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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 40, September - October 1999

US Report on 21st Century Security Threats

On September 15, the US Commission on National Security in the 21st Century - a Pentagon-funded panel of experts set up by Defense Secretary Cohen in 1998 - released its report. The panel is chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (Democrat) and Warren Rudman (Republican). Cautioning that "the American moment in world history will not last forever," the report draws the following broad conclusions: "Although a global competitor to the United States is unlikely to rise over the next 25 years, emerging powers - whether singly or in coalition - will increasingly constrain US options regionally and limit its strategic influence... [We will have] limited ability to impose our will and we will be increasingly vulnerable to an increasing range of threats against American forces and citizens overseas as well as at home... States, terrorists and other disaffected groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction...and some of them will use them... The most serious threat to our security may consist of unannounced attacks on American cities by sub-national groups using genetically engineered pathogens... [F]or many years to come, Americans will become increasingly less secure, and much less secure than they now believe themselves to be". Among the report's other conclusions was a prediction that weapons would be deployed in space.

Secretary Cohen, welcoming the report on the day of its release, summarised the rest of the Commission's mandate: "This first report sets the context for the Commission's next two phases. By next Spring they will draft a set of US interests and objectives for the first quarter of the 21st Century and propose a strategy to meet them. They will then conduct an assessment of the structures and processes involved in the formulation and execution of national security policy. To the extent future challenges and current systems are incompatible, the Commission will recommend changes and draft a plan to implement them".

Reports: Secretary Cohen statement on US Commission on National Security/21st Century's First Report, US Defense Department Press Release 424-99, September 15; Panel forecasts US challenges in 21st Century, Reuters, September 15; Panel - Americans face new dangers, Associated Press, September 16.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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