Updated: 05 May
Security and Privacy Notice
If you think the U.S. government isn't combating terrorism and the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, you don't know what's going on -- but if you think it's enough, you don't know the gravity of the threat.
Volume 11, Number 63
Counterproliferation Initiative: Managing Three CrisesPrepared remarks by Ashton B. Carter, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, to the Conference on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons Proliferation, Washington, May 23, 1996.
I welcome this conference on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons proliferation. We must never fail to remember that these weapons pose the most serious challenges to the security of the United States -- a fact that the ordinary citizen can easily overlook, since the headlines seem to be monopolized by other international security problems of fundamentally lesser importance. But NBC have the capacity to sweep everything else off the front page with a single incident.
Secretary of Defense [William J.] Perry signaled DoD's recognition of this fact with the recent publication of "Proliferation: Threat and Response." Like its Cold War predecessor, "Soviet Military Power," this publication provides authoritative unclassified information on the paramount security problem of its time. "Proliferation: Threat and Response" goes one step further: It also describes DoD's responses to this threat, from counterproliferation military capabilities to Cooperative Threat Reduction.
I am particularly pleased that this conference is honoring two pioneers of what Secretary of Defense Perry has termed "defense by other means" or "preventive defense" -- Sens. Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar.
I also applaud the inclusion of chemical weapons and above all biological weapons in the scope of the conference. Nuclear proliferation justifiably receives a lot of attention. But to those of us who must plan against the threats that are clearly here and now, the existence of CW and BW programs in most theaters where U.S. forces would go into action and their ease of access to terrorists command equal attention. BW, in particular, is the great sleeping dragon.
Finally, I also applaud the soup-to-nuts coverage of this conference, with panels ranging from "denying access to technology" to "consequence management." This is very much in the spirit of counterproliferation, which seeks to address head-on the question, "What if proliferation?"
The theme of my presentation on DoD efforts can be summarized in two sentences: If you don't think the USG [U.S. government] is doing anything to combat NBC proliferation and terrorism, then you don't know what's going on. But if you think it's enough, you don't know the gravity of the threat and how much more could be done.
The topic of this panel is "Management of Crises Involving NBC." I will divide my remarks among three crises: war, terrorism and the breakup of the former Soviet Union.
Our job in DoD is to fight and win wars should that become necessary. Therefore, our approach to NBC begins there -- a DoD mission we term counterproliferation. The Counterproliferation Initiative grew out of the Bottom-up Review, which reoriented U.S. defense strategy from Cold War to major regional contingencies.
We realized that our likely opponents in MRCs possess NBC and ballistic missiles -- not with some probability sometime in the future, but with probability one and now. Our duty to the taxpayer and our troops in this era is to ensure to the best of our ability that our forces will be able to prevail in future MRCs as handily as we prevailed against Saddam Hussein even if our opponents possess and use NBC and ballistic missiles. Doing so requires us to have conventional capabilities to deter and defeat proliferators -- recognizing that our nuclear deterrent will always be a factor but should not be the only arrow in our quiver.
Let me be clear that preparing to deal with proliferation on the battlefield does not imply any downgrading in our efforts to prevent proliferation in the first place. Prevention is and will remain the top priority. And DoD is deeply involved in prevention, as I will detail below. But counterproliferation recognizes that prevention is not successful in all places at all times. Let me also be clear that our counterproliferation capabilities are being devised for winning MRCs, not for pre-emptive attack on proliferators, as some academics have speculated.
These counterproliferation capabilities range from better BW detectors to better protective suits and medical protection; from earth-penetrating munitions to theater missile defenses -- our highest priority in our ballistic missile defense program; and from hardware to the vital exercising, training and doctrine development without which this military mission cannot be accomplished.
If we are successful, the result of the CPI over time will be the enhancement of two capabilities: a war-winning combat capability for MRCs and a closely related capability for civil response to NBC that can be used to protect rear areas in a theater of conflict, the populations of coalition partners or populations threatened by or affected by NBC terrorism. Deputy Secretary of Defense John White has recently established a counterproliferation council to coordinate all DoD counterproliferation activities.
In building these capabilities, we must rely on a strong technology base in the NBC fields. Our nuclear technology base is superb, largely because we still retain a nuclear deterrent that supports a solid base. In CW, our knowledge and technology base is shrinking after the end of the U.S. offensive CW program, though the costly program to eliminate CW stocks helps support a cadre of knowledgeable people, including local emergency response authorities. I am most concerned about our BW technology base, which is high in quality but small in size, since it supports only a defensive program.
DoD's NBC capabilities, especially those associated with the civil response capability -- equipment, trained personnel, technical experts -- can and will be made available for terrorist response. Overseas, DoD would follow the lead of the Department of State; domestically, DoD would follow the lead of the Department of Justice (normally through the FBI). The procedures for doing this are well worked out, and DoD provides for CW and BW threats the functional equivalent of the muchn publicized nuclear [emergency search] teams, as well as a much broader counterterrorism capability. We are working with the CIA and FBI to make our terrorism response teams better equipped and trained and to sensitize and train the broader counterterrorism community (and its vital intelligence support) to the particular problems posed by BW and CW.
Specifically, for crisis management, Special Operations Command can provide its special mission units to resolve terrorist incidents. These units are always on alert, are very familiar with BW and CW agents and effects, have state-of-the-art protective suits and masks, are immunized against some BW agents and are trained to render safe and dispose of BW and CW agent.
These SOCOM units are supported by a specialized chem/bio response unit consisting of an Army Technical escort unit providing search, sampling, disposal and transportation of agents; and on-call teams from the Army's and Navy's laboratories and CW/BW commands for expert knowledge on the scene. For consequence management, DoD would provide through FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] the capabilities of Army NBC defense units, together with military medical care capabilities and supplies. A number of initiatives exist for upgrading these capabilities as well as for strengthening their links to civilian first responders and foreign governments.
The breakup of the former Soviet Union has the potential to be the single most significant event in proliferation history. Two farsighted senators, both present at this conference, gave the U.S. government a valuable tool with which to confront this emergency: the Cooperative Threat Reduction, or Nunn-Lugar, program.
Congress has made available in the defense budget over $1.5 billion for CTR, dwarfing all other cooperative activities with the former Soviet Union, and today American project leaders, contractors and their Russian, Ukrainian, Kazakstani and Belarusan colleagues are executing over 30 large engineering programs that directly reduce the threat to the United States. Two examples from many will suffice.
In two weeks, Secretary of Defense Perry and I will travel to Pervomaysk, Ukraine, where we will view the site of an SS-19 silo that Secretary Perry, Russian Defense Minister [Pavel] Grachev and Ukrainian Defense Minister [Valeriy] Shmarov blew up in January. The site will be planted with sunflowers -- a local cash crop and a national flower of Ukraine -- like the fields around it. In a short time, Ukrainian territory will be free of the 1900 nuclear strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy the United States with which it began its existence as an independent state.
In late 1994, a DoD-DOE [Department of Energy] team secretly packaged 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Kazakstan, loaded it aboard C-5 transports at Ust-Kamenogorsk airfield and flew with continuous midair refueling to Dover AFB [Air Force Base], Del. There, the HEU was transferred to special transports and driven to Oak Ridge, Tenn., for safe and secure storage in a vault. Only in the last day of this eight-month effort did the leaks occur and the project become known to the public just a few hours before Secretaries Perry, [Secretary of State Warren] Christopher, and [Secretary of Energy Hazel] O'Leary announced it at the Pentagon.
Managing large engineering projects at U.S. taxpayers' expense in the strange and understandably chaotic environment of the newly independent [ex-Soviet] states was a task that DoD had never before undertaken and which took some learning. In January 1993, when I first had the opportunity to review the CTR program, it had been on the books for some time and had accumulated a bank account but little in the way of on-the-ground technical activity.
Interagency committees met and pronounced, but the tough job of working out cooperative programs that our NIS counterparts were willing to share in and then getting the necessary technical activity under way -- including contracting according to the usual cumbersome rules -- remained. I am pleased to say that DoD now knows how to execute these programs. We use integrating contractors. We contract in-country when doing so is competitive. Today, this vast program conducts hundreds of actions a day involving thousands of persons throughout the many time zones of the NIS.
None of this would be possible without the cooperation of our counterparts in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan and Belarus. We have superb working relationships with almost all the involved ministries in the four countries. I would cite as an example our relationship with the Russian ministry of defense, responsible for warhead protection, control and accounting, a vitally important and rapidly growing CTR program.
Despite the sensitivity of nuclear weapons and the understandable security consciousness of MoD officials, our relationship is mutually respectful and beneficial. The WPC&A program is embedded in a broader MoD-DoD relationship that extends to other, deadly serious joint pursuits like peacekeeping in Bosnia.
Finally, our ability to pursue CTR projects -- and to pursue all the other programs discussed by panelists today -- depends on the overall political relationship between the U.S. and the NIS, relationships which are very different from those of the early years of the program. The days of "I've come from Washington to assist you" are over. We are adapting accordingly.
I caution American commentators on threat reduction and materials protection, control and accounting that money, good intentions and strong will on the part of the U.S. government are not enough: These are not our countries or our weapons and materials, and cooperation can be the scarce resource when it comes to getting results.
Finally, none of this is possible without the support of Congress and the American people. I must say that personally it is a puzzle to me why a program of such self-evident security value to the United States and which has such strong support from DoD and the administration requires such strong advocacy. But it does.
Many wrongly liken it to foreign aid, discounting its benefit for our security as well as for the security and benefit of the cooperating NIS countries. Others wish to hold threat reduction hostage to the resolution of other issues we have with Russia. Others seem to assume that the dangers addressed by CTR belong to the Cold War and will simply disappear by themselves. It is a great tribute to Sens. Nunn and Lugar that they have so resolutely refuted these misapprehensions and that CTR continues to grow and strengthen.
CTR is busy reducing the threat, but there is more threat out there than we are now addressing. Let me therefore close by citing some examples of areas where growth and expansion of the U.S. effort through CTR or other programs would be valuable.
First and foremost, much more remains to be done on MPC&A with Russia's MINATOM [ministry of atomic energy]. Second, we have begun to broaden our focus from nuclear weapons to chemical and biological weapons, but our BW and CW threat reduction programs should grow. Third, efforts to stem smuggling and terrorism could usefully grow both in scale and in geographic scope. Fourth, we hope the START [Strategic Arms Reduction Talks] II treaty will be ratified by Russia's Duma [parliament] in coming months. Prompt implementation of that agreement is in the interests of both Russia and the United States.
I am grateful to the organizers of this conference and to Sens. Nunn and Lugar for their attention to these possibilities for CTR in the future.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.