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Rumsfeld: Military Challenges of 21st Century 'Vastly More Deadly' - 2002-01-31

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States must prepare now for potential surprise attacks "vastly more deadly" than the bloody terrorist strikes of September 11.

Mr. Rumsfeld has said the challenges of the 21st century are not nearly as predictable as those of the Cold War era. He said there should be no doubt that the United States will face surprise attacks by new adversaries with access to weapons of increasing power.

"Let there be no doubt - in the years ahead it is likely we will be surprised again, by new adversaries who may also strike in unexpected ways," he said. "And as they gain access to weapons of increasing power, and let there be no doubt they are, these attacks could grow vastly more deadly than those we suffered several months ago."

Mr. Rumsfeld has said defense officials face a difficult challenge, preparing for the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen and the unexpected. Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, he says it might seem an impossible task but it is not.

"Our job is to close off as many of those avenues of potential attack as possible," he explained. "We need to prepare for new forms of terrorism, to be sure, but also attacks on U.S. space assets, cyber attacks on our information networks, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. At the same time, we must work to build up our own areas of advantage - such as our ability to project military power over long distances, precision-strike weapons, our space, intelligence and under-sea warfare capabilities."

Mr. Rumsfeld said the military is already changing to meet these new challenges, even drawing on lessons from the Afghan war. He added these lessons include the need to use economic, diplomatic, and other non-military elements to fight wars. Other lessons include the need for integrated battlefield communications and for getting elite commando units on the ground early.

Meanwhile, the Central Intelligence Agency released an unclassified report on the spread of technology relating to weapons of mass destruction.

The report notes the interest of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles. It also says the threat of terrorists using such weapons "appears to be rising."

In addition, the report warns the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction continues to change "in ways that make it more difficult to monitor and control, increasing the risk of substantial surprise."

To help the armed forces speed the transformation process, President Bush is proposing a huge $48 billion increase in defense spending, the largest boost in two decades. If approved, it will raise overall military expenditures to nearly $380 billion next year.