Gingrich: Country on 'Edge of Catastrophe'

Tuesday, 21 Jul 2009 02:59 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the United States needs a dramatic increase in defense spending or it will risk a national catastrophe — from a nuclear or biological attack — that could kill several million Americans.

The nation needs "a national security budget and a homeland security budget driven by meeting the capabilities of our opponents, not by meeting their intentions,” Gingrich said Monday in the closing address to the Heritage Foundation’s Protect America Month, which aims to raise awareness about issues facing men and women in the military.

“We are today running very big risks in the name of saving a few billion dollars that may end up killing several million Americans. The time to fix that is before the disaster happens,” he said.

Gingrich believes national security is about to become a dramatically more important debate. He hopes the debate begins before a national disaster occurs. He also hopes that the debate generates a massive overhaul of the country’s national security decision-making process.

“We are living at the edge of a catastrophe, and we need to understand that’s exactly where we are,” Gingrich said. “What we are faced with is not simply a problem, it is potentially catastrophic.”

The United States cannot afford to hide from reality, Gingrich said, citing as an example the 1920s and '30s when Western democracies failed to confront the emerging threat in Europe and East Asia.

“We have been the most fortunate generation in history,” he said. “We are still today the richest, freest, and safest people in the history of the world. That will only remain true if we have the courage, the discipline, and the foresight to insist on the kind of changes we need in order to maintain safety as the highest single value of the American people, a base on which you can then build prosperity and freedom.”

The greatest threat to the United States is a nuclear weapon's being detonated in a major city, Gingrich said. The second is a successful electromagnetic pulse attack that could knock out the entire electric grid, including all appliances, telephones, vehicles, and generators.

Other dangers Gingrich listed include biological weapons; cyberattacks; unprotected assets in outer space; and dangers unknown, all of which he said have the potential of being weapons of mass destruction or disruption.

Gingrich criticized the federal government for its inability to act in a quick and decisive manner when it comes to national security and blamed budget issues and arbitrary goals for the security risks facing the country.

"Our goals are straightforward for the country: safety, prosperity and freedom," Gingrich said.

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