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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 20, November 1997

US Report on Proliferation

'Proliferation: Threats and Response 1997,' US Department of Defense (DoD) report, published 25 November 1997

Editor's note: the report is available on-line at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/prolif97/toc.html

News Release

'Defense Department report on proliferation,' DoD News Release No. 639-97, 25 November

Full text

"Secretary of Defense William Cohen today released the second edition of a report entitled 'Proliferation: Threat and Response 1997.' The first was released in April 1996. This report details the nature of the security challenge posed by the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons and their delivery systems and the Department of Defense's response to the challenge.

The report contains updated information about the countries that have or may be developing NBC weapons and the means to deliver them. It also described the threat of NBC terrorism, including the efforts of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, to disseminate chemical weapons.

'The Department of Defense Counterproliferation Initiative contributes to government-wide efforts to prevent nations or terrorists from obtaining, manufacturing, or retaining these weapons' said Secretary Cohen. 'The initiative also equips, trains, and prepares US forces to prevail over an adversary who could use these weapons.'

The report describes DoD's efforts since the end of the Gulf War to ensure that US forces are equipped and trained to fight and win in NBC-contaminated environments. It highlights acquisition programs in seven key functional areas: proliferation prevention; strategic and tactical intelligence; battlefield surveillance; passive defense; active defense; counterforce and countering paramilitary, covert delivery, and terrorist NBC threats."

Statement by Defense Secretary

Statement by Defense Secretary William Cohen, Department of Defense News Briefing, 25 November 1997


"Ladies and gentlemen, for the past three weeks the world attention has focused on Iraq's program to produce deadly chemical and biological weapons. The reasons are quite clear. First, Iraq has used chemical weapons both against the Iranian people and against its own people. ...

Second, Iraq continues to evade and to deceive the United Nations inspectors who are working to destroy Iraq's program to build these weapons of mass destruction. If we can turn to a chart that many of you are now familiar with in terms of what Iraq originally stated it had in its possession, later determined to be outright lies, and there are suspicions on the part of the United Nations that there are much [greater] volumes of these deadly nerve agents and chemicals than have previously been suspected.

As I point out on this chart, originally they indicated they had just a small quantity of VX. One drop on your finger will produce death in a matter of just a few moments. Now the UN believes that Saddam may have produced as much as 200 tons of VX, and this would, of course, be theoretically enough to kill every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.

But the question goes well beyond Iraq. Today I am releasing a report that is entitled 'Proliferation: Threat and Response'. The details in this report lay out the dangers that are posed by Iraq and other countries as well. It makes a very chilling point. More than 25 countries either have or may be developing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

On the Korean Peninsula, for example, 37,000 American military personnel and millions of South Koreans face an unpredictable and increasingly desperate regime armed with a very large chemical arsenal. Rogue states with ties to terrorists such as Iran and Libya also have chemical weapons and are working to acquire biological weapons.

Chemical and biological weapons have been called the poor man's atomic bomb. They are cheaper and easier to produce than nuclear weapons and they are, as we know, extremely deadly. They can also be used by terrorists, as the world learned to its horror in March of 1995 when a religious sect released sarin nerve gas in a Tokyo subway. ...

...the threat is neither far-fetched nor far off. We face a clear and present danger today, one that's only going to grow with time. ... The Department of Defense has undertaken this comprehensive effort to address the threat...

The Quadrennial Defense Review [QDR] placed special emphasis on chemical, biological, nuclear, and other asymmetric threats. The QDR determined that chemical and biological weapons attacks were 'a likely condition of future warfare' and as such, the attacks against our forces probably will occur early in a conflict.

So, in order to improve our ability to fight and win on the chemical or biological battlefield, I directed in the QDR that a billion dollars be added over the coming five years to enhance the defense of our forces. ... But fighting and winning on a contaminated battlefield requires more than good equipment. It requires doctrine, war plans, and training to properly take into account the nature of the threat itself. Our counter-proliferation council is being chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Secretary Hamre. It's a mechanism that we're going to ensure that our forces are properly prepared for the battlefield for the future.

Just two weeks ago we announced in our Defense Reform Initiative one important reform that we are pursuing to create a threat reduction agency to integrate and to improve our existing programs that are aimed at countering the proliferation threat itself.

To address the threat here at home, we're giving the National Guard significant new responsibilities in managing the consequences of chemical and biological terrorist attacks that might occur in the United States. The front lines are no longer overseas. It can just as well be in any American city, and we are turning to the National Guard to help lead in this emerging fight to protect our people. ..."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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