Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 28, 2009

NORTHCOM to North Dakota

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on March 28, 2009

According to a CNN report, it would seem that federal military assets are being deployed to assist with emergency operations in and around Fargo.  In a story filed late Friday, CNN reports, “Fifteen helicopters from the U.S. Northern Command along with active-duty military personnel are being sent to Fargo, North Dakota, to assist the state as it prepares for record flooding.” 

A related story in the Colorado Springs (NORTHCOM’s hometown) Gazette references a military news release and reports,  “The command will stage at the Grand Forks Air Force Base to aid the Federal Emergency Management Agency. NorthCom will help distribute supplies and coordinate the relief effort. A defense coordinating officer dispatched by NorthCom will act as the liaison between FEMA and NorthCom, relaying capabilities available to FEMA and coordinating movement of active-duty personnel and equipment to assist should the need arise.”

UPDATE:  A Saturday afternoon public affairs story from Minot (N.D) Air Force Base indicates that, “Two helicopters from the 54th Helicopter Squadron have been relocated from the Bismarck flood area to Grand Forks… The helicopters are being moved to Grand Forks staging as part of a larger NORTHCOM task force.”  The two hoist-equipped UH-1N  “hueys” are expected to be involved in search and rescue.

SECOND UPDATE:  As of Sunday afternoon at least four media releases are available from the NORTHCOM website.  While the information provided does not deal explicitly with the issue of the State Governor requesting Title 10 forces, it would appear the current deployment may be largely limited to use of the Grand Forks Air Force Base by FEMA and arrival in the potential theater of operations by  pre-deployment assessment teams. 

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2009 @ 7:27 am

Please note that Section 403(C) of the Stafford Act allows DOD to deploy resources even prior to declaration of a disaster for up to 10 days. Thus an argument could be made that NORTHCOM should have been on scene even earlier with potential need for lifesaving resources. Assuming active duty force are being utilized it again documents that the establishment of authority to deploy DOD resources without a Gubnatorial request and then repeal of that authority under the so-called “Insurrection Act” authorities (10 US CODE sections 331-334) was perhaps a mistake. So now it would be very interesting to see if DOD deployed NORTHCOM assets without any Gubnatorial request. If there was a request would be of great interest to see how it was worded since we know the ND Governor has deployed NG assets. FEMA bought out 600 houses in FARGO after 1997 and assisted in moving levee back so will be interesting to see if that mitigation effort was effective. Finally it would be useful to know the entirety of the process NORTHCOM went through to make the decision to deploy the air assets. Much to know but difficult to document the efforts.

Comment by Arnold

March 28, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

A somewhat related question regarding NORTHCOM/CCMRF: in the case of a no-notice event (like a terrorist attack or earthquake), how quickly can substantial military assets be deployed? If the rule of thumb had been don’t expect federal help in under 72 hours, has that changed? In an event that obviously will overwhelm local and state resources, can these units arrive in 24-48 hours?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

March 28, 2009 @ 1:37 pm


In a September 30 news release from NORTHCOM the response time of the CCMRF was explained as follows:

“On the first of October, we’ll have an organized force, a trained force, an equipped force, a force that has adequate command and control and is on quick response – 48 hours – to head off to a large-scale nuclear, chemical, biological event that might require Department of Defense support.”


In DOD doctrine and guidance the speed of domestic deployment is being emphasized.

It is still not clear if the NORTHCOM assets are CCMRF related or not.

I cannot yet find evidence of Governor Hoeven requesting a Title 10 deployment. But it is a Saturday and the river is rising. Even if the constitutional requirements have been fully met – which is probably the case – we may not know until next week.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

Perhaps it would help if I explain that each DOD base commander does have limited authority to deploy base assets for immediate lifesaving needs for surrounding communities. Their can be reimbursement of these costs in some instances. DOD also has assigned to each base in the US a Civil Liaison Officer whose primary duties are to provide continuous liaison on a variety of issues to the surrounding communities, including emergency reponse. Having contributed education materials to that curricula and having seen some of the course presentations (at one time principally through FORSCOM) that training is of an extremely high quality. Unfortunately, my suggestions while in FEMA to a reverse image course for the civil leadership communities surrounding the DOD bases with a comprehensive understanding of what the base commander and the assets under his control can and cannot do to assist the surrounding communities never was adopted. In certain instances, such as the CSEPP (Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program)offsite base safety is led in part by FEMA under and MOU with Department of the Army. That program is led by Mr. Ron Fisk presently in FEMA. These are not uncomplicated relationships and procedures and should definitely be worked out in advance. But as indicated by my first comment, there is Stafford Act authority without Presidential declaration for DOD to deploy up to 10 days its assets for lifesaving in incidents/events likely to be declared. NO notice events are the principal example. Because of certain pre-positioned packages for declaration of emergencies and disaters, a WMD attack or large earthquake will see IMO a prompt declaration. An excellent recent report on the declaration process has been released by CRS authored by Fran McCarthy who do to various assignments in FEMA prior to being employed by CRS is truly expert on the declaration process and disasters. Should readers want a copy of that document please contact me offline at vacationlanegrp@aol.com

Comment by Marjorie Salwin

November 26, 2010 @ 11:39 am

Francis X. (“Fran”) McCarthy was one of the top 13 executives at FEMA who worked there during Hurricane Katrina. It was on his advice to the people of the State of Ohio conveyed through channels, that the practice of offering dwelling places for Hurricane Katrina victims in that state was withdrawn and the practice of housing Katrina victims in Louisiana in FEMA trailers began. The FEMA trailers were being stored in a warehouse in Arkansas.

McCarthy worked for Michael Brown at the time and was a trusted advisor who survived his reputation under James Lee Witt and the Clinton administration to become a trusted advisor of Michael “Brownie” Brown.

There was a memo on the World Wide web posted most likely by the Ohio State government to that effect about 5 years ago.

He is still around, I understand.

Comment by M.B. Salwin

November 26, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

A recent New York Times Report on the Report of one S. Hecker, an academic at Stanford (where, of course, former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice had been provost) suggested that the report on visiting North Korea’s nuclear capabilites, was about visiting nuclear facilities maintained by the North Korean government for defense purposes. However, when I researched the source of the article, I found that it had been indexed by the webmaster as trip report on visiting nuclear power facilities developed or maintained for the purpose of generating power, in effect, nuclear power plants.

The article speculated on other uses but that was mere speculation and a well known fact that anyone who has done counter-terrorism work, as a former U.S. Army friend of mine once did for a government contract, that any nuclear power plant can pose a nuclear threat if occupied by terrorists.

However, yellow journalism being what it is, the Times has not corrected its article, the Stanford trip report was actually removed from the site and Stanford is not saying why.

Then, of course, the most astute Secretary of State we have today, Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is using that report, no doubt, to further whatever goals she and Ms. Rice might have.

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