President Clinton issued a new call to arms Thursday to combat the security threats of the 21st century, outlining a series of initiatives to combat cyberattacks, germ warfare and terrorism.
Addressing graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, Clinton warned the American armed forces, while the best in the world, must be ready to fight the next war, not the last."As we approach the 21st century, our foes have extended the fields of battle from physical space to cyberspace; from the world's vast bodies of water to the complex workings of our own human bodies," the president said as several thousand people, families and friends of the Midshipmen, gathered at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"Rather than invading our beaches or launching bombers, these adversaries may attempt cyberattacks against our critical military systems and our economic base. Or they may deploy compact and relatively cheap weapons of mass destruction, not just nuclear but also chemical or biological, to use disease as a weapon of war," Clinton said.
The president announced three broad initiatives to counter possible attacks on the global computer network, the use of germ warfare and the spread of terrorism.
He announced the appointment of National Security Council adviser Richard Clarke as the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism. Clarke would oversee the efforts of a range of federal agencies, from the military to the public health, in addressing the new security threats.
He will be responsible for coordinating policies and programs on counterterrorism, attacks on computer systems, power plants and other infrastructure, and weapons of mass destruction. He also will work with a newly created private sector group headed by former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and former Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick.
The president said the administration will launch a comprehensive plan "to detect, deter and defend against attacks on our critical infrastructures - our power systems, water supplies, police, fire and medical services, air traffic control, financial services, telephone systems and computer networks."
Clinton noted that just 15 years ago these systems were separate and distinct but today are linked together by computer and electronic networks that make them vastly more vulnerable to disruption.
He set a goal of upgrading the computer networks by 2003 to protect the infrastructure systems. Several private sector corporations, including Dell Computers, have agreed to participate in creating the new system.
He also immediately established a national center to warn of and respond to attacks by incorporating representatives from law enforcement and intelligence and the private sector to share information.
"Three days ago, we saw the enormous impact of a single failed electronic link when a satellite malfunction disabled pagers, ATMs, credit card systems, and TV and radio networks all around the world," Clinton said.