Americans in greater danger than believed, report says
Thursday, September 16, 1999
By DAVID BRISCOE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- Americans are at more risk than they think, facing possible terrorist attack and other new dangers that superior military power cannot prevent, a Pentagon-appointed panel reported to Defense Secretary William Cohen yesterday.
If the nation is drawn into war, it will bring "casualties and carnage, and combat will not be like a video game, even for Americans," concluded the bipartisan, independent commission headed by former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman and former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart.
"Americans will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland, and our military superiority will not entirely protect us," the report offers as its No. 1 conclusion.
Rudman of New Hampshire cited "the spreading ability of terrorists to strike Americans at home and abroad."
Hart of Colorado said, "Non-military threats, such as those concerning the global economy, environment and health may become as serious and life-threatening to us as traditional military threats."
Members of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century said America needs to restructure forces to meet 21st century challenges -- a topic the panel will continue to address. The commission will propose a national strategy next year and offer final recommendations to achieve national safety to the next president in 2001.
"Even excellent intelligence will not prevent all nasty surprises or protect Americans from all efforts to harm them," the report stated.
The commission also includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.; former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who is set to head the National Council of Churches; retired Gen. John Galvin and other diplomatic, military, academic, media and business leaders.
It is one of several panels set up in recent years to assess post-Cold War defense needs. Commission members acknowledged that they reached no conclusions that have not been suggested by others, but said they are obligated to follow up with specific recommendations for restructuring U.S. defenses for the next quarter century.
The last such sweeping reassessment was made in 1947 at the end of World War II, and the same basic defense structures remain, Rudman said.
Gingrich said no one on the panel believes the current setup makes any sense for the future.
"While we are the most powerful nation in the world, in some ways we are becoming more vulnerable," Gingrich said.
"The commission believes Americans are going to be less secure than they believe themselves to be," said commission member Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The report also predicted:
Rapid advances in information and biotechnologies will create new vulnerabilities for U.S. security, as new technologies divide the world as well as draw it together.
State sovereignty will endure, but some states will fail or fragment and some borders will bend or break.
Foreign crises will continue to spawn atrocities and terrorism.
Outer space will become a "critical and competitive military environment."