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Troops-on-the-Move to Get Increased Force Protection.

The U.S. military services have made significant progress in protecting their installations against terrorist attacks since the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. Last year's assault on the USS Cole, however, disclosed a gap in that protection, which the Pentagon now is scrambling to fill, according to Defense Department officials.

Most vulnerable at the moment are our in-transit ships and planes," Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May.

Overall, in the four and a half years since the Khobar Towers attack--which killed 19 airmen--"we've made monumental progress in our antiterrorism force-protection (AT/FP) efforts," Shelton said.

After Khobar Towers, the joint chiefs created the Joint Staff Combating Terrorism Directorate (J-34) to coordinate antiterrorist operations for all of the services, Shelton noted.

"Defense planners include combating terrorism among their very top priorities," he said. Funding for antiterrorist programs increased by $100 million in fiscal year 2001 to a total of $3.5 billion, he noted.

Teams from the directorate have visited 327 military installations worldwide to assess their abilities to thwart terrorist threats. An additional 96 bases will receive visits by the end of this year.

Base commanders receive a step-by-step guide in developing thorough and inclusive plans. In addition, the department has instituted four levels of antirerrorism training--a basic awareness course for all defense personnel and their families, an advanced curriculum for force-protection officers, seminars for commanding officers and executive-level briefings for senior officials.

The Combating Terrorism Directorate has created two organizations "that are vital" to the Pentagon's efforts to leverage technology in the battle against terrorism, Shelton said.

"The Physical Security Equipment Action Group coordinates Defense Department efforts in acquiring all physical-security equipment, including commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology that has AT/FP applicability," he said. "Another organization, the Technical Support Working Group, focuses on rapid prototype technologies in the AT/FP arena."

All of these efforts apparently are paying off. Since Khobar Towers, Pentagon officials noted, there have been no new attacks against U.S. military bases anywhere in the world. Instead, terrorists have turned their attention to more vulnerable targets, such as the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, where large-vehicle bombs killed a dozen Americans and 224 Africans in 1998.

The blast that killed 17 sailors and heavily damaged the Cole last October in the Yemeni port of Aden shocked the Navy, said Capt. Martin J. Erdossy, force-protection director for the Navy Department. Erdossy made his comments last May at the third Force Protection Equipment Demonstration (FPED III), sponsored by the Defense Department at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va. Its purpose was to allow manufacturers to showcase currently available state-of-the-art AT/FP technologies.

"Prior to the Cole, many of us thought that terrorism was something that happened to somebody else--somebody with fixed facilities," Erdossy said. "We were wrong."

In the aftermath of the Cole attack, then Defense Secretary William Cohen appointed a commission headed by Army Gen. William W Crouch and Navy Adm. Harold W. Gehman, both retired, to recommend security improvements. The commission, earlier this year, issued its report, with 30 findings and 53 recommendations, which are being implemented "aggressively," Shelton told the senators. For example:

* All of the services are developing more comprehensive pre-deployment and recurring AT/FP training, giving it the same priority as their war-fighting requirements.

* Theater commanders are stepping up efforts to help other nations improve their abilities to protect U.S. personnel, including those stationed within their borders and those just passing through.

* In cases where host nations lack the ability or desire to meet increased security levels, the United States is negotiating to allow U.S. forces to provide such measures, possibly including armed patrols around U.S. installations.

In addition, individual services are beefing up protection for in-transit forces. For instance, the Navy has:

* Created a Maritime Ship Security Augmentation Force for the Fifth Fleet, which is headquartered in Bahrain. This team deploys to ports in advance of ship arrivals to ensure that the site is secure.

* Begun increasing its security force by 50 percent from 4,000 full-time security professionals before the Cole incident to 6,000 by 2003.

* Significantly boosting amounts and quality of AT/FP materiel issued to all deploying units. Such gear now includes body armor, hand-held searchlights, riot-control equipment, collapsible batons, explosive detection kits and water-filled barriers.

All of the services are in the market for new technologies to help them offer improved protection for their forces, said Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Cofer, deputy director for operations in the Combating Terrorism Directorate.

More than 400 vendors, displaying more than 1,000 new COTS products, pitched their tents along the runway at Quantico's Marine Corps Air Facility. To qualify for exhibition at FPED, products were required to be available for procurement and testing within 90 days of the event. Some examples:

* ACE/Security Laminates, based in Ottawa, demonstrated a window laminate that withstood a blast from 50 pounds of TNT without spraying potentially lethal fragments of glass.

* FLIR Systems, of Portland, Ore., offered a wide range of fixed and hand-held thermal-imaging cameras to improve vision in dark or hazy conditions.

* General Motors Defense, based in London, Ontario, presented an armored tactical-rescue vehicle, with an extension ladder, capable of transporting a crew of 12.

* K9 Storm Inc., headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, exhibited bulletproof armor for military and police dogs. The armor includes a built-in harness system that enables a dog to participate in prison-cell extractions and aerial insertions.

* Magnum Spike!, of Brookfield, Wis., displayed a light-weight, portable tire-deflation system, including as many as 188 individual spikes, each 2.5 inches long, which can be deployed quickly across a road, bringing vehicles to a quick halt.

* Precision Remotes Inc., based in Point Richmond, Calif., demonstrated its TRAP (Telepresent Rapid Aiming Program) T-2 system, which enables snipers to fire their weapons accurately by remote control from distances as great as 1,000 yards

* The Yodock Wall Company, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., showed off a portable security barrier that could be ballasted with sand or water, making it sturdy enough to stop 7.62-mm rifle fire.
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Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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