Panel Says U.S. Must Prepare For Threats Of The 21st Century

The American government is not preparing adequately for the most likely security threats of the early 21st century, including “information attacks” at home and urban warfare abroad, a panel said in a report Monday to Defense Secretary William Cohen.

The National Defense Panel, created by Congress to provide a long-range assessment of U.S. defense needs, concluded that the Pentagon and other elements of the national security establishment are stuck in a Cold War mindset.

“Unless we are willing to pursue a new course, we are likely to have forces that are ill-suited to protect our security 20 years in the future,” the nine-member committee concluded.

In a letter to Cohen accompanying the report, panel chairman Philip Odeen credited the Pentagon with taking first steps to adapt to the post-Cold War era.

“It is our view that the pace of this change must be accelerated,” Odeen wrote.

In response, Cohen issued a statement praising the work of the Odeen panel.

“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 U.S. homeland,” Cohen said. He said he was particularly pleased that the panel endorsed his call for Congress to authorize two more rounds of base closings.

In its 94-page report the panel cited these emerging threats to American security:

Attacks on U.S. commercial and defense computer and telecommunications systems as a means of undermining the economy and disrupting military operations abroad. The Pentagon needs to improve its information security.

The use of satellites in space by hostile nations or groups to target U.S. forces abroad. The Pentagon needs to better protect U.S. satellites from interference, and it must develop the means to deny others the use of space.

Direct military attacks on the American homeland. This threat is magnified by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction such as poison gases and biological agents, as well as by the spread of cruise missiles.

Urban warfare. Military operations in Third World cities are increasingly likely, and the Pentagon needs to tailor its forces to fight in “skyscraper jungles.” Specialized weapons, closer integration with allied forces and new concepts in fighting war are called for.


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