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TRANSCRIPT

DoD News Briefing

DSWA Annual International Conference on Controlling Arms
Edited Remarks as Delivered by
Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre
Thursday, June 11, 1998

Deputy Secretary Hamre: Thank you, General Curtin, very much.

I was looking forward to talking to you today until I looked out and saw two of my old colleagues from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dick Combs and Bill Hoehn and they used to routinely come to my office and tell me I didn't know what I was talking about. And so this is a scary thought, indeed, to have them here. Good to see you guys. Thank you for coming.

If I may, let me begin, by sharing a remarkable personal experience this week. Earlier on Tuesday, I went out to Omaha to visit the Strategic Air Command. Well, it's not called the Strategic Air Command anymore. We did away with that. It's Strategic Command. And then I find myself on Thursday coming here to talk to 300 arms control experts, a very interesting juxtaposition in my life. I went out on Monday night and had dinner with Gene Habiger and his wife Barbara. I don't how many of you have ever been there, but Gene is in the command quarters that Curtis LeMay occupied and in the basement is Curtis LeMay's bomb shelter. It's really stunning to go down there. It's like a trip 30 years back in time, complete with a hand cranked air exchange system and hand cranked telephone which is EMP hardened, of course. It was tested every Friday until 1988. It had about a two inch thick blast door covering the window that I guess you crawled out of when it was all over.

Later I sat down and talk with Gene Habiger. And I, somewhere, where ever Curtis LeMay is, he must have been just dying to hear the things that Gene Habiger, his successor, is now talking about.

Gene had just returned the night before from a two week visit to Russia where he toured a nuclear submarine, went out and saw a silo complete with active warheads, saw the command and control system, saw the custodial stewardship procedures that Russia has for warheads. And I thought to myself, what a remarkable thing it is to Gene's, enduring credit, that he has seen his tenure, his stewardship responsibilities as the head of the Strategic Command to create probably one of the most sophisticated and successful dialogues with his counterparts in Russia during the last three years. It is absolutely remarkable.

It told me more than anything what a remarkable transition we have all endured these last eight to ten years. It is a different world. A hugely different world. In many ways, in a beneficent sense, a different world. I think it is greatly reassuring that we live in a time when the head of our Strategic Command can sit down with his counterpart in Russia and talk about nuclear surety issues and command and control issues and custodial issues. I don't think I ever anticipated having lived long enough to have experienced that, yet, it is very real.

At the same time, we live in a much more complicated and, I would argue, a more dangerous world. Not just because of the events of the last month [the India and Pakistan nuclear tests], troubling as they were. But really, the gradual unfolding of a world that is troubling, indeed, I suspect has been the focal point of so much of your conversation these last two days. Let me, at this stage, say how much I admire you, Gary, for setting up this conference and actually continuing these conferences. I think it again reflects the enormous professionalism of our Department of Defense and the creative spirit that people like [Major General] Gary Curtin and [Brigadier General] John Reppert and others who have been so much in the forefront of pioneering new relationships with our uneasy partners in this spaceship Earth that we share together. And I thank you for doing this and I thank you for asking me to come. I'm grateful for that.

I believe that this new world that's unfolding and the challenges of containing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons represents the signal security challenge of the next decade, if not the next century. I don't think that there is a more important, and arguably, not a more complicated problem than this. And it's going to take fully all of the creative energy that these remarkable people that work for our department and all of you who work in other parts of our government or in non-government agencies, either of the United States or overseas, all of our creative energies to deal with this.

It was only, six years ago, Bill Hoehn, when you were working out the Nunn-Lugar program to get it going and the best you would say was our government was apathetic, right Dick Combs? We even confronted active opposition of some in our government to what, I think, has been singularly one of the most successful and important programs that we've had in the last five years. In this period of time, I think we've had a huge transition for those of us in the Department of Defense, and I actually believe it's the consensus view in our government that threat reduction constitutes a primary defense mission. There was once a time when it was viewed as a liberal, left-wing diversion to the real challenge to maintaining a strong defense. And, I think, people are now realizing that threat reduction now represents a primary defense mission.

I think a world perspective has emerged because of some very significant changes in the last five years, to eight years. The collapse of the old Soviet Union and the making available in a very unsettling way the knowledge and the tools of a large military that is now available to third parties is a scary picture for everyone, not just the United States. It isn't just us who face this at all.

And let me say, I think part of the reason why the CTR program has been so important is it's been able to establish a framework for interaction with Russia. We've had success in the last six months, working with Russia to try to prevent the proliferation of knowledge and things to other countries that would be, frankly, detrimental to Russia's security as well as others in the region. Bob Gallucci has been very instrumental in this. That's a profound and very far reaching development, and I would argue that we've been dealing with it fairly successfully, when you consider the complexity of the task.

I think a second thing that characterizes this period is the emergence of a willingness by terrorists to contemplate the use of chemical or biological weapons. It's obviously passť now to refer to the sarin attack in Tokyo. But, if ever there were a wake up call, it was that. Or a couple of homegrown kooks out in Nevada that want to pretend they've created anthrax to poison Americans. It's an unusually difficult problem to deal with. And for the first time, our Government is seriously now talking about homeland defense in very significant and profound ways. And I'd be glad to talk about that. I don't intend to spend much time here talking about that. But I'd be glad to discuss it if you're interested.

I think a third development which is troubling has been, the collapse in the interest in the United States in nuclear weapons. This was, after all, for years, the premier defense mission. And we built up a remarkable organization in the Defense Nuclear Agency to become the Defense Special Weapons Agency, where the best and the brightest sought careers. And yet, in the last five to eight years, there's been just a significant reduction in interest of our best and brightest in this career field. Nuclear weapons aren't going away as much as we would wish it. But we can't afford to lose our intellectual competence in dealing with it. And that's a very significant challenge and one I know that Gary has been working on.

I think an equally important development of the last four to five years has been the increasing vulnerability of the American infrastructure caused by American productivity in using computers to run business processes and physical processes. I know that you've had some discussion about this before I arrived today. I apologize for not having been here earlier, but I spent the morning testifying in front of the House National Security Committee on this issue, America's vulnerability to a cyber attack and the significance of our vulnerability to cyber attack.

Now, I reviewed these developments as an introduction to context of our thinking when last fall, we decided that we needed to make a fairly significant change in the way we were organized at the Department of Defense to deal with these challenging developments. We believe that there was no more important national security mission that we faced in the next decade than threat reduction and counter proliferation and we were poorly organized to deal with it. Not that we didn't have remarkable people working on it. But we were not organized in an integrated way to deal with this very comprehensive problem. We had, obviously, very strong organizations to begin with, DWSA; On-Site Inspection Agency [OSIA]; DTSA, the Defense Technology and Security Agency. But we also have boutique, and I don't mean that in a negative sense, but boutique organizations that were dealing with the Nunn-Lugar program, the CTR program. And we found that in various ways we needed to bring this together into a coherence and into a whole.

So we set about the process of creating this new organization called the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. And that's really why I wanted to come and talk to you. I wanted to tell you about this organization and our plans, at least in the near term.

First, the organization will become operational officially on the 1st of October. We have been already initiated a transition. The infrastructure is in place and we will, I think, in a month be transferring the entire Cooperative Threat Reduction program to the new agency. It's going to take a little bit of time to make the transition to bring the other elements together because we are going to consolidate to a single space and that does entail relocation and the turmoil.

Now, let me, first describe the goals of the organization and what we're going to try to do. There are going to be three primary missions for the new organization. First, and I would say foremost, but I don't want it to look like it's disproportionate in weight, is to maintain our current nuclear deterrent capability. That is still, singularly, one of the most important challenges we face. And it means providing the technical expertise to manage this infrastructure. We still have a large and will, I think, always have a large infrastructure of nuclear capability. And we have to husband that and we have to maintain the intellectual infrastructure to support it. This organization, of course, will be responsible for the Defense Department's stockpile stewardship duties and provide technical support in that area.

The second primary mission is going to be to reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction. Within this mission there are obviously important elements, such as treaty monitoring and on-going support of the confidence building measures. And here, I think we're fortunate to be able to build on the base created by this remarkable little organization called OSIA. Over the last ten years, this is really a gem and has done some really great things. And I think we have a wonderful infrastructure to on which to build the new organization. And it's on that root stock, as it were, we're going to graft, for example, the cooperative threat reduction program.

The third mission is to counter weapons of mass destruction threats. Here, we seek the full panoply of capabilities. We need to develop modeling and simulation skills. Especially for biological and chemical weapons. We do not have the intellectual infrastructure for biological and chemical threats the way we have it for nuclear threats. We spent a long time thinking about nuclear weapons. When the United States abandoned biological weapons in, I think, 1969, we really lost the intellectual infrastructure that goes with having an offensive program. It's a fact of nature that military organizations tend to devote an order of magnitude more attention to things if they're on the offense than if they're on the defense.

We have not sustained and maintained an intellectual infrastructure associated with biological or chemical weapons. We are somewhat further along on chemical weapons because we really started working very hard on chemical weapons protection back in the mid '80s. We still have an awful long way to go. And Dick Macke remembers this from his days in the Pacific about the challenges that would come if we ever confront chemical weapons on the Korean peninsula, for example. An enormously difficult environment if we had to do that. But at least, in the area of chemical threats, we've spent some time thinking about the problem.

There's another dimension to this third mission, which is still unfolding in our minds. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency will be deeply involved in it, but not singularly involved in consequence management. Those of you who are familiar with the American defense establishment know that we have unified commanders in chief and the world is divided among them. There was one country that was never in a CINCs area of responsibility and that was the United States. Continental air defense fell under the jurisdiction of NORAD, but homeland defense belonged to no one. Those days are over. We are going to have to assign the United States to a CINC to start worrying about homeland defense.

And those of you who have been involved in any analysis associated with a terrorist act that might use chemical or biological weapons know, it is startling how soon this becomes a national security problem. It's within minutes, a chemical or biological terrorist act transcends the capability of local law enforcement or emergency responders. This will be a homeland defense issue, a national security issue if it were ever to happen. Over the next 16 to 18 months, we will be wrestling through all of the tough but essential details of assigning the United States to a CINC and starting to develop real world war plans to defend this country.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency becomes, as it were, the central nervous system for our counter-proliferation plans and preparation. We have to have an organization that can start with first principles, study the threat, what will it look like, and how do you deal with it. When it comes to chemical and biological weapons, we don't have that integrated intelligence assessment, today to be honest. We don't have an integrated view of this as a threat and what to do about it. And so that will become the first responsibility of the agency.

Now, in that regard, probably the most important thing that we'll be doing early with this agency, is to establish an advanced systems and concepts office for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. That becomes the, as it were, the central nervous system for the new agency, helping us to think threats and requirements, and to take them in an integrated way into the resourcing and planning and programming for this agency. That will be the highest priority and our focus, really, between now and October 1st.

This advanced systems and concept office will be a fairly small organization, extensively utilizing Individual Professional Assignments (IPAs) from industry and academia to augment our talent. The Director of Central Intelligence has a counter proliferation agency and it took nearly nine months to hire two microbiologists. We can't use government personnel practices to try to stay up with this problem. We are going to have to utilize IPAs. And so we will have a small government civil service core, 20 to 30 people maybe, that constitute the bulk of the permanent force for the ASCO. The rest of the staffing is going to be done through IPAs.

I think this is especially important because there is an astounding intellectual capital that exists on issues like biological technical developments in our pharmaceutical industry. We could never hope to replicate it, neither should we try. The private sector will be much more vibrant and current than anything we could create in the government. And so finding ways to link up with these organizations will become enormously important.

The last thing that we're doing with DTRA is creating a very senior panel of advisors, The Threat Reduction Advisory Committee. General Larry Welch, who's the head of IDA, is going to chair it. We have people like Bill Perry and George Whitesides; I tried to get John Shalikashvili, but he couldn't make it; Paul Wolfowitz; I'm hoping with a little bit of luck to get Bob Gallucci, but he's holding out on me; to try to be a part of this organization because we need early on to be able to develop a very clear vision to guide this organization over the next three to four years. I think our first meeting of the advisory committee is going to be next month. And, I think, most people are concerned that it's going to be very demanding. And I fear that it will be for the first 12 months. We'll be asking a lot from people in the first 12 months, but that'll be the most important time to get our grounding.

Finally, let me again, thank you General Curtin not just for inviting me here, but frankly, for hosting this event. I believe this kind of a conclave becomes an irreplaceable element for the future. I cannot contemplate dealing with this problem without having the resources of this sort of an association, this sort of a conference, to help all of us deal with this challenging problem. We will be asking much more of all of you. I will be asking you to help us think through the most challenging national security problems that this country faces and frankly, all countries face. We share it together. And we're going to need all of you. I'm very serious. We're going to need all of you and your involvement and your professionalism and your expertise.

It isn't just an arms control issue, frankly. Many of you in the arms control world, frankly, are wrestling with the end of the Cold War just as much as we have been in the Department of Defense. There are an awful lot of changes that lie ahead for you. We share them together. I would like to conclude by saying the Department of Defense is actually your partner because we see this as our mission. Not the only mission. Because when you get right down to it, we're still going to go off and fight and win America's wars. But it is one of our primary missions to reduce the threat that we face and that all other countries face. And we're going to need your help.

Thank you very much, Gary. Thank you for inviting me. (Applause)

General Curtin asked if I would be willing to take some questions and I would. I'm not exactly sure when I have to be whisked out of here. I have to go to a meeting at the White House this afternoon. But I would be glad to answer questions. How much -- 10, 15 minutes. Are there any questions?

Yes, sir, please.

QHow is the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency going to work in with NATO?

AFirst of all, I need to say that all of the constituent elements that currently exist in the Department of Defense will be transferred over DTRA. We've been very careful to make sure nothing falls off the table during the transition. And that, frankly, was one of General Curtin's and General Reppert's primary responsibilities, to make sure that in this transition, nobody fell off the truck on the way.

My first response to your question is that all of the existing patterns and associations will continue in the transition. In the long run, I hope what you're going to see is a much more coherent focus. Instead of having two or maybe three organizations that might be involved in the issue, you're going to get one organization plus the policy elements in OSD. So, I hope what it produces one-stop shopping for others when they want to deal with this problem, you will have one place to go.

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QSir, what CINC did you have in mind for working with DTRA? I'm from ACOM, so I have no dog in that fight, really. (Laughter)

AIs ACOM America Command or Atlantic Command? I don't know...(Laughter) This is more complicated than Cyprus -- (Laughter). And infinitely more dangerous. (Laughter)

Logically, we have three commands that have an important role to play. We have NORAD and we've got Strategic Command and we have the Atlantic Command. I have my own personal preferences and views. But we are working that out right now inside the department. There obviously is a compromise solution, which is some kind of a joint task force. But I actually believe it needs to be grounded in a CINC. My personal view, but again, let me just state explicitly it's only a personal view and I don't want this to be forejudging either the Secretary's flexibility or his thinking on it, is that it's logical to put it with ACOM. But that is not a settled issue and there are very important equities that come to the table associated with other organizations.

Let me give you an example. I personally don't believe homeland defense is just a case of the United States. You have to think about Canada in this regard. For all practical purposes, we have an integrated infrastructure with Canada. If the power were to go out in Ontario, it would effect New York City. So you cannot think about it being just a United States homeland problem. And NORAD, of course, has had a long, very successful history of working closely with Canada. So it's not a trivial issue when I say that this is not yet resolved. We will resolve it here this summer.

I gave you more information than I gave him. (Laughter)

I'm sorry, I have to go. Thank you all. (Applause)