Defense chief warns of threats far deadlier than Sept. 11 attacks

Thursday, January 31st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday the United States must prepare now for potential surprise attacks ``vastly more deadly'' than the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings.

In a speech laying out the Bush administration's justification for proposing a $48 billion increase in the 2003 defense budget, Rumsfeld said the nation is vulnerable to new forms of terrorism ranging from cyberattacks to attacks on U.S. military bases abroad to ballistic missile attacks on American cities.

``Our job is to close off as many of those avenues of potential attack as is possible,'' he said in a speech at the National Defense University.

His remarks coincided with new indications that terrorists have considered a range of possible attacks. The FBI warned on Wednesday that al-Qaida terrorists may have been studying American dams and water-supply systems in preparation for new attacks. And in a report to Congress made public Wednesday, CIA Director George Tenet said rudimentary diagrams of nuclear weapons were found in a suspected al-Qaida safehouse in Kabul, Afghanistan. Other evidence uncovered in Afghanistan includes diagrams of American nuclear power plants, although it is unclear if an attack was planned.

Rumsfeld said there could be no doubt that in the years ahead the American people will be faced with an attacker as unconventional and unpredictable as the hijackers who killed more than 3,000 people by flying airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He warned of new adversaries who may strike in unexpected ways with weapons of increasing range and power. He appeared to be referring to ballistic missiles, a weapon the administration fears countries like North Korea, Iran and Iraq could either use against America or sell to terrorist groups.

``These attacks could grow vastly more deadly than those we suffered'' on Sept. 11, he said.

The speech made a case for spending more money on a wide range of weapons and other military programs, although Rumsfeld mentioned no specific amounts of spending for individual programs.

He made a pitch for deploying defenses against ballistic missiles to guard against the possibility that American and allied cities could be held hostage to ``nuclear blackmail.'' And he said new earth-penetrating weapons could make obsolete the deep underground bunkers where terrorists hide.

He said the war in Afghanistan has shown the effectiveness of some new military technologies that past administrations failed to develop in sufficient numbers. He cited the example of unmanned aircraft such as the Predator, which provides live TV images of the battlefield but is in short supply.

He also mentioned a shortage of manned reconnaissance and surveillance planes, command and control aircraft like the Air Force's AWACS plane, chemical and biological defense equipment and certain types of special operations forces.

Rumsfeld cited specific lessons learned from the Afghan campaign:

_ Wars in the 21st century will increasingly require all elements of national power _ not just the military. They will require that economic, diplomatic, financial, law enforcement and intelligence capabilities work together.

_ The ability of military forces to communicate and operate seamlessly on the battlefield will be critical to success. He noted the success of U.S. special forces on the ground in Afghanistan communicating target information to pilots of Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps strike aircraft.

_ Wars must be fought by ``coalitions of the willing'' _ they should not be fought by committee. The United States has taken the lead in the war in Afghanistan, not allowing coalition partners to determine the mission.

_ Defending the United States requires prevention and sometimes pre-emption. Rumsfeld has said many times that the Sept. 11 attacks showed that it is impossible to defend against every possible threat in every place at every conceivable time. He cited the old saying that the best defense is a good offense.