Saturday, February 02, 2008

Well, at least Bush has made us safer at home

Oh, wait. We'll safer some time in the future, but six years after 9/11, we're not there yet.

U.S. Military Unprepared for WMD Strike, Panel Says

Published Friday, Feb. 1 by the NTI's Global Security Newswire

The U.S. military lacks necessary training and equipment to respond to a WMD attack against the United States, an independent commission said in a report released yesterday (see GSN, Jan. 10).

In its 400-page report, the panel concludes that the United States “does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available” to respond to an attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, “an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk,” the Associated Press reported.

“Right now we don’t have the forces we need, we don't have them trained, we don't have the equipment," said Arnold Punaro, chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. “Even though there is a lot going on in this area, we need to do a lot more. … There's a lot of things in the pipeline, but in the world we live in — you’re either ready or you’re not.”

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, head of U.S. Northern Command, said the U.S. Defense Department plans to assemble a 4,000-soldier force over the next year that would be specially trained to handle the aftermath of a WMD strike.

The three-tiered team would include several hundred first-responder troops, a second group of about 1,200 medical and logistics personnel, and a third group for support forces such as engineers and aircraft units, he said.

“The capability for the Defense Department to respond to a chemical, biological event exists now,” Renuart said. “It, today, is not as robust as we would like because of the demand on the forces that we've placed across the country. … I can do it today. It would be harder on the (military) services, but I could respond” (Lolita Baldor, Associated Press/Google News, Feb. 1).

Meanwhile, a Joint Chiefs of Staff panel is conducting a 90-day investigation aimed at pinpointing weaknesses in Pentagon measures now in place to educate and train U.S. troops to respond to WMD attacks, Inside the Pentagon reported yesterday.

“This is well-tilled ground, but the themes keep reoccurring. So the whole thrust out of this was how do we make it better,” said Jean Reed, director of chemical and biological weapon defense programs. Reed noted that the Defense Department last reviewed its preparations for a WMD attack following the 1991 Gulf War.

The steering committee last month briefed two Joint Chiefs of Staff bodies — the Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction committee and the Force Protection and Functional Capabilities Board — on its work, Reed said.

“We took the briefing … in terms of saying, ‘here is the study, here are the sorts of gaps that have been identified,’” he said. The panel expects to submit its full recommendations in April (Carlo Munoz, Inside the Pentagon, Jan. 31).


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