9 September 1998: Revise source URL. Thanks to C.

2 December 1997
Source: Excerpt from Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21 st Century
National Defense Panel report to the Secretary of Defense, December 1, 1997



Cold War: Strategic Nuclear Attack by Superpower

Today and Tomorrow: Nuclear Attack by ????



Information Warfare

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

Transnational Threats

Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

America may not be any more or less safe than before,
but the challenges to its safety and security will be very

Protecting the territory of the United States and its citizens from “all enemies both foreign and domestic” is the principal task of government. The primary reason for the increased emphasis on homeland defense is the change, both in type and degree, in the threats to the United States. Besides the enduring need to deter a strategic nuclear attack, the United States must defend against terrorism, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction, ballistic and cruise missiles, and other transnational threats to the sovereign territory of the nation. In many of these mission areas, the military will necessarily play the leading role; however, many other threats exist which will require Defense to support local law enforcement agencies, as well as a host of other federal, state, and local entities.

Threats to the United States have been magnified by the proliferation of, and the means to produce and deliver, weapons of mass destruction. The increasing availability of relatively inexpensive cruise missiles and the capability to fabricate and introduce biotoxins and chemical agents into the United States means that rogue nations or transnational actors may be able to threaten our homeland. Along with the growth of delivery systems, the technology needed to create warheads housing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons has also proliferated. The complexity of the WMD challenge lies in the number of potential enemies who have access to, and may choose, this asymmetric means of attacking the United States in an effort to offset our conventional strengths.

An integrated set of active and passive measures for deterring and defending against the use of weapons of mass destruction is needed. These measures must involve a range of federal departments and agencies which, in turn, must incorporate the state and local levels of government in their planning.

Effective missile defense may also reduce the risk of a limited missile strike and deter blackmail attempts by those who would seek to thwart U.S. military and diplomatic actions. Even if our abilities to defend against large-scale


nuclear attack remain inadequate, we must retain the option to deploy, if necessary, a missile defense capable of defeating limited attacks.

Although not seriously considered since the late 1950s, coastal and border defense of the homeland is a challenge that again deserves serious thought. We see no clear and present danger of an invasion by an armed force; however, the apparent ease of infiltration of our borders by drug smugglers, illegal immigrants, and contraband goods illustrates a potentially significant problem. It suggests that terrorist cells armed with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons could also infiltrate with little difficulty. Better coordination between those national agencies charged with gathering intelligence outside our borders and with those charged with protecting our citizens and territory will be an absolute requirement. Coordinated intelligence, when coupled with the close integration of efforts by the Navy, Coast Guard, other government agencies, and local authorities, should be able to stop the majority of those who would cross our borders for illicit purposes.

No defense will ever be so effective that determined adversaries, such as terrorists bent on making a political statement, will not be able to penetrate it in some fashion. This is perhaps even true in the case of a regional enemy who threatens to execute WMD attacks on the U.S. homeland employing organized infiltration forces. Even the threat of such attacks could seriously impair our power projection operations, especially if our political leadership felt compelled to accord the enemy’s homeland sanctuary status from attacks by U.S. forces.

Managing the consequences of an attack by WMD or other mass casualty-producing devices will require action from all levels of government. Although “first responders” will take the lead (assuming they are still viable) in the vast majority of cases, the Department of Defense must be prepared to assist. Preparation will be the most effective form of assistance. The Panel recommends that the National Guard together with the Army Reserve be prepared to:

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Defense should work closely to ensure that new classes of cutters are outfitted with a combat systems suite that gives these ships a robust capability in support of homeland defense, including such missions as drug interdiction, immigration control, and anti-transnational crime operations. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of


Defense should investigate the feasibility of providing some U.S. Coast Guard ships with a capability to assist in the cruise missile defense of the homeland.

Information systems are rapidly becoming the key components of the nation’s infrastructure. At the same time, our competitors will likely redouble their efforts to use our increasing dependence on information systems against us. The potential for an enemy to use attacks on information infrastructures as a means of undermining our economy and deterring or disrupting our operations abroad is of increasing concern. As the threats to commercial and defense information networks increase, the defense of our information infrastructure becomes crucial. The Department of Defense’s reliance on the global commercial telecommunications infrastructure further complicates the equation. Our response to information warfare threats to the United States may present the greatest challenge in preparing for the security environment of 2010–2020. The threat is diffuse and difficult to identify. Consensus on how to guard against it is difficult to establish. The recommendations of the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP) should be the foundation of our future information security program. According to the Commission, the United States must begin to:

The Department of Defense must play an active role in the process envisioned by the Commission and its responsibilities should be made clear. Although information systems are only a small part of a much larger infrastructure, the Department of Defense must take the initiative in developing the techniques and procedures required for information security.

The terrorist threat to the United States is a complex issue which, as it encroaches upon U.S. territory, transitions from a Defense and State activity to one managed primarily by the Department of Justice or local law enforcement agencies. To date, the hand-off of responsibilities and sharing of intelligence on known and suspected terrorists has not been properly delineated and may, in some areas, be dysfunctional. It is not envisioned that Defense would ever take the lead in combating terrorism in the United States. The Defense Department must be prepared, however, to advise and assist law enforcement agencies in actions taken by the nation against terrorism. A key element in that assistance must be the sharing of information on both national and international terrorist organizations and their activities.


The security of our society and our citizens must be a primary concern. The emergence of new threats that have both the means and the incentive to strike at our homeland necessitates a heightened degree of readiness by our national security structures to defend against such attacks and to minimize and contain the harm they might cause.

Homeland Defense

The Panel recommends:

  • Develop integrated active and passive defense measures against the use of WMD.
  • Develop and retain the option to deploy a missile defense system capable of defeating limited attacks.
  • Incorporate all levels of government into managing the consequences of a WMD-type attack.
  • Prepare reserve components to support consequence management activities.
  • Support the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection.
  • Use Department of Defense assets to advise and assist law enforcement in combating terrorist activities.