In its December 1997 report, the National Defense Panel--a group of retiredgenerals and civilian defense experts created by Congress to develop alternatives to theDepartment of Defense's plan--called for a reemphasis on defending the Americanhomeland. (Surprisingly, because the U.S. government has concentrated its efforts ondefending other nations and even continents from global communism and other perceivedthreats, the mission of defending the territory and people of the United States has not beenprominent since the 1950s. Subsequently, civil defense plans withered on the vine as therealization grew that a nuclear war would be so devastating to American society thatattempts to minimize the effects were futile.)The panel argued that the primary reason for increased emphasis on homelanddefense is the change, in both type and degree, in the threats to the United States. Inaddition to maintaining its ability to deter a strategic nuclear attack, the United Statesmust defend against terrorism, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction (WMD),ballistic and cruise missiles, and other transnational threats.
The threat to the American homeland is being magnified greatly by proliferatingtechnologies associated with WMD (chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons).According to a statement made the previous month by the secretary of defense and quotedin the Department of Defense's November 1997 report, Proliferation: Threat andResponse:With advanced technology and a smaller world of porous borders, theability to unleash mass sickness, death, and destruction today has reached afar greater order of magnitude. A lone madman or nest of fanatics with abottle of chemicals, a batch of plague-inducing bacteria, or a crude nuclearbomb can threaten or kill tens of thousands of people in a single act of malevolence.These are not far-off or far-fetched scenarios. They are real--hereand now. WMD already have spread into new hands. As the new millen-nium approaches, the United States faces a heightened prospect thatregional aggressors, third-rate armies, terrorist cells, and even religiouscults will wield disproportionate power by using--or even threatening touse--nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons against our troops in thefield and our people at home.America's military superiority cannot shield us completely from thisthreat. Indeed, a paradox of the new strategic environment is thatAmerican military superiority actually increases the threat of nuclear,biological, and chemical attack against us by creating incentives for