DoD Must Anticipate, Prepare for Future Terrorism
As long as terrorism remains a threat, DoD must focus less on its accomplishments and more on what needs to be done to protect U.S. assets at home and worldwide.
Army Brig. Gen. Larry Dodgen delivered that message Aug. 19 at DoD’s worldwide conference on anti-terrorism. Dodgen, a DoD policy and missions expert for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said the June 1996 terrorist attack on U.S. service members in Saudi Arabia “exposed our fears, made us wonder about our soft points and causes us to question to this day, how much [protection] is enough.”
Reciting actions taken since the Khobar Towers bombing last year, Dodgen said DoD must constantly re-evaluate every action in the light of increasing and expanding terrorist capabilities.
“We must ask ourselves, what have we accomplished with the things we have put in place?” Dodgen said. “Are these measures
effective against the current terrorist threat, and are they flexible enough for the future?”
He said terrorists have a broad arsenal of weapons at their disposal and won’t hesitate to strike when they sense a vulnerability.
“We must consider how the changing world economy and proliferation affects the threats that confront us,” Dodgen said. “We must anticipate our enemies and methods they will use against us, such as weapons of mass destruction, attacks on our infrastructure and information systems, and areas as of now unknown to us.”
The general said terrorists are as likely to come from the U.S. population as from Third World nations. It will become increasingly difficult to detect terrorists from the general population, he said, and international cooperation will be imperative.
“As we do today,” he said, “our armed forces will find themselves working as part of coalition operations. We must ensure that our actions are synchronized. Moreover, we must not forget the possibility of homegrown terrorists.”
Dodgen urged his audience of anti-terrorism and force protection specialists to “look for what doesn’t work. This will take vigilance, attention to detail and in some cases, courage to come forward and call it the way you see it,” he said, “[but] it’s the only way to make sure anti-terrorism measures are effective and remain relevant.”
While lauding Pentagon-level initiatives, Dodgen sounded a warning about the total force responsibility to combat terrorism. “We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent at lower levels,” he said, “because when our guard is down, the terrorist will attack.
Fear of terrorists carries with it the risk of overreacting to the threat, Dodgen said. “We must not allow ourselves to become incident driven. Service in our armed forces is inherently dangerous, and there is no way to avoid risk. A ‘zero defect’ attitude can make us cautious and timid, jeopardizing success. We cannot ‘force protection’ ourselves to a point where we are paralyzed from accomplishing our mission.”
Dodgen forecast “many silent victories and some noisy defeats” in the years ahead, adding, “There is no substitute for establishing good habits across the board. Each of us — from senior leaders to junior troops — must walk the talk.”
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
September 4, 1997