Last week’s late Thursday post on the National Governors’ Association response to a DOD proposal generated more readers than any post since I joined HLSWatch. But it was a post about the NGA response to a proposal not seen, at least not seen here.
The NGA response was — predictably — less-than-enthusiastic. Here’s the proposed legislative language being offered by DoD:
SEC. ___. AUTHORITY TO ORDER ARMY RESERVE, NAVY RESERVE, MARINE CORPS RESERVE, AND AIR FORCE RESERVE TO ACTIVE DUTY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN RESPONSE TO A MAJOR DISASTER OR EMERGENCY.
(1) IN GENERAL.-Chapter 1209 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 12304 the following new section:
“§ 12304a. Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve: order to active duty to provide assistance in response to a major disaster or emergency
“(a) AUTHORITY.-Notwithstanding any other provision of law, to provide assistance in responding to a major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), the Secretary of Defense may, without the consent of the member affected, order any unit, and any member not assigned to a unit organized to serve as a unit, of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve, under the jurisdiction of that Secretary to active duty for a continuous period of not more than 120 days.
“(b) EXCLUSION FROM STRENGTH LIMITATIONS.-Members ordered to active duty under this section shall not be counted in computing authorized strength of members on active duty or members in grade under this title or any other law.
“(c) TERMINATION OF DUTY.-Whenever any unit or member of the Reserves is ordered to active duty under this section, the service of all units or members so ordered to active duty may be terminated by order of the Secretary of Defense or law.”
(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.-The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 12304 the following new item:
“12304a. Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air Force Reserve: order to active duty to provide assistance in response to a major disaster or emergency.”.
(b) TREATMENT OF OPERATIONS AS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS.-Section 101(a)(13)(B) of such title is amended by inserting “12304a,” after “12304,”.
Further, at the close of this post is the late July letter of Paul N. Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs) to the NGA chairman regarding the proposed legislative language.
Through a staff colleague, Dr. Stockton has also passed along this further response:
Philip J. Palin’s August 13, 2009 article “Govs to DoD: Thanks, but no
thanks” was a great overview of the debate on the Department of Defense legislative proposal that seeks the authority to order Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Reserves to active duty to assist in responses to major disasters and emergencies in the United States. I would like to emphasize that our proposal does not seek to usurp the authorities of Governors but rather ensure the federal government is able to respond with ALL available and appropriate resources when requested by a state. As AP reporter Lolita Baldor aptly wrote, “California officials grew irate when they saw helicopters sitting idle at Camp Pendleton as fires raged through the countryside.” While the Pentagon was able to direct active duty Marine helicopter units to respond to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request for aid, (DoD) could not order the nearby Marine Corps Reserve units to do the same. If passed, our legislative proposal will ensure that our Nation is able to access and utilize all of our capabilities during a disaster to include those in the military reserves, when requested by a Governor.
Tracking the surge of new readers on Friday and Saturday it is pretty clear that many readers of last week’s post are concerned about an incremental acquisition of power by the central government producing a slippery slope to tyranny. As Dr. Stockton’s comments suggest, this concern is in tension with taking prudent steps to ensure a constitutional and effective federal response to a catastrophic disaster.
Is there a reasonable accommodation of the tension? Probably worth a real discussion that includes some careful listening by all sides.
Following are two JPEG images of Paul Stockton’s original letter. I understand these are barely readable. I will eventually pound out a text version of the letter, but given other commitments today, this is the best I can do and get this to you in a timely way.