September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Prepared Statement for the House and Senate Armed Services Committees: "Building a Military for the 21st Century" By Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; October 3 and 4, 2001

Prepared Statement for the House and Senate Armed Services Committees: "Building a Military for the 21st Century" By Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, October 3 and 4, 2001 .



It has now been three weeks since the strikes against the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers. Words cannot describe the horror of what the entire world witnessed that day.

In the wake of these terrible assaults, our initial horror has given way to a mixture of intense sadness, quiet anger, and resolute determination: We will deal decisively with the terrorist network that is responsible for this horror—and those who aid and abet their barbaric assaults on all civilized people of all religions everywhere in the world.

But as we prepare for the battles ahead, we must recognize that these strikes were not just an act of war—they were a window into our future:

A future where new enemies visit violence on us in startling ways; a future in which our cities are among the battlefields and our people are among the targets; a future in which more and more adversaries will possess the capability to bring war to the American homeland; a future where the old methods of deterrence are no longer sufficient—and new strategies and capabilities are needed to ensure peace and security.

These attacks were an assault on our people and our way of life; but they were also a wake-up call—one that we ignore at our peril.

We therefore have two missions before us today: First, to prepare for a war that is already upon us—to break the network of terrorist states and terrorist organizations responsible for these acts, and cripple their ability to threaten our people with further violence. And second, to prepare for the future—to transform our Armed Forces so they can defend America and her allies against the many different and dangerous threats we will face in the 21st Century, to ensure that we can deal with the surprise of the next decade and the decade to come.

Both of these missions are critical and urgent: What is at stake in the first is our lives and our way of life; what is at stake in the second is the lives and the futures of our children and grandchildren.


The American people breathed a sigh of relief when the Cold War ended a decade ago.

They looked around and saw we were a superpower with no obvious adversary capable of destroying us.

They saw democracy spreading across the globe. They saw a powerful economic expansion creating unprecedented prosperity. And there was a temptation to believe that this favorable circumstance was a permanent condition.

On September 11th, America learned that it was not.

The September 11th attacks have awakened us to a fundamental reality: the 21st Century security environment will be different from the one we faced in the 20th Century—but just as dangerous.

To ensure our safety and freedom in the decades ahead, we need to understand the change that has taken place—and the lessons it holds for our future.

Lesson 1: Surprise is Back.

Military history is full of surprises. Indeed, surprise happens so often that it’s surprising we’re still surprised by it. We ought to expect it.

Yet during the Cold War, our security environment had an appearance of predictability. We knew our adversary—an expansionist empire, with forces ready to march across Europe, surrogate armies seeking to overthrow our allies and install puppet regimes around the world, and a massive nuclear arsenal pointed at U.S. cities.

We understood this threat—and developed an effective strategy to deter and eventually to defeat it.

In the 21st Century, the threat is not nearly as clear. Until a few weeks ago, many questioned whether there are even any threats anymore, even though a vast array of dangerous military capabilities are spreading into the hands of multiple potential adversaries—many of whom hate America and our allies and friends, wish to harm our people, and are not afraid to strike U.S. territory in previously unimaginable ways.

The September 11th strikes caught us by surprise. We must prepare ourselves for the virtual certainty that we will be surprised again.

One scholar of Pearl Harbor said that the reason we surprised then was because of "a poverty of expectations–a routine obsession with a few dangers that may be familiar rather than likely." It has been a recurring problem through military history.

As we have painfully learned in recent weeks, the likely dangers of this new century will be quite different from the seemingly familiar dangers of the past century. Threats that were previously considered "improbable" may in fact become the likely threats of the future.

Until three weeks ago, an attack like the one we suffered September 11th seemed unimaginable to most Americans. If we ignore other emerging and seemingly unimaginable threats, the consequences for our people and our way of life might be even more horrible.

We must constantly strive to perfect our intelligence, but we must also realize that there is no such thing as perfect intelligence—there will always be gaps in our intelligence. Adapting to surprise—adapting quickly and decisively—must therefore be a condition of planning.

We must not take the lesson from September 11th that terrorism is the new, predictable threat of the 21st Century—to do so could be a terrible mistake and leave us exposed to different challenges in the next decade.

Therefore we face the enormously demanding task of fighting an extraordinarily difficult kind of war and at the same time preparing for the future.

The next challenge we face may not be a terrorist attack at all, but something entirely different—it might even be a return to the past with nation states invading their neighbors.

Future adversaries may employ even bolder forms of terrorism. These could include cyber attacks, advanced conventional weapons, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to strike at our people and our way of life.

The element of surprise—and the reality of little or no warning—must be understood as a critical feature of the security environment America faces—and one we must factor into our defense planning for the decades ahead.

Lesson 2: The Era of Invulnerability is Over.

The attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers were the first assaults on U.S. territory since World War II—and the first attack on our capital by a foreign enemy since the War of 1812.

It is no accident that no adversary has struck our capital for 189 years. For most of our history, the United States has been blessed with the security advantage of excellent geography—a continental nation with friendly neighbors and two vast ocean buffers.

To get to U.S. territory, an adversary first had to get past our Armed Forces, who protected our shores by land, sea and air.

The arrival of the atomic age changed that. During the Cold War we faced, for the first time, an adversary capable of visiting destruction on our cities and our people in a matter of minutes.

The end of the Cold War did not restore our previous invulnerability—to the contrary, as the recent attacks on Washington and New York demonstrate, we are witnessing a dramatic expansion of the deadly zone of conflict to our population centers. War used to be something that took place on foreign soil. No longer.

This threat will only grow worse in the coming years. Here is why:

The information revolution that is fueling the world economy is also putting dangerous technologies into the hands of multiple adversaries, many of whom despise our nation and wish to harm our people.

Along with the globalization that is creating interdependence among the world’s free economies, there is a parallel globalization of terror, in which rogue states and terrorist organizations share information, intelligence, technology, weapons materials and know-how.

This technology will allow new adversaries to get past our Armed Forces and strike our territory without having to confront and defeat them.

As technology proliferates, with each passing year our enemies will possess an increasing capability to bring war to the American homeland.

What this means is that, in the 21st Century, we can no longer count on conflicts remaining contained within their region of origin far from our shores. It means that future wars may well include a home front.

Lesson 3: Our Adversary Has Changed.

In addition to the spread of more powerful weapons, we will also face new adversaries in the decades ahead—with different motivations and different capabilities.

Some may simply seek regional hegemony, and see the U.S. as a roadblock to their ambitions.

Others may be motivated by hatred of America, and the traditions of freedom and religious toleration we represent.

Our new adversaries may be, in some cases, more dangerous than those we faced in the past.

They may not possess the tens of thousands of nuclear warheads capable of ending life on earth that the Soviet Union did—but they may be more likely to use the increasingly powerful weapons in their possession.

Their decision-making is not subject to the same constraints that earlier adversaries faced. Usama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il answer to no one. They can use the capabilities at their disposal without consultation or constraint—and have demonstrated a willingness to do so.

They may be less likely to be discouraged by traditional deterrence. The threat of massive U.S. retaliation certainly did not stop the September 11th assault on the Pentagon or the World Trade Towers. We cannot be certain it will stop other adversaries.

What this means is we need a new approach to deterrence for the 21st Century. What worked against the Soviet threat, may not work against the threats we face in the decades ahead.

We are now facing enemies that are increasingly capable—and willing—to bring war to the American homeland. We must find new ways to deter them.

Lesson 4: Their Objectives Are the Same as Tyrants of the Past

The terrorist movements and totalitarian regimes of the world have a variety of motives and goals. But the same thing unites our enemies today, as it did in the past: a desire to see America driven into retreat and isolation.

Usama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il and other such tyrants all want to see America out of critical regions of the world, constrained from coming to the aid of friends and allies, and unable to project power in the defense of our interests and ideals.

By holding our people hostage to terror and fear, their intention is for America to be intimidated into withdrawal and inaction—leaving them free to impose their will on their peoples and neighbors unmolested by America’s military might.

This is why terrorist states harbor terrorist movements like al-Qaeda—these groups serve their ends.

That is why our challenge today is greater than winning the war against terrorism. Today’s terrorist threat is a precursor of even greater threats to come.

It is no coincidence that the states harboring, financing and otherwise assisting terrorists, are also in many cases the same states that are aggressively working to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and the means to deliver them.

They have learned from the Gulf War that challenging American forces head-on doesn’t work—so they have turned increasingly to developing asymmetric capabilities.

Along with WMD and other capabilities to threaten our homeland, they are developing new advanced conventional capabilities—"access denial" weapons such as anti-ship cruise missiles, quiet diesel subs, advanced sea-mines, air defense systems and radars.

All of these capabilities serve their common objective of keeping America out of their regions and unable to project force in the defense of freedom.

This threat is as great as any we faced during the Cold War. Peace and freedom in the 21st Century depend on our ability to counter it at all levels.

We must defeat the terrorist network responsible for the September 11th assaults.

But just as importantly, we need to prepare now for the emerging threats we will face in the next decade and beyond.

Each of these tasks by themselves is an enormous challenge, but we have the challenge of doing both at the same time.


For the past several months, the senior civilian and military leaders of the Defense Department have been working to examine the emerging threats we will face in the coming decades—and develop a new defense strategy to meet them.

The result of those efforts is the Quadrennial Defense Review, which was sent to Congress on September 30th.

The QDR was largely completed before September 11th. Yet, in important ways, these attacks confirm the strategic direction and planning principles that resulted from this review, particularly its emphasis: on establishing homeland defense as the top Department priority; on preparing for uncertainty and surprise; on contending with asymmetric threats; on developing new concepts of deterrence; on replacing a threat-based strategy with a capabilities-based strategy; and, balancing deliberately the four different dimensions of risk.

The attack on the United States on September 11th will require us to move forward more rapidly in these directions—even while we are engaged in the campaign against terrorism.

On September 11th, new dangers arrived sooner than expected. With the pace of technological change today, we must expect that other new dangers could emerge just as quickly—and with just as little notice—in the future as well.

To meet the challenges over the horizon, we must transform our Armed Forces more rapidly, more creatively, and even more radically than we had previously planned.

As we do so, we must recognize another fact: it is in the nature of surprise that the surprise of the next decade is likely to be something entirely different from the surprise we just experienced.

It is a fact of life that countries frequently prepare to fight the last war. We spent much of the 1990s planning to re-fight the Gulf War. As we think ahead to the year 2010 and beyond, we should not assume that the war we will fight then will resemble the one we are preparing to fight today.

So as we prosecute this war against terrorism today, we must at the same time begin developing the force that will fight and win the wars of the future.

That is goal set for us by the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Capabilities-based Approach

The strategy outlined in the QDR is built around four key goals that will guide the development of U.S. forces and capabilities, their deployment and use: assuring allies and friends of the United States’ steadiness of purpose and its capability to fulfill its security commitments; dissuading adversaries from undertaking programs or operations that could threaten U.S. interests or those of our allies and friends; deterring aggression and coercion by deploying forward the capacity to swiftly defeat attacks and impose severe penalties for aggression on an adversary’s military capability and supporting infrastructure; and decisively defeating any adversary if deterrence fails.

We cannot and will not know precisely where and when America’s interests will be threatened, or when, or even how America, its friends and allies will come under attack.

To meet this reality and the key strategic goals and, we need to shift the basis of defense planning from a "threat-based" model that has dominated thinking in the past to a "capabilities-based" model for the future.

This capabilities-based model focuses more on how an adversary might fight rather than specifically who the adversary might be or where a war might occur. It recognizes that it is not enough to plan for large conventional wars in distant theaters. Instead, the United States must identify the capabilities required to deter and defeat adversaries who will rely on surprise, deception, and asymmetric warfare to achieve their objectives.

Such an approach would examine our vulnerabilities, and develop new capabilities and new strategies to defend ourselves.

As we have painfully learned, our open borders and open societies make it easy and inviting for terrorists to strike at our people where they live and work.

We know that our dependence on space satellites and computer information networks make those networks attractive targets for new forms of attack.

We know that the ease with which potential adversaries can acquire advanced conventional weapons will present us with new challenges in conventional war and force projection.

And we know that our lack of defenses against ballistic missiles creates incentives for missile proliferation which, combined with the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, will give future adversaries the ability to hold our populations hostage to terror and blackmail.

Future adversaries will likely develop new means with which to exploit these vulnerabilities and threaten the United States.

We must develop defenses against known and emerging threats—and develop new approaches for detecting new threats.

Some we can identify today with confidence—ballistic and cruise missiles; nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction; weapons of mass disruption such as information warfare and attacks on critical information systems, capabilities to attack and cripple our space assets. Still others may be a surprise.

Adopting a capabilities-based approach to planning requires that the nation maintain its military advantages in key areas while it develops new areas of military advantage and denies asymmetric advantages to adversaries. It entails adapting existing military capabilities to new circumstances, while experimenting with the development of new military capabilities. In short, it requires the transformation of U.S. forces, capabilities, and institutions to extend America’s asymmetric advantages well into the future.

21st Century Deterrence

To contend with surprise and the challenge of asymmetric threats, we also need a new approach to deterrence.

The threats we face in the 21st Century will be multifaceted—our deterrence strategy must be as well. Just as we intend to build "layered defenses" to deal with missile threats at different stages, we also need a strategy of "layered deterrence" in which we develop a mix of capabilities—both offensive and defensive—which can dissuade and deter a variety of emerging threats at different stages.

We must dissuade potential adversaries from developing dangerous capabilities in the first place—by developing and deploying U.S. capabilities that reduce their incentives to compete.

For example, America’s overwhelming naval power discourages potential adversaries from investing in building competing navies to threaten freedom of the seas – because, in the end, they would spend a fortune and not accomplish their strategic objectives.

In the same way, we must develop a broad range of new capabilities that, by their very existence, dissuade and discourage potential adversaries from investing in other hostile capabilities.

For example, effective space defenses could discourage adversaries from developing new capabilities to threaten our critical assets in space. Effective missile defense could similarly discourage potential adversaries from investing in ballistic missiles that threaten U.S. and allied population centers.

At the same time, we also need to strengthen the capability to deter future adversaries from aggression and coercion, by increasing the capability of our forward-deployed forces and global striking power to respond rapidly to threats.

And we must maintain the capacity to swiftly defeat attacks and impose severe penalties for aggression in critical regions. To do this, we will need forces and capabilities that give the President an even wider range of military options.

Implementing such a multi-layered deterrence strategy requires that we improve our intelligence capabilities, our capability for long-distance force projection, and our capability to integrate our joint forces, and that we maintain a credible offensive nuclear deterrent.

It also requires a transformation of our forces.


Transformation is about more than our technology; it is about innovative concepts of operating and configuring our forces, adjustments in how we train and base our people and materiel, and how we conduct business day to day.

The goal of transformation is to maintain a substantial advantage over any potential adversaries in key areas such as information warfare, power projection, space and intelligence.

A transformed force must be able to: protect critical bases of operations (U.S. homeland, forces abroad, allies, and friends) and defeat NBC weapons and means of delivery; project and sustain U.S. forces in distant "access-denial" environments; assure information systems in the face of attack and conduct effective information operations; provide persistent surveillance, tracking and rapid engagement with high-volume precision strike, through a combination of complimentary air and ground capabilities, against critical mobile and fixed targets at various ranges, and in all weather and terrain;

enhance the capability and survivability of space systems and supporting infrastructure; and leverage information technology and innovative concepts to develop effective joint operational capabilities.

If we can do this, we can reduce our own chances of being surprised, and increase our ability to create our own surprises, if we choose. A stealthy F-117 over Baghdad is one example of the nexus of intelligence, technology and planning—they didn’t know we were there until the bombs started to explode. We must enhance our ability to create such surprises in the future, although how we do so may require fundamental shifts in the systems we use.

As we do so, our ability to conduct effective joint operations becomes even more critical than before. Successful future operations will require a flexible, reliable, and effective joint command and control architecture that provides the flexibility to maneuver, sustain and protect American forces across the battlefield.

The Department will examine options for creating standing joint task forces that will develop new concepts to exploit U.S. asymmetric military advantages, and will aim at achieving more rapid and more effective military responses.

We will identify the capabilities U.S. military forces will need to deter or defeat adversaries likely to rely on surprise, deception and asymmetric warfare. We will emphasize developing new concepts of operations to address challenges posed by mobile targets and weapons of mass destruction; integrating long-range strike aircraft with troops on the ground; and putting key intelligence into the hands of decision makers and warfighters far more quickly than in past engagements.

New Force Sizing Construct

If we are to contribute to peace and security, we must also determine how U.S. forces should best be sized and arranged to meet the challenges of the new century.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Department has relied on a formula known as the "two Major Theater War" approach to size our forces. As the civilian and military leaders of the Department reviewed this approach, we concluded that it had several shortcomings:

It did not specifically address the full range of threats to the U.S. homeland.

It did not account for demands placed on our forces by small-scale contingencies.

It placed excessive emphasis on preparations for decisively defeating adversaries after war broke out, rather than bolstering capabilities and forces to deter adversaries from challenging the U.S. in the first instance, and it over-optimized U.S. forces for two specific regional conflicts, at the expense of preparations for other contingencies and future challenges.

In the QDR, we are proposing a new, more comprehensive approach. U.S. forces will maintain the capability to: defend the American homeland. Deter conflicts in four critical areas of the world, by demonstrating the ability to defeat enemy attacks, and do so far more swiftly than in the past or even today. Defeat aggressors in overlapping timeframes in any two of those four areas. At the direction of the President, decisively defeat one of these two adversaries—to include invading and occupying enemy territory. Decisively impose our will on any one aggressor of our choosing. Conduct a limited number of contingencies short of war in peacetime without excessive stress on our men and women in uniform.

The approach we are proposing will give the U.S. sufficient forces to prevail in two nearly simultaneous conflicts. Where it differs from the previous sizing construct is that in one conflict, we will have sufficient force to occupy the adversary’s capital and replace the regime, while in the other, our forces will be sufficient to prevail over enemy forces and repel an act of aggression—much as we did in the Persian Gulf War—but without marching on, and occupying the capital

Since neither aggressor would know in which conflict the President might choose to occupy a capital—and where we might choose to simply repel and defeat an act of aggression—the prospect of a total defeat would remain as a strong deterrent.

But because the U.S. will not require a second occupation force, this approach will free up resources for other critical priorities

This shift is not simply a matter of cost savings. Even with the current consensus for increased defense spending, we still should not waste the taxpayers’ dollars to prepare for wars we will not fight in the 21st Century. The goal is to permit us to better balance near-term risks with the long-term challenges of preparing for the new kinds of war we may fight, and new adversaries we may face, in 2010 and beyond.

The Four Dimensions of Risk

The Quadrennial Defense Review has also identified a new approach to assessing and managing risk.

In recent years, the Department has defined risk narrowly in terms of war plans, without sufficient emphasis on other dimensions of risk—to people, modernization and transformation.

After the end of the Cold War, the size of the force was reduced by some 40%. But at the same time, our men and women in uniform were asked to take on more and more new missions—that did not fall within the two major theater war construct.

This put enormous stress on our Armed Forces. They saluted smartly, and did their best. But to accomplish the new missions they were assigned, while at the same time being prepared to meet the requirements of the two-war approach, they put off investments in critical areas. This exacerbated the effect of the mismatch between strategy and resources.

The effect was to crowd out critical investments in modernization, maintenance, infrastructure, and procurement of new ships, aircraft and armored vehicles; in the transformational R&D necessary to field new 21st Century capabilities; in personnel—funds for pay, housing, and healthcare—while our forces were deployed all across the globe.

It is important, as we try to close the gap between strategy and resources that we invest the new resources in a balanced way to address the different dimensions of risk.

We intend to change this. Henceforth, in addition to the operational risks associated with our ability to execute war plans, the Department must also take into account the force management, institutional and future challenges risks in determining how to allocate resources.


Finally, the loss of life and damage to our economy from the attack of September 11, 2001 should give us a new perspective on the question of what this country can afford for its defense.

Last week in Brussels, I told our allies that this assault is a wakeup call for us all about the importance of investing adequately and providing for security.

To think we can’t afford what we need to deter the adversaries of tomorrow and underpin our prosperity, and by extension, peace and stability around the globe, is simply wrong. These costs do not begin to compare with the cost in dollars and human lives if we fail to do so.

Secretary Rumsfeld has often talked about the situation in 1950, when General Omar Bradley urged President Truman to spend at least $18 billion on defense. The Joint Chiefs gave an even higher estimate at $23 billion, and the services’ estimate was higher still at $30 billion. But the President and Congress said we couldn’t afford that much—$15 billion was as much as we could afford.

Six months later, we were suddenly in a war in Korea, and we could afford $48 billion—just fine.

Today, sadly, we’re experiencing what Yogi Berra called "déjà vu all over again."

The U.S. Armed Forces underpin our nation’s prosperity and way of life. We don’t get our "peace dividend" by short-changing them. We get it from the peace, security and prosperity they make possible.

This nation can afford to spend what is needed to deter the adversaries of tomorrow and to underpin our prosperity.


If we are to preserve our ability to defend freedom in the 21st Century, we must prepare now for a world in which future adversaries will strike at our people and our territory in previously unimaginable ways.

We must take the assaults in New York and Washington as a warning to the even more unfathomable dangers that lay ahead.

Our adversaries have now shown their willingness to slaughter thousands of innocent civilians in a devastating strike. If they had the capability to kill millions of innocent civilians, do any of us believe they would hesitate to do so?

What a tragedy it would be if we let our preparations for the future be numbered among the casualties of September 11th.

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