News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Monday, October 18, 1999 - 15:20 P.M. (Local)
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Secretary Cohen Press Conference at Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Manama, Bahrain


Q: Can you tell us what progress there has been on cooperation with the GCC states on the missile defense system?

Secretary Cohen: The kind of cooperation that we are now pursuing with the GCC states is to have a shared early warning system that can be set up so that we can share information pertaining to any early warning activities that will alert us and others to preparation for any kind of a missile attack. We want to share information that we are developing certainly how to protect our troops, how to protect our forces against any kind of a chemical or a biological attack; that we would have active defenses as well, that we would hope to develop against such an attack, and that we want to share information pertaining to what we call consequence management.

We have a very vigorous program underway in the United States to try and prepare roughly a hundred and fifty cities in America to anticipate what would need to be done on their part should they ever experience a chemical or biological attack. How do you train the local police, the firemen, those who are what we call the first responders, to identify what the chemical or biological agent is or was; how to protect themselves against that agent; what sort of measures are necessary to protect the people who have been injured, where do they take them, to which hospitals; how are the hospital personnel trained. So we are going through a fairly vigorous program to bring this information that we have at the Federal level to now share that with local communities who will be the ones who will be required to respond under our Constitutional system.

Response for any type of attack on our domestic soil as such, belongs to the local government officials, from the mayors all the way up through the governors and of course the military which stand to provide some kind of support should they be called upon to do so either by the presence certainly, if the governors request additional assistance. We recently created a joint task force for civil support - a group of about twenty-five or thirty military officers who were NCOs, who will be working to try to prepare for these contingencies in a way of support for intelligence transportation logistics or other types of things - so we hope to share that kind of information because we believe that in the coming years, should there be an attack, it could very likely involve chemical or biological agents. We have been very gratified with the receptivity on the part of Bahrain which has been very interested in working on this issue of increasing defense cooperation. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and we hope all of the Gulf states will join in.