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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 21, December 1997

US National Defense Panel Report

On 1 December, a major report on US military security policy and structure was released. The report - Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21st Century - was produced by the National Defense Panel (NDP), a 9-member, independent body set-up by Congress in 1996. It seeks to address the vast brief of requirements and priorities through to 2020. The Chair of the Panel is Philip Odeen, Chief Executive of BDM International. The other Panel members are: Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Armitage; former Under Secretary of State Robert Kimmitt; former Vice-Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff David Jeremiah; retired Marine Corps General Richard Hearney; retired Air Force General James McCarthy; retired US Army General Robert RisCassi; Director of the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Andrew Krepinevich; and Janne Nolan of the Brookings Institution. The Panel was mandated solely to produce this report. It now disbands.

The NDP has placed the full report on its web-site, address http://www.dtic.mil/ndp

With reference to disarmament and non-proliferation issues, the report pays great attention to the threat of the acquisition and delivery of weapons-of-mass-destruction by "rogue" States and terrorist groups. One major implication of this was the need for enhanced "homeland defense" - the protection of US facilities and cities. New weapons and warfighting concepts were also needed to counter and pre-empt the threat - between $5 and $10 billion a year should be spent on developing new equipment and strategy. Further reductions in US nuclear forces is entirely advisable and compatible with this new focus, the report adds, noting: "Effective deterrence of potential adversaries can be maintained at the reduced levels envisioned by START III and beyond."

The report was broadly welcomed by Defense Secretary William Cohen, who, in a 1 December Press Release, paid particular heed to the homeland defence concept:

"The NDP paints a compelling and, I believe, accurate picture of a future in which terrorism, information operations, and weapons of mass destruction play a more prominent role, even posing direct threats to the US homeland."

Reports: Panel - US should focus more on new threats, Reuters, 1 December; Panel - Pentagon should change focus, Associated Press, 1 December; Defense Secretary Cohen endorses Panel's key conclusion that fundamental infrastructure reform is essential to transformation of US military, Department of Defense Press Release No. 642-97, 1 December; Panel urges rapid transformation of US security infrastructure, United States Information Service, 1 December; NDP report seen by Congress as a positive step in defense debate, Defense Daily, 4 December; National Defense Panel urges further cuts in nuclear forces, Armed Forces Newswire Service, 8 December.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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