the Reserve components' existing chemical companies, which will soon be provided with additional training and equipment to enable them to perform a WMD response and support mission.

Forty-nine million dollars is contained in the President's Budget, now under consideration by Congress, to begin setting up, training and equipping the response elements, as well as the reconnaissance and decontamination units.

Within this context, Secretary Cohen presented draft legislation to Congress on February 2, 1998. This legislation, if enacted, would be entitled the "The Department of Defense Reform Act of 1998," and is intended to form the core of the Defense Reform Initiative. Three sections in the draft legislation have proposed amendments to sections within 10 U.S.C. that relate to Reserve Component personnel and WMD response capabilities. The amendments will allow Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) personnel, in various grades, not added to existing end strengths, to man the rapid assessment elements. These amendments will authorize AGR personnel on active or full-time National Guard duty to perform missions in support of emergency preparedness programs or respond to an emergency involving a weapon of mass destruction. Additionally, the amendments will authorize the Secretary of a military department to order, without the consent of the persons affected, any unit or any member not assigned to a unit, to perform an additional 15 days of active duty each year, provided the duty is solely for the purpose of responding to an emergency involving a weapon of mass destruction.

This plan to integrate the Reserve components into our national WMD strategy is a prudent one. By incorporating and leveraging existing forces into current WMD response planning, while creating only one new type of unit, the rapid assessment team, this plan is highly cost effective. It will help to fill the existing gaps in civilian response capabilities, especially those of local responders who need to rapidly determine the precise nature of WMD attacks. Without such capabilities, mass confusion and lethal delays would very likely result.

This plan complements ongoing interagency WMD preparedness efforts, including the Federal Response Plan and the City Training Program, which is now being conducted by the Army.

The City Training Program, an outgrowth of the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, reached twenty-seven cities last year and will cover twenty-two more this year, with a total of 120 overall slated for training. We are getting excellent results from this Program, but we need to do more. Serious shortfalls remain in our national response capabilities.

Although we can never be fully prepared to respond to all types of events in all locations, we have begun to lay the foundation for an integrated, across-the-board response. The continued partnership for WMD preparation among local, state and federal authorities will be critical to our success. We have made a good beginning, but we are faced with a multiyear effort, which requires a long-term commitment. Should the unthinkable occur, we must be prepared to respond in a coordinated manner with all of our assets-local, state and federal. Our shared goal is the saving of lives, turning victims into patients, and alleviating the effects of a weapons-of-mass-destruction incident. We cannot overstate the importance of protecting Americans here at home.