Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 3, 2006

The QDR and homeland defense: an assessment

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Christian Beckner on February 3, 2006

I’ve now read the key sections of the Quadrennial Defense Review that focus on homeland defense and homeland security. There’s really not that much new in comparison with DOD’s Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support released in June 2005. To the extent that there are changes in focus, they are driven by response to Katrina and the resulting desire among some to enhance DOD’s role in emergency response.

There’s also a disconnect on the subject of homeland defense in the report between the well-defined “strategy” section and the Force Planning Construct, which lays out the operational consequences of the strategy. In fact, homeland defense barely gets mentioned in the Force Planning Construct section, as I’ll detail in the outline that follows:

The QDR notes that “defending the homeland in depth” was one of four priority areas for examination. And in the chapter “Operationalizing the Strategy” it goes into great depth on the changed nature of the threat:

Globalization enables many positive developments such as the free movement of capital, goods and services, information, people and technology, but it is also accelerating the transmission of disease, the transfer of advanced weapons, the spread of extremist ideologies, the movement of terrorists and the vulnerability of major economic segments. Th e U.S. populace, territory and infrastructure, as well as its assets in space, may be increasingly vulnerable to these and a variety of other threats, including weapons of mass destruction, missile and other air threats, and electronic or cyber-attacks.

Globalization also empowers small groups and individuals. Nation-states no longer have a monopoly over the catastrophic use of violence. Today, small teams or even single individuals can weaponize chemical, biological and even crude radiological or nuclear devices and use them to murder hundreds of thousands of people. Loosely organized and with few assets of their own to protect, non-state enemies are considerably more difficult than nation-states to deter through traditional military means. Non-state enemies could attempt to attack a wide range of targets including government facilities; commercial and financial systems; cultural and historical landmarks; food, water, and power supplies; and information, transport, and energy networks. They will employ unconventional means to penetrate homeland defenses and exploit the very nature of western societies – their openness – to attack their citizens, economic institutions, physical infrastructure and social fabric.

The threat to the U.S. homeland, however, is broader than that posed by terrorists. Hostile states could also attack the United States using WMD delivered by missiles or by less familiar means such as commercial shipping or general aviation. They could attack surreptitiouslythrough surrogates. Some hostile states are pursuing advanced weapons of mass destruction, including genetically engineered biological warfare agents that can overcome today’s defenses. There is also a danger that the WMD capabilities of some states could fall into the hands of, or be given to, terrorists who could use them to attack the United States.

And it discusses appropriate adjustments to DOD’s strategy as a result of this threat context, divided into three categories: lead, support, and enable.

The document notes that DOD will lead in the following areas of homeland defense:

  • Executing military missions that dissuade, deter or defeat external attacks upon the United
    States, its population, and its defense critical infrastructure.
  • Defending U.S. airspace and protecting the nation’s air approaches.
  • Working alongside the Department of Homeland Security to integrate U.S. maritime defense – optimizing the mutually supporting capabilities of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Deterring adversaries that they cannot achieve their objectives through attacks on the U.S. homeland.

It will support in the following areas:

  • Performing designated law enforcement and / or other activities and as part of a comprehensive national response to prevent and protect against terrorist incidents or to recover from an attack or a disaster.
  • Providing additional resources in catastrophes that overwhelm civilian capacity.

The document notes that NORTHCOM will have the authority to stage forces and equipment domestically prior to potential incidents when possible.

And finally DOD will enable homeland defense in the following areas:

  • Sharing information, expertise and technology as appropriate across military and civilian boundaries.
  • Standardizing operational concepts, developing compatible technology solutions and coordinating planning.
  • Improving interagency planning and scenario development and enhancing interoperability through experimentation, testing and training exercises.

This last category of DOD’s homeland defense role is very important, and one that is essential to the success of the first two categories, as well as the success of the government-wide homeland security mission.

The chapter also defines “steady-state” and “surge” homeland defense capacity for the DOD:

Steady-state – detect, deter, and if necessary, defeat external threats to the U.S. homeland, and enable partners to contribute to U.S. national security. Examples of such activities include: routine homeland security training and exercises with other Federal agencies and state and local governments; strategic deterrence; routine maritime operations conducted with the U.S. Coast Guard; North American air defense, including air sovereignty operations; missile defense; and readiness to provide support to civil authorities for consequence management events.

Surge – contribute to the nation’s response to and management of the consequences of WMD attacks or a catastrophic event, such as Hurricane Katrina, and also to raise the level of defense responsiveness in all domains (e.g., air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace) if directed.

The next chapter of the report lays out the QDR’s Force Planning Construct for the next four years, i.e. the practical implications of the strategy in the preceding chapter. But there’s a big disconnect in the QDR between the two chapters. Homeland defense barely notes a mention in the Force Planning Construct. I’m not sure why this is the case; perhaps it reflects a disconnect between the OSD and the DOD Policy office and the services on homeland defense; perhaps there’s a prevailing attitude that homeland defense is a “secondary” function that should use DOD resources opportunistically but not shape future requirements.

There are, however, some items in the category of countering WMDs in the Force Planning Construct that are tangentially related to homeland defense:

  • Designate the Defense Threat Reduction Agency as the primary Combat Support Agency for U.S. Strategic Command in its role as lead Combatant Commander for integrating and synchronizing combating WMD efforts.
  • Expand the Army’s 20th Support Command (CBRNE) capabilities to enable it to serve as a Joint Task Force capable of rapid deployment to command and control WMD elimination and site exploitation missions by 2007.
  • Expand the number of U.S. forces with advanced technical render-safe skills and increase
    their speed of response. The Department will develop further recommendations to improve render-safe capabilities for the Fiscal Year 2008 budget.
  • Improve and expand U.S. forces’ capabilities to locate, track and tag shipments of WMD, missiles and related materials, including the transportation means used to move such items.
  • Reallocate funding within the CBDP to invest more than $1.5 billion over the next five years to develop broad-spectrum medical countermeasures against advanced bio-terror threats including genetically engineered intracellular bacterial pathogens and hemorrhagic fevers.

Finally, there is some good discussion page 87 of the QDR about “complex interagency operations at home,” where the document discusses the need to enhance interoperability, training, and planning with DHS and other agencies for domestic response. The section recommends the creation of a “National Homeland Security Plan” to “clarify the optimum distribution of effort among Federal agencies for prevention, preparation and response.” This sounds a lot like the National Response Plan – I don’t quite understand how a new plan is needed.

Overall, the QDR is an interesting document, but it’s not one that represents a significant shift in DOD’s posture on the subject of homeland defense.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 4, 2006 @ 4:11 am

AS I understand it the National Homeland Security Plan would be backed by formal requirements studies and logistics systems as opposed to informal pledges as represented by the NRP.

Comment by Barry Cardwell

January 24, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

The NRP (signed by 32 agencies) essentially integrates national capabilities within the homeland for post-incident response. The concept of a NHSP is to make certain a similar concerted national effort is in place for pre-incident activities (i.e. roles and responsibilities are clearly identified for detect, deter, prevent, and defeat) in the forward regions, the approaches, as well as within the homeland.

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