CSIS released a report last week entitled “The Future of the National Guard and Reserves”. Chapter 5 of the report focuses on the Guard’s homeland defense and civil support roles. It provides a very useful summary of the debate over the past five years on the role of the National Guard for homeland defense and civil support, noting a recurring reluctance to fully embrace these missions:
Despite the fact that DoD is the only federal department that has substantial capabilities to respond to catastrophic or multiple, simultaneous events, the military has not organized, trained, or equipped its active or reserve forces to reflect civil support as a priority mission. Instead, much of the time since 9/11 has been spent debating how many simultaneous events DoD should plan for. Clearly a single event is unrealistic, given that al Qaeda has demonstrated its ability to plan and execute multiple, simultaneous attacks, but those in DoD who fear civil support could become a force structure driver in a tight fiscal environment opposed basing planning on anything more than a modest number of events.
…and discussing the Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina:
Hurricane Katrina highlighted the practical implications of DoDâ€™s limited approach to civil support missions. Although â€œthe Department of Defense response to Hurricane Katrina was the largest, fastest deployment of military forces for a civil support mission in our nation’s history,â€ and both active and reserve military forces saved thousands of lives and essentially salvaged a desperate situation, the experience showed just how far the U.S. government and military have to go in terms of being prepared to provide civil support. During the Katrina response, it was clear that many involved at the federal, state, and local level were working with the military in a civil support context for the first time. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and DoD used a 21-step process to place and approve requests for assistance. The two agencies did not even agree on the terms for such interactions â€“ FEMA called them â€œmission assignmentsâ€ and DoD called them â€œrequests for assistance,â€ reflecting DoDâ€™s reluctance to take assignments from another federal agency.
….The Katrina response highlighted that, as currently organized, DoD and the interagency more broadly, lack a substantial capability to assess support requirements, assign forces effectively to meet those requirements, track which forces are performing what tasks in which areas, or provide a structured and orderly process to flow military capabilities rapidly to the areas that need them most. The response to Hurricane Katrina was essentially a â€œpick-up game,â€ albeit it one that highlighted the ability of the U.S. military to respond reasonably effectively from a standing start.
Given this response, the authors of the report worry about how well DOD would respond in an event that exceeded Katrina, i.e. certain types of CBRN attacks.
The second half of the chapter offers a set of recommendations:
- The Department of Defense should recognize civil support, particularly in response to a catastrophic event, as a central mission for which it must plan, program and budget;
- At a minimum, the Department of Defense should resource and organize the National Guard to serve as the backbone for ten regional Civil Support Forces that would be responsible for regional planning, training, and exercising and would be able to deploy initial response forces rapidly to the scene of an event.
- The Department of Defense should nominate a National Guard general officer to serve as Deputy Commander at NORTHCOM.
- Designate the Chief, National Guard Bureau as the principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense for matters concerning the role of the National Guard in homeland security, homeland defense, and civil support missions.
- Revise the charter for the NGB to recognize its role as the joint force manager for the National Guardâ€™s role in homeland defense and civil support.
That’s just the homeland defense & civil support chapter; the rest of the report provides an important and insightful look at the state of the National Guard. The report deserves more media attention than it’s received to date.