Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 19, 2006

Homeland defense exercise to test civil support

Filed under: Homeland Defense,Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on January 19, 2006

Inside the Pentagon reports today (by subscription only) on an upcoming DOD-led simulation that will test military support capabilities for response to a catastrophic terrorist attack (in this case, a nuclear attack against Charleston, SC):

The military’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support, headquartered at Ft. Monroe, VA, will host a three-day exercise for commanders of its subordinate units, as well as representatives of other federal agencies that would be involved in managing the consequences of a 10-megaton nuclear blast, enough to inflict mass causalities and devastation on an American city.

Like last summer’s exercise, the Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 event, generically called a “commanders conference,” is centered around a fictional blast that affects nearly half a million people across a 900-square mile section of tidewater South Carolina. The scenario posits 10,000 fatalities and more than 30,000 injuries.

Participants last year were focused on working through nuclear-incident response protocols within the task force. This time around, the aim is to continue honing internal command-and-control actions, while giving military commanders opportunities to interact with representatives of other federal agencies, according to a task force official.

The article goes on to note that DHS officials will be in attendance at the simulation, describes the purpose of the simulation, and offers background context on the threat.

This issue of military support for civilian incident response is a topic that is likely to arise in the final reports of the Katrina investigations in Congress, as noted in this post from last month. If the simulation is realistic and not overly predictable, then this kind of activity can make a real contribution to improving DOD’s capabilities in this area.

For more on this issue, see DOD’s June 2005 Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support.

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1 Comment »

113

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 21, 2006 @ 2:31 pm

In January 1997, almost a decade ago, DOD and FEMA submitted a report to Congress on the status of Executive Branch capability to respond to a WMD event. That report documented weaknesses and was published in its entirety in the Congressional record in an unclassified format. A brief review of that report indicates many of the same deficiencies still exist. For example, no first responders at the State and local level know exactly the federal financial and technical assistance that will be available should there be a WMD event or incident. No public available plan published todate indicates the mechanizm for its trigger nor how it will be funded. Nor does any published plan indicate the minimum planning basis for the plan with respect to consequences, for example mass casulties or deaths, housing, emergency medical, or logistics systems. Nor have discrepancies between technical civil agency response plans documented in a December 1993 Presidential Report to Congress by EPA been resolved. This resolution is mandated in the Homeland Security Strategy (July 2002), the Homeland Security Act (November 2002) and HSPD-5 &8 (2003). Now the head of the NIMS Coordination Unit has been named as the FEMA Deputy Director for Gulf Coast Coordination, confirming his absence all fall due to Katrina from the important mission reconciling disconnects in various federal civil response plans. Basically, no first responders know or can predict who, what, when, or where federal assistance will be brought to bear on an WMD incident or event. As we approach 5 years this fall from 9/11 making sure all responders know exactly what happens with respect to federal roles and assistance in an WMD incident or event continues to foreshadow a failure whatever the expectations of government officials at all levels, the private sector, and the American people. Secretary Chertoff cannot state with precision who will be in charge in a WMD event or incident and more important what personnel, organizations and resources will be applied. Finally, budget resources for such a response might not be available until a Congress that could have been impacted by the event acts to pass supplemental legislation. The feds like the State and locals need a contingency fund that does not require legislative action.

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