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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 54, February 2001

US Commission on National Security in the 21st Century Issues Report

On January 31, the US Commission on National Security/21st Century issued the last of three far-reaching reports requested by Congress in 1998. The 14-member Commission is co-chaired by former Senators Warren Rudman (Republican) and Gary Hart (Democrat). The final, 140-page report, drawing together the themes and conclusions of the Commission's investigations, deals at length with the danger of a major incident or incidents in the United States involving unconventional weapons: "Weapons proliferation...[and] the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the US homeland to catastrophic attack. A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century." In the report's estimation, the consequences of such an attack would involve "not only death and destruction but also a demoralisation that could undermine [US] global leadership. In the face of this threat, our nation has no coherent or integrated government structures..."

To prepare for the grim challenges in store, the commissioners urge a major restructuring of government agencies, particularly the departments of State (described as "crippled institution...in which sound management, accountability and leadership are lacking") and Defense. Among the measures proposed are a massive investment in science education and training, a doubling of funding over the next seven years to, in the words of Gary Hart, "reinvigorate the national laboratory system," and the creation, at cabinet-level, of a National Homeland Security Agency.

Reports: Commission urges US security set-up be recast to meet new threats, US State Department (Washington File), January 31; Panel suggests US security strategy, Associated Press, January 31; US must prepare for 'catastrophic' attack - study, Reuters, January 31.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.