New Defense Threat Reduction Agency Takes the Lead
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
21 July 1998
BRUSSELS, Belgium - In the past, the Defense Department's mission
was clear-cut: maintain strong forces capable of defeating any
and all challengers. Today, its mission extends far beyond simply
preparing for the battlefield.
Threat reduction now represents a primary defense mission, Deputy
Defense Secretary John Hamre said, and this fall, a new agency
will lead DoD's threat reduction program. This relatively new
mission involves preventing potential foes from developing the
means to challenge the United States. Just as preventive medicine
aims to stop the spread of disease, preventive defense aims to
stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The Soviet collapse started in 1989 and created a need for threat
reduction, Hamre explained at the Defense Special Weapons
Agency's 7th Annual International Conference on Controlling Arms
in Philadelphia, in June.
Soviet military knowledge and tools suddenly became available to
others in an unsettling way, he said. The prospect of rogue
states and terrorists obtaining former Soviet nuclear weapons and
technology concerned U.S. officials. They foresaw nations trying
to level the field with stronger neighbors by turning to nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons.
Hamre said this scenario created "a scary picture for everyone,
not just the United States." Proliferation would be detrimental
to Russia's security, as well as to others in the region, he
U.S. Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar sponsored a bill that
launched the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, also known as
the Nunn-Lugar Program, in 1991. Congress allocated funds to help
dismantle and remove nuclear warheads in Russia and three other
former Soviet states. Kazakhstan became nuclear free in 1995,
followed by Belarus and Ukraine in 1996.
With U.S. help, Russian defense officials safely dismantled and
moved more than 24,000 warheads to a central storage site. The
Cooperative Threat Reduction Program also helped find nonmilitary
jobs for some 15,000 former Soviet weapons scientists and
engineers. The program also linked former Soviet defense
companies with American partners to make commercial products.
Several Defense Department offices and agencies became involved
in aspects of the program over the years. Last fall, Hamre said,
as defense leaders set out to streamline the department, they
realized no national security mission would be more important
over the next decade than threat reduction. And, he said, they
concluded the department was poorly organized to deal with it.
"We were not organized in an integrated way to deal with this
Hence, he said, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency will merge
the following DoD offices and agencies:
o Defense Special Weapons Agency.
o On-Site Inspection Agency.
o Defense Technical Security Administration.
o Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for
Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs.
o Office of the Deputy Director Arms Control Implementation and
o Office of the Director, Strategic and Tactical Systems.
The agency is slated to become operational Oct. 1, Hamre said.
"It's going to take a little bit of time to make the transition .
because we're going to consolidate into a single space, and that
does entail relocation and turmoil."
The agency will have three primary missions. First, it will
maintain the current nuclear deterrent capability. "That is still
one of the most important challenges we face," Hamre noted. "We
still have, and always will have, a large infrastructure of
nuclear capability. We have to husband that, and we have to
maintain the intellectual infrastructure to support it."
Whereas the best and the brightest sought to work with the
Defense Special Weapons Agency in the past, Hamre said, there has
been a significant loss of interest in this career field over the
last eight years or so. "Nuclear weapons aren't going away, as
much as we would wish it," he said. "We can't afford to lose our
intellectual competence in dealing with it."
The agency's second mission is to reduce the nuclear threat. This
includes monitoring arms control treaties and supporting ongoing
confidence-building measures established over the last 10 years
by the On-Site Inspection Agency. "It's on that root stock, as it
were, we're going to graft the Cooperative Threat Reduction
program, for example," Hamre said.
The third mission is to counter the threat from chemical and
biological weapons. "We do not have the intellectual
infrastructure for chemical and biological threats the way we
have for nuclear threats," Hamre said. "We spent a long time
thinking about nuclear weapons."
The department is somewhat further along dealing with chemical
weapons than biological ones because of its chemical weapons
protection program in the mid-1980s, Hamre noted. But "we still
have a long way to go" in both areas, he said.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency will become "the central
nervous system for America's counterproliferation plans and
preparation," Hamre concluded. "We have to have an organization
that can . study the threat, what it will look like, and how you
deal with it."
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