The White House Briefing Room

January 22, 1999


12:05 P.M. EST


                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                         January 22, 1999     

                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                            JOE LOCKHART 
                        The Briefing Room     

12:05 P.M. EST

	     Q	  Joe, the President told the Times he stays awake at 
night worried about the possibility of germ warfare, but he's still 
not, as you say, paying that close attention to his own problems.  
Doesn't that at some point strain credibility?
	     MR. LOCKHART:  I urge you to look at my words and not 
try to read more into them or less into them.  I have never said that 
the President's not concerned about this.  I've never said that the 
President's not informed about it.  But I have also said that he's 
not going to sit in his office all day and watch the proceedings or 
allow himself to be diverted from the reason that he's here, which is 
to do the people's business.

	     Q	  Joe, the President announced today a big increase 
in spending to defend against weapons of mass destruction and 
terrorism, and he also said in that interview that there's a high 
probability that there could be such an impact in the next few years.  
Is there any new information that's come along to spark this concern?
	     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  Let me -- the President has since 
the first day he came into office was very interested in making sure 
that we both prepare for and work to deter this kind of threat, 
whether it be chemical, biological or the increase threat of cyber 
terrorism.  I think in his speech today he detailed some of the 
things he has done and some of the things he will or is proposing 
that we do.  So this isn't something that has become -- that has just 
entered sort of his policy or areas of the concern he has for policy.  
	     I think one of the things that he did mention today and 
he believes has been a big step forward is the consolidation of how 
the government deals with these issues.  I think, as he said, it was 
a legitimate criticism 18 months, two years ago, that we had 12 
different offices around the government that dealt with these issues.  
Now there's one.  We have a national coordinator.  We have a center 
at the Justice Department that deals with these.  And I think the 
President, as he stated, believes we must remain vigilant on the 
threats that face us, both to prepare for anything that could happen 
and to deter those who would consider using these threats against the 
American people.

	     Q	  But, I mean, if someone were to launch a biological 
attack on the United States it would be very serious.  Would the 
United States consider ever taking preemptive action?

	     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I don't think I'm going to get into 
the range of options that are available or that might be used.  But I 
think the President's speech today should demonstrate his commitment 
to taking all steps necessary to deter any threat against the 
American people. 


               END                      12:33 P.M. EST