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Homeland Security Defenses Must Be Active, Layered

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2005 Homeland security requires defense in depth and at a distance, the Defense Department's top official for homeland defense said during a speech today at the Heritage Foundation here.

"The core element of homeland defense and civil support is the recognition that we must have an active, layered defense in depth," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense. "A passive defense is inevitably going to fail. A close-in defense will inevitably be inadequate."

McHale said it's not enough to be able to identify, interdict and defeat weapons of mass destruction in U.S. ports. "We must be able to do it at a distance," he said. "We must be able to do it, hopefully, before that weapon of mass destruction ever leaves a foreign port en route to the United States."

While the threat to America's security has changed dramatically in the 21st century, McHale said, the nation's defense strategies are changing as well.

Identifying the battle space is a key component of DoD's homeland defense strategy, McHale said. Once that's been accomplished, he added, every weapons system available should be employed, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to identify the enemy and defeat him before he brings the fight to American shores.

"That's precisely the theory that we have now incorporated into our homeland defense strategy," McHale said. "Identify that battle space in depth, call up on every capability, including those within the inner agency and those possessed by our coalition partners, to identify and defeat the threat at a distance."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, air patrols have guarded major U.S. cities to deter another attack using airplanes. Ground defenses also have been enhanced. And government, McHale said, is prepared to make "very difficult, sobering decisions" should a terrorist ever again threaten the nation from the sky if it means saving an even greater number of American lives.

Maritime defense, McHale said, presents the greatest single opportunity to enhance domestic security. These opportunities include the creation of a maritime equivalent of North American Aerospace Defense Command and an in-depth naval defense designed to defeat hostile nation states as well as terrorists potentially armed with weapons of mass destruction, he said.

"When we speak of a maritime NORAD," he explained, "we're not talking about just a bilateral relationship with Canada modeled on the NORAD agreement we have in the air domain. We're talking about a defense in depth -- the ability to detect at a distance on the high seas a weapon of mass destruction, the ability to track (in) real time such threat platforms, (and) the ability to interdict, board and conduct render-safe operations with regard to weapons of mass destruction on the high seas."

In December, McHale said, President Bush signed a directive instructing DoD and the Department of Homeland Security to lead an ongoing initiative to draft a new maritime strategy for the United States. The strategy is now complete and is expected to be ready for presidential review by midsummer, he said.

Two components of the strategy -- the Maritime Domain Awareness Plan and the Maritime Operational Threat Response Plan -- will dramatically reshape maritime defenses, McHale told the Heritage Foundation audience.

"It is, in short, a key homeland defense objective to ensure our ability to execute maritime intercept operations," he said. This will require "complete synchronization" of Coast Guard and Navy capabilities, he said.

Building in-depth layers of defense, McHale said, requires information and intelligence from allied partners overseas as well as their cooperation and an integration of military capabilities. Only then, he added, will the United States be able to achieve the layers of defense necessary to impede an enemy attack.

U.S. officials, McHale said, are discussing the matter with Canada, Great Britain, Mexico and Israel, among others.

"We have tremendous ... national capabilities and military capabilities within the United States that we can bring to bear upon the offensive actions of transnational terrorists," McHale said. "But we can't do it alone. We must work with friends and allies to maximize the strength of our defense."

Calling the brutality of Sept. 11 an "unprecedented wake-up call," McHale said much about the nation's security strategy has changed, and has changed dramatically.

"It is the unprecedented security environment of the 21st century that requires us to build upon and move dramatically beyond our Cold War defenses so that those defenses of the 21st century are equally effective against hostile nation states and transnational terrorist organizations," he said. "With a sense of urgency, the Department of Defense is building those defenses."

Paul McHale