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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 33, December 1998 - January 1999

'Keeping America Secure' Initiative


'Remarks by the President on Keeping America Secure for the 21st Century,' White House text, speech to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, 22 January 1999

"The United States has mounted an aggressive response to terrorism... And as our air strikes against Afghanistan - or against the terrorist camps in Afghanistan - last summer showed, we are prepared to use military force against terrorists who harm our citizens. But all of you know the fight against terrorism is far from over. And now, terrorists seek new tools of destruction.

Last May, at the Naval Academy commencement, I said terrorist and outlaw States are extending the world's fields of battle, from physical space to cyberspace, from our earth's vast bodies of water to the complex workings of our own human bodies. The enemies of peace realize they cannot defeat us with traditional military means. So they are working on two new forms of assault, which you've heard about today: cyber attacks on our critical computer systems, and attacks with weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, potentially even nuclear weapons. We must be ready - ready if our adversaries try to use computers to disable power grids, banking, communications and transportation networks, police, fire and health services - or military assets. ...

The potential for harm is clear. Earlier this month, an ice storm in this area crippled power systems, plunging whole communities into darkness and disrupting daily lives. We have to be ready for adversaries to launch attacks that could paralyze utilities and services across entire regions. We must be ready if adversaries seek to attack with weapons of mass destruction, as well. Armed with these weapons, which can be compact and inexpensive, a small band of terrorists could inflict tremendous harm.

Four years ago, though, the world received a wake-up call when a group unleashed a deadly chemical weapon, nerve gas, in the Tokyo subway. We have to be ready for the possibility that such a group will obtain biological weapons. We have to be ready to detect and address a biological attack promptly, before the disease spreads. If we prepare to defend against these emerging threats we will show terrorists that assaults on America will accomplish nothing but their own downfall.

Let me say first what we have done so far to meet this challenge. We've been working to create and strengthen the agreement to keep nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, because this can help keep these weapons away from terrorists, as well. We're working to ensure the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention; to obtain an accord that will strengthen compliance with the biological weapons convention; to end production of nuclear weapons material. We must ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to end nuclear tests once and for all.

As I proposed Tuesday in the State of the Union Address, we should substantially increase our efforts to help Russia and other former Soviet nations prevent weapons material and knowledge from falling into the hands of terrorists and outlaw States. In no small measure we should do this by continuing to expand our cooperative work with the thousands of Russian scientists who can be used to advance the causes of world peace and health and well-being, but who if they are not paid, remain a fertile field for the designs of terrorists.

But we cannot rely solely on our efforts to keep weapons from spreading. We have to be ready to act if they do spread. Last year, I obtained from Congress a 39 percent budget increase for chemical and biological weapons preparedness. This is helping to accelerate our ongoing effort to train and equip fire, police and public health personnel all across our country to deal with chemical and biological emergencies. It is helping us to ready armed forces and National Guard units in every region to meet this challenge; and to improve our capacity to detect an outbreak of disease and save lives; to create the first ever civilian stockpile of medicines to treat people exposed to biological and chemical hazards; to increase research and development on new medicines and vaccines to deal with new threats. ...

Today, I want to announce the new initiatives we will take, to take us to the next level in preparing for these emerging threats. In my budget, I will ask Congress for $10 billion to address terrorism and terrorist-emerging tools. This will include nearly $1.4 billion to protect citizens against chemical and biological terror - more than double what we spent on such programs only two years ago.

We will speed and broaden our efforts, creating new local emergency medical teams, employing in the field portable detection units the size of a shoe box to rapidly identify hazards; tying regional laboratories together for prompt analysis of biological threats. We will greatly accelerate research and development, centered in the Department of Health and Human Services, for new vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tools. ...

We are doing everything we can, in ways that I can and in ways that I cannot discuss, to try to stop people who would misuse chemical and biological capacity from getting that capacity. This is not a cause for panic - it is a cause for serious, deliberate, disciplined, long-term concern. And I am absolutely convinced that if we maintain our clear purpose and our strength of will, we will prevail here. And thanks to so many of you in this audience, and your colleagues throughout the United States, and like-minded people throughout the world, we have better than a good chance of success. But we must be deliberate, and we must be aggressive."

Fact Sheet

'Keeping America Secure for the 21st Century: President Clinton's Initiative on Biological and Chemical Weapons Preparedness,' White House Fact Sheet, 22 January 1999

"President Clinton has made defending the United States against chemical and biological weapons a top national security priority. The possibility that outlaw nations and terrorist groups will seek to use these weapons represents one of the greatest threats to American security in the 21st century. The Administration has sought to defend against these threats through diplomatic and military means abroad and through increased preparedness at home. In his Fiscal Year 2000 budget - which includes $10 billion to defend against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction - President Clinton will propose major increases in funding to strengthen America's defenses against the threat of biological and chemical weapons.

Vaccine Research and Development - The Department of Health and Human Services will receive an additional $43.4 million for research and development to defend against biological weapons - almost a 150% increase. The bulk of it - $30 million will go to research on new vaccines, including vaccines for smallpox and anthrax for eventual use in the national medical stockpile. The Food and Drug Administration will receive $13.4 million for enhanced regulatory review of vaccines and therapeutics. In addition, the National Institutes of Health will receive $24 million for research on diagnostics, vaccines, antimicrobials and genomic research.

Public Health Surveillance - President Clinton will propose that funding for improvements in the public health surveillance system and public health infrastructure increase by 22% to $86 million. This will translate into increased lab capacity, strengthened epidemological capabilities for State and local health departments and more resources for communications and information technology. The Center for Disease Control will create a network of regional labs to provide rapid analysis and identification of select biological agents.

Metropolitan Medical Response Systems - President Clinton will propose increasing funding by almost 400% to more than $16 million for Metropolitan Medical Response Systems. These local emergency medical teams will respond to a biological or chemical weapons emergency. Twenty-five new such teams will be funded.

President Clinton's new initiatives build upon a record of accomplishment in confronting the dangers of emerging threats at home and abroad.

  • Beginning in fiscal [year, FY] 1997, the Administration began funding a five-year effort to equip and train first responders in the 120 largest metropolitan areas in the nation.
  • Last year, the President proposed and Congress approved of more than $300 million in additional funds for weapons of mass destruction preparedness. Among the initiatives begun were the renovation of the public health surveillance system so medical personnel can detect a biological weapons release early and save lives. This appropriation also went to establish the first ever civilian medical stockpile, which will contain necessary medication to treat those exposed to biological or chemical weapons. Funding levels for the medical stockpile will be maintained in the President's FY2000 budget.
  • The United States led international efforts to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, which we signed in 1997, and American diplomats are currently working to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.
  • The Clinton Administration has also pursued cooperative programs and activities aimed at reducing the threat of proliferation of biological weapons expertise with nations of the former Soviet Union, spending $30 million in these areas during the last five years. The President's budget proposal seeks more than $150 million to expand these efforts over the next five years.
  • Through military action against production facilities for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Sudan, the United States has acted to degrade and eliminate the ability of these two nations to build weapons of mass destruction and supply them to terrorists."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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