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Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 12:10pm

Former Defense Chiefs Speak On Threats

Four former GOP defense secretaries painted a pessimistic view of global security threats Tuesday. Speaking at Georgia Tech at a forum hosted by the Southern Center for International Studies, they said nuclear proliferation and cyber security are undermining American’s safety.

During the round table conversation, the men agreed America’s influence in the world is waning. And they said they worry about Iran and North Korea building nuclear weapons.

James Schlesinger was chief of defense under Presidents Nixon and Ford in the 1970’s. He said a new nuclear age is dawning.

“Over time the biggest threat is the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he said. “That looks as if it is coming and as a result the world will become more uncertain, and possibly chaotic.”

And he added that nothing, and no administration Republican or Democratic, seem to stop Iran, which he said is planning a weapons program with impunity.

“We’ve been saying that it’s unacceptable for the last 15 years while they’ve worked industriously on it and we have not done anything about it.”

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who served under George Bush and George W. Bush, respectively, also spoke, along with Frank Carlucci who served under Ronald Reagan.

The men also decried the sequester’s across-the-the board cuts to the defense budget. They said the military should have a wider role in handling natural disasters and other threats.

Cheney, who was also Vice President under President George W. Bush, said the Defense Department has the equipment and the know-how.

“I think the military is the solution to dealing with the cyber warfare problem, and with dealing with respect to the problem of people trying to smuggle gas and bugs and nukes into the United States," he said. "I think they have to have some kind of hand there. And if there ever is an attack you’re going to look to them.”

William Cohen, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, was unable to attend at the last minute.

And some felt his absence.

Democratic state lawmaker and Iraqi war vet Scott Holcomb of Atlanta attended the forum. He said he wished it had included competing views.

“And there are competing views,” he said after the forum.

He said it was a great discussion, but he posed the question, “Would they have said the same things if we had a Republican administration?”

Holcomb, who remains active in military circles, said the rise of other nations, including China, have changed the global landscape and America’s role in policing the world.

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