THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Annapolis, Maryland) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 22, 1998
PREPAREDNESS FOR A BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS ATTACK
President Clinton recognizes that the availability of biological agents and advances in biotechnology mean that the United States must be prepared for an attack involving biological weapons against our armed forces or civilians.
Already, the U.S. military is working hard to defend against this danger. The possibility that during the recent crisis in the Persian Gulf region our forces might be confronted with biological weapons produced by Saddam Hussein's secret program demonstrates the urgency of this effort. Under President Clinton's leadership, the Department of Defense has made real strides to protect American troops:
An additional $1 billion for chemical and biological defense were added to the Five-Year Defense Plan.
Starting today, the Defense Department's vaccination program against the lethal anthrax bacteria is being expanded to include not just troops in the Gulf region but all active and reserve American armed forces personnel.
America's military is also playing an important role in domestic preparedness.
Under the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Program, military experts are participating in the training of emergency personnel in our 120 largest cities for response to a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction.
Today, the Department of Defense is announcing the selection of ten states in which National Guard units will be specially trained to assist state and local authorities to manage the consequences of a WMD attack. The states are: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Colorado, California and Washington.
President Clinton believes we must do more to protect our civilian population from the scourge of biological weapons. In his commencement speech at Annapolis, he announced that the government would develop a comprehensive strategy to address this threat. There are four critical areas of focus:
First, if terrorists release bacteria or viruses to harm Americans, we must be able to identify the pathogens with speed and certainty. The President's plan will seek to improve our public health and medical surveillance systems so the alarm can be sounded fast. These improvements will benefit not only our preparedness for a biological weapons attack -- they will pay off in an enhanced ability to respond quickly and effectively to outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases.
Second, our emergency response personnel must have the training and equipment to do their jobs right. Building on current programs, President Clinton's plan will ensure that federal, state and local authorities have the resources and the knowledge they need to deal with a crisis.
Third, we must have the medicines and vaccines needed to treat those who fall sick or prevent those at risk from falling ill because of a biological weapons attack. President Clinton will propose the creation of an unprecedented civilian medical stockpile. The choice of medicines and vaccines to be stockpiled will be made on the basis of the pathogens that are most likely to be in the hands of terrorists or hostile powers.
Fourth, the revolution in biotechnology offers enormous possibilities for combating biological weapons. President Clinton's plan will set out a coordinated research and development effort to use the advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology to create the next generation of medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tools for use against these weapons.
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