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Washington Journal: More Funds Needed To Combat Terrorism

  • Julie Moffett

Washington, 25 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton is asking the U.S. Congress for $10 billion to combat terrorism and protect Americans against chemical and biological weapons.

Clinton made the request Friday in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington after first proposing it in his State of the Union address last week. He said the U.S. needs to be better prepared for the possibility of a biological or chemical attack on American soil and improve protection of the nation's critical computer infrastructure.

Clinton said terrorists and outlaw states are "extending the world's field of battle," by turning to non-traditional types of assault on the United States.

He explained: "The enemies of peace realize they cannot defeat us with traditional military means, so they are working on two new forms of assault which you've heard about: cyber attacks on our critical computer systems, and attacks with weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, potentially even nuclear weapons."

As a result, Clinton said America must accelerate its effort to shield the nation's computer systems from attacks, and train and equip fire, police and public health officials to deal with chemical, biological and even nuclear attacks.

Clinton said that he is asking Congress for the funds in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2000, which starts next October 1. Clinton will officially submit the budget to Congress on February 1.

Clinton said that $1.4 billion will go specifically toward addressing chemical and biological threats -- more than doubling the amount the U.S. spent on such programs just two years ago. Another $1,46 billion will go toward protecting U.S. critical computer infrastructure -- a 40 percent jump in spending.

The remaining funds, about $7 billion, will be spent on traditional counter-terrorism programs, he said.

Clinton also said money would be used to help Russia and other former Soviet nations prevent weapons material and knowledge from falling into the hands of terrorists and outlaw states.

Clinton stated: "We should do this by continuing to expand our cooperative work with the thousands of Russian scientists who can be used to advance the causes of world peace and health and well-being, but who, if they are not paid, remain a fertile field for the designs of terrorists."

Clinton also said the U.S. will continue to work to create and strengthen agreements on non-proliferation, ensure the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, obtain an accord that will strengthen compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, and end production of nuclear weapons material.

In an interview with the New York Times published Friday, Clinton said of all the potential threats against the U.S. the one that "keeps me awake at night" is the possibility of a biological attack. He said that a chemical attack would be "horrible, but it would be finite," meaning it would not spread. But germ warfare is more dangerous, he said, because it would spread, adding that it is "kind of like the gift that keeps on giving."

Clinton added in the interview that the best defense against these new terrorist threats, especially biological attacks, is scientific advancements in human genetics, so that vaccines could be quickly developed.

But during his speech at the National Academy of Sciences, Clinton made it clear that the U.S. remains committed to using military force against terrorists as it did last summer against an alleged terrorist enclave in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan suspected of manufacturing dangerous biological agents. He said the U.S. would show terrorists that assaults against America will "accomplish nothing but their own downfall."