You are viewing this page on 911Research.com, which is the backup mirror of 911Research.WTC7.net .
The original page is at http://911research.wtc7.net/cache/post911/aviation/PBS_eberhart.html.
Please link to the original page rather than this mirror page.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Support PBS Shop PBS Search PBS

a NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
Online NewsHour
AIR FORCE GENERAL RALPH EBERHART

Sept. 27, 2002
Air Force General Ralph Eberhart

On Oct. 1, 2002, the U.S. Northern Command will become operational. This new organization, formed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will assist in the defense of the continental United States. U.S. Air Force General Ralph Eberhart, selected by the Penatgon to head the new command, discusses his mission with NewsHour reporter Dan Sagalyn on Sept. 24, 2002.

NewsHour Links

Online Special Report:
The U.S. War on Terrorism

Sept. 27, 2002:
U.S. unveils a new command aimed at bolstering domestic defense.

DAN SAGALYN: This is an interview with General Eberhart for the story on Northern Command. General thank you very much.

GENERAL EBERHART: Thank you, Dan.

DAN SAGALYN: So why was the Northern Command set up? After September 11, the Joint Chiefs sent what I understand to be a letter to the Secretary saying we think something needs to be set up to kind of coordinate all of DOD [Department of Defense], why is Northern Command being set up?

GENERAL EBERHART: Dan, in setting up Northern Command, we've adopted a construct that we've used since the end of World War II and other areas of the world. In fact, in 1947, we established Pacific Command, the European Command, and Southern Command to essentially protect the interests of the United States and of our allies and friends in specific areas of the world, our areas of responsibility, AOR's, as we referred to them. In terms of the United States, what we established was an air defense command and then we eventually established Northern Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] to protect against air and space threats. So what we have when we go with one command that's in charge of all threats, all hazards, if you will, we have what we call the time honored military approach to unity of command. So we have one command in charge and we have one commander in charge whether that threat might come from air, space, land, or sea. And the other thing I think that makes this command I think so timely and so important right now is the fact that because our homeland is in this area of responsibility, this command will be one-stop shopping in terms of providing military support to other federal agencies and to local responders that need that military support to deal with whatever issue they're trying to deal with.

DAN SAGALYN: What was it about September 11th? When the Pentagon had its briefing in April to talk about the new unified command plan, Myers said, if you look back at how the Department responded to the news after the World Trade Center, there was not good unity of effort in that case. What happened? Were there problems?

GENERAL EBERHART: As we responded to that, I'm not sure that there's anything that we can put our finger on that said we did wrong or that we could have done better had we had one command in charge, but the Secretary and the President were uncomfortable with the fact that we had several different people in charge of this area; we had one commander in charge of land and maritime defense, if you will, and another commander in charge of air and space defense. In our vernacular we talk about seams that exist between those missions, those roles, those commands, and those commanders, and by putting one commander, one command in charge, you do away with those seams; you don't have those seams that possibly could be exploited.

DAN SAGALYN: So there were no problems that developed because of that?

GENERAL EBERHART: I can't I can't think of any. I mean I'm sure some could have, and I think we're better prepared now to deal with the situation. But I can't think of a specific issue, other than the fact that the Secretary of Defense and the President had to go to several different commanders to work this problem.

DAN SAGALYN: Okay. So what's Northern Command's mission going to be?

GENERAL EBERHART: The Northern Command's mission is going to be first and foremost defense of our nation and defending our interest and our area of responsibility, so to fight and win our nations wars, just like is the responsibility of the Department of Defense and all the other commands the United States unified command out there across the world. But again what makes us different is that our homeland is in our area of responsibility. Our crown jewels, if you will, are in our area of responsibility, so not only will we have this classic, very important role of defending this nation from outside threats, we must be prepared to respond and react to threats that emanate inside of our borders, if you will, like the threats that we saw come up on 11 September. Now in most cases we won't be in the lead; we will be supporting other lead federal agencies, for example, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], or the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], if it's a law enforcement issue. But we will be again one-stop shopping to bring military support to whatever that problem is to make sure that, one, we'd like to deter and prevent, defeat -- or at least mitigate whatever has happened, and that decision will be made by the President and the Secretary of Defense, and in most cases we'll be invited in by a governor of a state or invited to participate by a lead federal agency.

DAN SAGALYN: I think you used the word deter and defeat. How are you going to deter?

GENERAL EBERHART: Well for example... our CAPs [Combat Air Patrols] out there help deter a bad situation. I would offer to you that the increased security that we established at the Super Bowl, at the Olympics, at the economic, I'm sorry at the G-8 [Group of Eight] summit in Canada, all those actions helped deter.

DAN SAGALYN: And Northern Command will get involved in those kinds of missions?

GENERAL EBERHART: Yes.

DAN SAGALYN: So describe for me specific specific examples of where U.S. forces would be engaging in the kinds of activities that Northern Command would be kind of on top of controlling, would be the headquarters for.

GENERAL EBERHART: Sure, now in terms of the lead we'd be in the lead, God forbid, if we had an external threat another nation state that decided to attack us, whether by air, land, or sea. Thank goodness I don't see that in the near future, but we've got to be prepared for that just like NORAD has been prepared for that since 1957. So those are the situations where we truly have the lead, the Department of Defense would have the lead. But then again back to these national security events that occur -- whether it be the Super Bowl designated that, or the Olympics designated that, or some other activity designated that, we would essentially be in a support role, supporting the lead federal agency, whether it would be the Secret Service or whether it be the FBI. And the Secretary of Defense and the President would make the decision that we have unique capabilities that could be used to, once again, deter, protect, defeat a terrorist or any other type of illegitimate or an attack on our people or on our country. And so that's how we would be used.

DAN SAGALYN: If I walked into a recruiting station and I said I wanted to enlist in the military and I wanted to do I want to do homeland security type missions, I know DoD is in a kind of a supporting role but I want to do the homeland missions, what kind of missions specifically would soldiers be doing? Would they be doing quarantines of biological weapons if a bioweapon went off, would they be doing decontamination? What are some concrete, actual tasks?

GENERAL EBERHART: Obviously the answer to this could be very complicated, Dan, because it could depend on whether or not they're going to join the Air National Guard or you're going to join and be on active duty. Because as you know, as we look at the state militia, the Air National Guard, or the Army...

DAN SAGALYN: But in a generic sense?

GENERAL EBERHART: In a generic sense what we would do is we would train you first and foremost as a soldier, sailor or marine, airman, and then in fact you would have specific tasks -- mission areas you would be trained in so that you could, in fact, help out if we needed you in terms of homeland security. But you wouldn't go into a homeland security track. So if that's what you wanted to do, then you wouldn't want to join up in one of our services.

DAN SAGALYN: Some people I have spoken to have said they are afraid that if there's a major catastrophe, there will be pressure for Northern Command to become the lead agency, that because of the assets that Northern Command will be able to bring, because you guys are so well organized and so well prepared that if there's a conflict, if something happens and it's happening in a couple of different states, and jurisdictions are crossed and there is confusion over who should be responsible, it will be easy to say, well, we've got this great General, he's got all these people under him, let's make him the lead on this. Is that a realistic fear or concern?

GENERAL EBERHART: I certainly hope not because I think if things have deteriorated to that state, that we really have a bad situation and the only way I can see that happening is one of two ways: first, it's become so bad that the lead federal agency in working with the state governors say, you know, we give up, we do not have the wherewithal to deal with this, we need not only federal support and federal help here, but we need the federal forces to take the lead. And then the President and the Secretary of Defense would have to decide, yes, that is appropriate, and they would only take those steps in my view, although I can't speak for them, but in my view they would only take those steps if that's what's necessary to protect the citizens of this great nation.

DAN SAGALYN: But surely a lot of what you're going to be doing is drawing up plans. Are you going to do you have any plans now, or do you expect there will be plans for that kind of situation?

GENERAL EBERHART: No, we don't draw up specific plans for that. We draw up plans that show how we would assist anywhere from flood to fires to a terrorist attack to, God forbid, a chemical, biological, nuclear type weapons attack, weapons of mass destruction. We draw up plans and we draw up plans for the command and control of our forces that would respond and as we support another lead federal agency, but we will have the wherewithal to command and control our forces. So then if it's necessary for us at command and control or give tasking to other forces we would be able to do that.

DAN SAGALYN: Now, at the National Guard Association speech on September 7, you said in almost every case we'll be in support of another agency, and then you said, and it may be niched areas where we're in charge. Now then you mention the combat air patrols. Are there other areas besides the combat air patrols where you think you guys would be the lead agency in addition to the one you talked about where it's an external military threat.

GENERAL EBERHART: I think that that's the area that immediately comes to mind. I think there may be situations if we ever got into a major chem-biological nuclear attack problem where we may in fact be in charge because we would be the only people, depending on the situation, that would be able to deal with the situation. But I think again those are niche areas, those are exceptions, and I have my fingers crossed none of those things will occur.

DAN SAGALYN: So if there were a chemical or biological attack, how what's the threshold where you guys I mean, if it's a little attack and the locals can handle it fine. But what's the threshold where your plans would call for you becoming the lead?

GENERAL EBERHART: Again, we don't have a trigger point in our plans that says we've got it, we're in charge. That decision would be made, in my view, first of all, the local responders, the lead federal agency would say, hey, wait a minute, we don't have the wherewithal to, one, clean this up, and we don't have the wherewithal to be in charge, and therefore the Department of Defense, we would like for you to take the lead and then the President and Secretary of Defense would have to decide that this is in fact appropriate, so we don't have a trigger per se that we say a certain level of devastation we would take the lead. I would also offer Dan that that's going to vary from place to place. We saw the tragedy in New York City and because of the number of people, the number of policemen, firemen, emergency service workers, et cetera, that were there and able to respond and the professionalism of those people very little help was needed from the outside; that might not be the case in another area of the country.

DAN SAGALYN: Okay. Posse comitatus. So how would you characterize the Posse Comitatus Act and what it means to you and your command? Is it a major guiding principle that everyone who joins the command has to kind of know and have read, is it a kind of a nuisance, is it kind of well I can work around that, how do you characterize, what does it mean to you?

GENERAL EBERHART: Well, first of all, it's a law. So as a law it's something we have to be one familiar with and two abide with. And that's certainly what we'll do. But, as you know, the posse comitatus has a lot of provisions whereby it's designed to make sure that there are exceptions so, if necessary, to use federal forces to protect life, property, that there are exceptions that the President has, federal lands, a national emergency, so we believe that right now based on those exceptions that there's nothing in Posse Comitatus that will preclude us from doing what we need to do and what the American people expect us to do. But, as you saw, as the President released his homeland security strategy, he said that we will be, in fact, reviewing posse comitatus law and if we see something in there that we think ties our hands, that precludes us from protecting the American people, then we will pursue a change to posse comitatus, so right now we don't see a problem with the posse comitatus as written but if we see a problem, we're not just going to try to live with it; we will move forward and suggest a change.

DAN SAGALYN: So right now the way it is --so what impact does this law have on the way you will or will not operate?

GENERAL EBERHART: When we respond to support of say a lead federal agency, local responders in State X, Colorado, or wherever that may be there are certain things that we cannot do that in fact others will do and they will have the wherewithal to do, either with law enforcement organizations or with their state National Guard, because posse comitatus does not apply to their state National Guard. So it essentially it establishes lanes in the road, of tasking, missions, if you will. So we know what we can do; they know what they can do; and then we put this together as a team as we work the problem.

DAN SAGALYN: So keep you and your active duty people in their lane?

GENERAL EBERHART: According to the law, exactly.

DAN SAGALYN: Let's talk a little bit about intelligence. At the National Guard Association speech you also talked about shared intelligence and how that would be the underpinning of being able to conduct your mission here. You talked about the importance of actionable, about intelligence. What are you talking about? Explain that.

GENERAL EBERHART: Well a lot of times we talk about, -and at a lot of the exercises we run is after the event has occurred how we mitigate whatever has happened to make sure that a bad situation doesn't get worse, if we will. I like to get into the front end of that problem, if you will.

I like to get into the offense, if you will, and I'm all the way back to what we talked about earlier in terms of deter, prevent, defeat and not just mitigate the situation after it's happened. so to do that, you have to have shared intelligence, and not just the classical intelligence in my view that we have always been involved in in terms of the United States military, but information, so putting things together as the secretary of defense has been talking about recently, connecting the dots. So that we see what the dots look like once they are connected as we did as children. So that hey here's here's what the picture is once you connect all these dots. And then we have a much better chance in my view to have this deterrence, to have this prevention and be able to defeat the enemy. And this has to happen from the local area all the way up to our national intelligence community. [and all places inbetween.]

DAN SAGALYN: So you expect to get information from whom?

GENERAL EBERHART: We'd like to get information of course from the FBI; we'd like to get it through the state militias out there from the state level up through their National Guard and to the National Guard bureau in D.C.; we want to get information from the Coast Guard, Customs, all the government agencies that are involved in intelligence, we have to look for a way to fuse that intelligence and that information so that we're not just reacting, so that we are pro-acting.

DAN SAGALYN: Local police?

GENERAL EBERHART: Local police, local sheriff department, et cetera.

DAN SAGALYN: What kind of information are you going to be getting?

GENERAL EBERHART: I'd like to get information in terms of that they see something suspicious so if we're starting to see a lot of suspicious things or there's a pattern across the country, or if it's at all dams per se or all at hydroelectric plants, that to me starts to paint a picture of where we might be vulneravle or what the enemy is considering doing. We talk about enemy order of battle in the military and to me it applies to terrorists and anybody else that might wish us ill out there. So we've got to start thinking about enemy order of battle when we think of terrorism.

DAN SAGALYN: How many people do you think in your command will be involved in this?

GENERAL EBERHART: In our command in terms of --we will probably have a hundred/hundred and fifty people involved in intelligence gathering, sharing, if you will. We are not going to do the analysis of that information; that will be done by central organizations. So the defense intelligence agency will actually be doing the analysis and sharing the information with us.

DAN SAGALYN: Wait say that again, you are going to have how many people doing what?

GENERAL EBERHART: We should have about 150 people working this problem, we can give you the number exact.

DAN SAGALYN: They're going to be doing what?

GENERAL EBERHART: They're in fact going to be trying to put this different information together so that it's useful for us, and then also trying to decide who else should we share this information with? Obviously we may or may not be the centerpiece of this because in many cases, as we talked about earlier, we're supporting another lead federal agency, so I think many times we're going to get information and we are going say, does the FBI know that, does in fact Customs know that?

DAN SAGALYN: So say for example the FBI...

TAPE CHANGE

DAN SAGALYN: So, so for example, let's say the FBI is investigating what they think is a cell in someplace, wherever, and they think this cell might be cooking up biological weapons. Would you get information, all the information that the FBI has on this cell, the people, the organization, what they might be doing, maybe they were training in Afghanistan, and they travel to wherever, would you be getting all that kind of information?

GENERAL EBERHART: I hope so. In fact we now have an FBI liaison officer here, as part of Northern Command and at a farily high level and it's that individual's job to make sure that the information we have that's relevant for the FBI and the information they have that's relevant to us is in fact shared.

DAN SAGALYN: Will you have people who are directly connected to Northern Command who will actually go out and actually collect it?

GENERAL EBERHART: No we will not collect the information.

DAN SAGALYN: Okay. What do you say to critics at the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] who say during the 50s and 60s DoD spied on anti-war protestors and used that information for political purposes. Politically motivated purposes. How are you going to prevent this information you guys are getting from being misused?

GENERAL EBERHART: I think it's very important to note, as we talked earlier, first and foremost our mission is the defense of this great nation and our interests -- homeland defense if you will -- to win our nation's war. Secondly, when we support a law enforcement entity, when we support FEMA for consequence management, we are going to be in a supporting role; we are not going to have the lead. So we are not going to be out there spying on people trying to get information on people, that's that's not our mission; that's not something that we are interested in. And we are very, very concerned that we stay in our lane, as we discussed earlier, that we only do what, one, we are authorized to do, and secondly what is necessary to conduct our mission as the American people would expect us. So I am very concerned about the personal rights, the rights of our citizens out there and we're not going to do anything that would come close to infringing on those rights; to me, when you look at the 50's and 60's, some ugly things happened, and and and I can assure that as we stand up this command, we're not involved in those kinds of activities.

DAN SAGALYN: So what kind of guidelines will you issue that make sure that happens?

GENERAL EBERHART: Again we're not going to be in the intelligence gathering mode, so we're not going to be out there gathering intelligence; we're not going to be watching or observing or we're not going to be out there listening; we don't do those kinds of things; we get information from people who do.

DAN SAGALYN: Will you be able to task people?

GENERAL EBERHART: We will be able to ask what we call request for information. So we'll be able to ask that. But we're not going to be asking for information on American people on Ed Eberhart, on Dan people like that, we're not going to be asking for that type of information. We're going to be asking for information that we think in fact someone is doing there's a terrorist training camp, wherever, do we believe that they they have sent people that come to the United States or are coming to the United States to prosecute an attack against the United States. Those are the kinds of things that we are going to be interested in.

DAN SAGALYN: At the speech at the National Guard Association you also talked about Iraq. You said the other thing I'm concerned about is if our nation decides to take action against Saddam Hussein what that's going to mean in terms of homeland security and to make sure we are collectively postured to deal with that situation to protect our fellow citizens. What are you talking about? Explain that.

GENERAL EBERHART: Essentially we have the mission of making sure that we provide protection for troops who are deploying overseas, so whether they're deploying from Peterson Air Force Base or they're deploying from one of our ports, we have the responsibility to make sure that they're safe, that they are not attacked while they are training and while they are deploying overseas, so we want to make sure that in fact terrorists sponsored by Iraq or a copycat in fact do not put our troops in their cross hairs, if you will, as they are preparing and deploying.

DAN SAGALYN: What about Iraqi attacks on domestic populations?

GENERAL EBERHART: So Iraqi attacks on domestic populations depending on how they begin and how they are prosecuted, whether they're a law enforcement issue or an external attack coming in we'll either have the lead in the latter or we'll have the support role in the former to make sure that we provide support to the law enforcement agencies as they protect the men and women of this great nation in the X city or wherever that might be.

DAN SAGALYN: So if there were intelligence reports that Iraqis agents were in the United States with biological weapons, that information was there, what would you guys do?

GENERAL EBERHART: What we would be doing is we would be coordinating with the lead federal agency in this case, which would be the FBI, to see what types of assistance that we have that they might need to make sure that we can protect our citizens.

DAN SAGALYN: Now you said in the speech you were concerned about this. How much of a concern is this?

GENERAL EBERHART: It's a great concern to us.

DAN SAGALYN: Do you lose sleep over it?

GEN EBERHART: I lose sleep over a lot of things. It's one of many things.

DAN SAGALYN: Is this one of the things you lose sleep over?

GEN EBERHART: It's one of the things I lose sleep over.

DAN SAGALYN: What is the likely scenario you think might happen?

GENERAL EBERHART: I'd just as soon not put ideas out there in people who are building scenarios right now. So -- we've run lots of different scenarios; we've run lots of different exercises as we as we fabricate, as we red team ourselves what might the enemy do to us and how can we deal with those scenarios? And some of those scenarios, as you know, they're not new; we've been working those for years with law enforcement agencies out there as we have looked at some of the work that the Congress has asked and initiated and as we work with cities in our ability to respond to those kinds of situations.

DAN SAGALYN: So I mean, do you have plans for this kind of thing? I mean, do you have plans that you're developing now in case Iraq does something to the United States?

GENERAL EBERHART: We sure do.

DAN SAGALYN: What's in the plans?

GENERAL EBERHART: That's for us to know and for Iraq to wonder about.

DAN SAGALYN: So when the United States goes on a war footing you guys will have to kind of beef up and prepare?

GENERAL EBERHART: And we've done that. We have what we call force protection conditions that is essentially is how we do security on military installations and federal installations out there and so any time we see a reason out there because of some intelligence that we've gotten, because of tragic events of 9/11, or when we initiate military operations, we'll usually take that force protection condition and change it, and we won't provide the specifics of what that equates to but I can tell you that the security is tighter and it should be tighter, and so those are the kinds of things that we'll be looking at and probably do if in fact if we get involved in hostilities in Iraq.

DAN SAGALYN: So NORTHCOM is responsible for force protection for all forces in the United States?

GENERAL EBERHART: We will in fact be responsible for the forces that are deploying overseas, so right now the services are responsible for force protection on their installations, so if it's a Navy installation, the Navy is responsible for force protection on that installation; but as these forces start deploying off that installation, and across the United States, then we will be responsible for providing for their security.

DAN SAGALYN: So when people are in transit from Base X to the base where they are actually going to leave from, that's what you're responsible for?

GENERAL EBERHART: And if they're leaving from not a base, if you will -- if they're leaving from a port, debarkation whether it's a seaport or an airport and we'll be responsible and make sure that they are secure.

DAN SAGALYN: So looking ahead, what are the challenges for Northern Command?

GENERAL EBERHART: I think first and foremost is setting up a new organization, making sure that our people are properly trained, that they're certified to make sure that we are, in fact, not reactive, that we're proactive, and that we're working both sides of this problem, not just our ability to react to a situation, to mitigate, and keep a bad situation from getting worse, but again to deter, to protect and defeat the threat. So, those are our biggest challenges as we stand up this command on 1 October.

DAN SAGALYN: So give me an example of an offensive, standing forward kind of operation activity you guys would be involved in here.

GENERAL EBERHART: Things like combat air patrols; to me that's a perfect example.

DAN SAGALYN: What else?

GEN EBERHART: Another example would be increased security at a port as we work with the Coast Guard, as we work with the Navy, as we provide additional assistance to the lead federal agency, another example would, as we talked about earlier, would be the Olympics, or the Super Bowl, so that it's very obvious to everyone that security is hightened here, and if you try to do something, you're not going to succeed.

DAN SAGALYN: But all those activities you described for me are kind of beefing up, getting ready, the initiatives still left for the attacker to attack and then you respond, you're kind of beefing up, getting ready. Is there anything you do that's more on the offensive, where you're doing something, not just heightening your posture to get ready to be hit?

GENERAL EBERHART: Again, I can't speak for the law enforcement agencies because that is in fact the role of a law enforcement agency; if they know where these attackers are holed up, if you will, and going to move from Place X to Y to commence the attack, hopefully we'll have the intelligence that we need to attack them at Place X, before they start moving to where we are at Point Y. I think the President has made that very clear in first his West Point speech, when he talks about preemption, and second in the national security strategy that was just released this week where he talks about preemption; we're not going to wait for them to smack us in the nose.

DAN SAGALYN: So what preemptory kind of things will you guys be doing in Northern Command besides the beefing up of security?

GENERAL EBERHART: Again, it depends on the type of attack, whether we have the lead or whether we don't have the lead. So, if we don't have the lead, then, in fact, it'll be up to the FBI or the Secret Service or Coast Guard in some cases, to do this preemption, if you will. Now if we have capabilities that they think they need to be successful, then we'll make those capabilities available to them, but they will have the lead. I guess, thank goodness, a little bit far fetched situation might be let's say that we have a ship that's three or four hundred miles off the coast, of, the West Coast, off the West Coast. It, in fact, we believe has a Cruise missile on it and that Cruise missile has, you could put a weapon of mass destruction on it, or you could put a normal kinetic explosive on this Cruise missile. And if we think that that Cruise missile is about to be used against the United States, I can see where NORTHCOM would have the lead to send either Navy ships or aircraft, Navy aircraft, Marine Aircraft, Air Force aircraft, or a combination thereof, to make sure we preempt that attack. And we would in fact have the lead in that situation.

DAN SAGALYN: And what about if it were a chemical or biological potential attack?

GENERAL EBERHART: In my view if it's sitting out that 400 miles off, we would have the lead.

DAN SAGALYN: But if it were in the territory of the United States?

GENERAL EBERHART: Again, we would not have the lead unless, in fact, that lead federal agency, the FBI, in most every case here, didn't have the wherewithal to deal with it, and needed our capabilities, they would retain the lead; we would provide capabilities to make sure they were successful in their preemption. And that decision again would be made by the President and the Secretary of Defense; not by me.

DAN SAGALYN: So October 1st, you have your first operational capability and then in the year you're fully operational. When you say initial operational capability, what does that mean? What will you be able to do October 1st -- what will you not be able to do in a year that you will be able I mean what will you be able to do in a year that you won't be able to do October 2?

GENERAL EBERHART: First of all, when you look at the command, there's about 200 of the people assigned to the headquarters in October of this year compared to about 500 next year and they will come there over the course of the year. So there's some updating of plans that exist today, some development of new plans that will all be accomplished over the course of this next year. I believe that it will also continue to work our relationships with all these other government agencies that we'll be liasoning, communicating, coordinating with, so I believe that we will be doing that much more effectively come 1 October of '03 as opposed to 1 October of '02. But I must footstomp that we're going to get to full operational capability as soon as we can. We're not just going to mark time here and say we have plenty of time until next October. If we can get to full operational capability this coming April, or next July, that's what we're striving for; we're striving to get there as soon as we possibly can. I'd also philosophically add that we may never get to full operational capability because I think this is a mission that evolves and if we use our initiative, our innovation, that we're always going to be looking for ways to do this better, and to better protect the American people and our friends and allies in that area of responsibility.

DAN SAGALYN: Anything else you want me to ask that I haven't asked?

GENERAL EBERHART: I think the most important part of this is, and I talked when you asked me about, how we're we going to be successful, what are my major concerns, and that's the people who serve. Whether they're airmen, a soldier, sailor, marine, coast guardman, whether there are civilians on staff, they're the real key to our success. And as we work with the inter-agency, all the other government agencies that are involved with the security of this great nation, those relationships will be what will be key to the success in terms of homeland defense and homeland security.

DAN SAGALYN: Good. I think I've covered everything I wanted to.

DAN SAGALYN: How does CBIRF (chemical biological incident response force) fit into your overall scheme of things?

GENERAL EBERHART: We believe CBIRF is a very important capability, a very important capability in terms of homeland defense and in terms of homeland security. I applaud General Krulak as he stood up this capability while he was the Commandant. And of course General Jones has continued to make this capability even more vibrant in the years since it was stood up. We will not have command and control of CBIRF day in and day out. But it's like everything else in the Department of Defense -- if we need it to respond to a situation, to make sure that we provide that type of help, that type of assistance, or that type of protection for the American people, it's the type of capability that can be transferred to our command and control as we go out and conduct this mission. So, CBIRF will be very very key if we run into a situation like that and it's very impressive. I think you visited CBIRF. So, right now we are counting on CBIRF if we ever get to that type of situation.

home | newshour index | search | forum | political wrap | letters | essays & dialogues | off camera

The NewsHour is funded, in part, by:

ADM SBC Communications CIT Group Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Copyright 2004 MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. All Rights Reserved.