Washington, 25 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton says it is time for America to take a tougher stand against terrorism and prepare the nation to fight the more sophisticated terrorists of the new millennium.
Clinton made the comment Friday during a graduation address to cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Clinton unveiled a sweeping new plan to combat terrorism which he says includes defending the nation against cyberterrorists and biological and chemical attacks.
Clinton said: "If our children are to grow up safe and free, we must approach these new 21st century threats with the same rigor and determination we applied to the toughest security challenges of this century."
Clinton said he has ordered three new initiatives to combat terrorism:
-- The creation of a post of a national coordinator to oversee the many government and private efforts to fight terrorism.
-- An ambitious program to protect America's critical computer infrastructure from terrorist intrusions.
-- The development of special security precautions and public health strategies to prevent and prepare for biological and chemical warfare attacks.
Clinton said that as part of this strategy, he has ordered the development and stockpiling of vaccines and antibiotics in event of a germ warfare attack by terrorists.
The U.S. Defense Department is already stockpiling vaccines for its personnel over a five-year period at a cost of about $320 million. Experts say stockpiles for the civilian population would cost billions of dollars. That does not include the cost of developing, testing and manufacturing new vaccines.
According to experts, there are five biological agents that could be effectively used in a terrorist attack: anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, and botulinus toxin. Currently anthrax is the only agent for which a licensed vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Clinton said he would order an upgrade of America's public health systems for detection and warning against biological threats, and help the medical community prepare to cope with infectious diseases that might arise as a result of such attacks.
Clinton said the U.S. Defense Department has already been active in teaching state and local officials how to respond if biological weapons are used against the population.
He added that the Defense Department would now be training National Guard and Reserve units in every state to address the problem as well. The National Guard is the organized militia forces of the 50 individual states that make up the United States.
In regards to precautions against cyberterrorists, Clinton said he will launch a comprehensive program to detect, deter and defend against attacks on America's critical infrastructure, meaning the power systems, water supplies, police, fire and medical services, air traffic control, financial services, telecommunications and computer networks.
Explained Clinton: "If we fail to take strong action, then terrorists, criminals, and hostile regimes could invade and paralyze these vital systems, disrupting commerce, threatening health, weakening our capacity to function in a crisis."
Clinton said that in order to make his new plan work, he needed the cooperation of a whole range of federal agencies -- from the armed forces to law enforcement, to the intelligence community to public health officials.
He told the cadets that while America has the "best prepared armed forces in history," the military must ready itself to fight "the next war, not the last."
Clinton added: "Our military, as strong as it is, cannot meet those challenges alone."