Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 29, 2009

CCMRF: Constitutional Consequence Management Response Force

Filed under: Biosecurity,Chemical Security,Homeland Defense,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Philip J. Palin on July 29, 2009

Yesterday the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities heard testimony on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives(CBRNE)  consequence management.  (See and hear the video.)

 David Heyman, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy, set out the CBRNE threat.  Reviewing a list of recent events, Heyman concluded, “We can no longer discuss risk abatement of chemical, biological, and nuclear/radiological attacks as if these types of attack are unthinkable or undoable. U.S. intelligence, and the most recent intelligence around the world, continue to report that terrorists are intent on acquiring CBRNE weapons for use against the United States.”

There is a brigade-size federal active duty element allocated to NORTHCOM as a “CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force”  a/k/a CCMRF. A second brigade is scheduled to be in place by October.  A third by October 2010.  While specializing in CBRNE threats, the same forces could be deployed in response to a variety of events.

In his prepared testimony, General Victor Renuart, the USAF four-star who heads NORTHCOM, explained, “CCMRF is a task force (approximately 4,700 people) that operates under the authority of Title 10. CCMRFs are self-sustaining and may be tailored to any CBRNE event. A CCMRF is composed of Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force units with unique CBRNE training and equipment and general purpose units trained to operate in proximity to a hazardous or contaminated environment. CCMRF capabilities include event assessment, robust command and control, comprehensive decontamination of personnel and equipment, HAZMAT handling, air and land transportation, aerial evacuation, mortuary affairs, and general logistical support to sustain extended operations.”

In October 2008 the American Civil Liberties Union initiated a FOIA request that raised several concerns regarding the CCMRF, including, “The deployment of CCMRF marks the first time an active military unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command, which was established in 2002 to assist federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate support of civil authorities. It raises important questions about longstanding separation between civilian and military government within the United States — a separation that dates to the Nation’s founding and that has been reiterated in landmark statutes, most importantly, the Posse Comitatus Act 18 U.S.C. Para. 1385.” 

The Posse Comitatus Act forbids federal troops to be deployed with police powers. Following Hurricane Katrina an effort to significantly weaken the Posse Comitatus Act  was initially successful, but the legal changes were subsequently overturned in 2008. The current language is the same originally adopted by Congress in 1878. 

The potential life-saving and order-restoring capacity represented by the CCMRF is widely recognized.  The use of active duty federal troops for this purpose is seen by some as a creeping militarization of the home front.

At yesterday’s hearing the Congressmen — of both political parties — kept coming back to “who’s in charge?”  About nineteen minutes into the hearing, Mr. Smith, the subcommittee chairman, interrupted an explanation of HSPD-5’s intricacies, asking, “Does anyone of those groups have the lead?” 

If there’s a real catastrophe, what’s the real chain-of-command? It is a good question.  The answers, of course, are variations on “Well, it depends.” 

As the hearing proceeded — maybe because of the provisional answers offered — the questions were increasingly directed to General Renuart.  The implicit assumption seemed to be: the man in uniform will be in charge.  Encouraging this impression is a principal reason why uniforms are worn.  

If the General is in charge, then who’s in charge of the General? The prepared testimony of each witness was constitutionally restrained: federal forces will be deployed at the request of Governors to support civil authorities. The  protocols of HSPD-5 and the National Response Framework will ensure effective collaboration across roles and responsibilities.

 But what about when local civil authority has been overwhelmed by the catastrophe?

About half way through the hearing Congressman Kline began his inquiry by stating, “I am still, sort of grappling — and I think all of us are at one level or another — with the fundamental question of who’s in charge.”  The Congressman then reviewed a variety of National Guard and DOD assets and asked, “When are these forces federal, when do they work for the state, when do they work for the Governor, when do they work for the General?”

The General responded, appropriately and accurately, well… it depends.

A bit later Congressman Miller, asked what happens, “if the Governor and the local officials don’t get it; they absolutely have  become overwhelmed — as they did with Katrina — and don’t make the call (to the President) quick  enough?”

There was a pregnant pause before the General responded.  “Well, Mr. Miller, I think  the President ultimately has a responsiblity for the nation to make a determination of the speed at which some event is unfolding.  That is not a NORTHCOM decision.  My role is to ensure that, if I’m asked, to be sure that I have all the pieces in place to be supportive.  So I would defer to the national leadership to make a policy decision as to the ability of an individual state. That’s really not mine to call.”

I expect the General’s answer is accurate… even in its  opacity.  Is it an appropriate answer? In terms of civil-military authority, certainly yes.  In terms of constitutional balance of powers? Probably not.

Funny how the Tenth Amendment can suddenly rise up as if from the dead:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

General Renuart is a practical man.  He wants to do his duty.  In a time of crisis he will be prepared to render protection and care.  How can we allow him to do so with confidence while preserving the practical benefits of local capacity and the constitutional protections of state sovereignty?

The hearing was rather chaste in exposing the Tenth Amendment issue, but the bare skin was there for all to see.  Whether titilating or horrifying probably depends on your taste.

Buried in the prepared testimony — never referenced in open session — was an interesting suggestion for how we might restore some constitutional  modesty and, even perhaps, some honest dignity.  More on this in a Friday post.


A July 30 New York Times editorial entitled: The military is not the police.

July 14, 2009

Mike McDaniel to DOD-Homeland Defense

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on July 14, 2009

The Associated Press is reporting, “Brigadier General Michael McDaniel will begin work Aug. 3 as deputy assistant secretary of homeland defense… The 52-year-old East Lansing resident has been in the Michigan National Guard since 1985.”

When I heard the rumor last week I sent Mike a congratulatory note.  When he did not respond, I took that as tacit confirmation.  But now it is public.

Mike has served as the Michigan Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor since 2003.  A general, a lawyer, and someone who has given significant attention to critical infrastructure, Mike is — at least — a triple threat.   His long service at the state level combined with his military background will be of particular value in this new role.

Being familiar with  both Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs), and Mike McDaniel, this strikes me as a great team.  Mike has experiences, skills, and perspectives to complement Paul’s.  And they have known each other sufficiently well that, I expect, they are each entirely aware of what they have in the other.

The State and local emphasis that each man brings to this DOD office could be especially interesting to watch in action.  This also seems a sort of “tacit confirmation” for a rumor I have been hearing regarding what the White House office of personnel is looking for in HS appointments. 

Please see Mike McDaniel’s Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs  official biography.

June 30, 2009

Border talks: Governors seek to exchange constitutional responsibility for cash

Filed under: Border Security,Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on June 30, 2009

Late last night the Associated Press reported, “The Obama administration is developing plans to seek up to 1,500 National Guard volunteers to step up the military’s counter-drug efforts along the Mexican border…”

Chris Bellavita addressed this issue in a Saturday post.   Back in March I gave it some early attention.

The AP report continues, “The plan is a stopgap measure being worked out between the Defense Department and the Homeland Security Department, and comes despite Pentagon concerns about committing more troops to the border — a move some officials worry will be seen as militarizing the region.”

The good news here is that the Pentagon is reluctant.

“Senior administration officials said the Guard program will last no longer than a year and would build on an existing counter-drug operation,” according to the AP report.  “They said the program, which would largely be federally funded, would draw on National Guard volunteers from the four border states.”

The key phrase here is, “which would largely be federally funded.”

The Governors can deploy their State militias on their own authority.  But when they do, it is also on their own dime.  While I haven’t read the words, there is an implication that border state Governors want the National Guard federalized under Title 10, so they don’t have to pay the costs.

During most of American history — the Civil War being the most dramatic exception — the federal military enterprise on American soil has been exceedingly small.  Until World War II our most significant military forces consisted of either naval bases or state militias or federal troops being prepared for overseas operations.

Since World War II the size of the federal military establishment has, of course, skyrocketed.  But throughout this period the focus of the military has been on far-flung foreign adversaries.  Unfortunately domestic tranquility and the common defense now encourage looking closer to home.

The Associated Press reports, “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed concern that tapping the military for border control posts is a slippery slope and must not be overused.” 

A slippery slope to where?  He does not say (or at least the AP does not say).  But history tells again and again of the danger to free institutions when military power is focused on issues of domestic security.   

In the case of the United States this is certainly not a clear and present danger.   Our current slope is very slight and firmly rooted with a military ethos and a political culture that ensures civilian authority.  

But boots-on-the-ground tend to erode any slope, no matter how gradual or well-rooted.  We have invested a great deal in the technical and intellectual competence of our professional military.  As an institution and as individuals, they are great problem-solvers.

Out of respect for our ancestors sacrifice — and our grand-children’s hope –for freedom, we should be very cautious regarding which problems we ask the military to fix.

June 27, 2009

“…that kind of debate among two Cabinet officers … will inevitably lead to better policy.”

Filed under: Border Security,General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense,State and Local HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on June 27, 2009

When is a “food fight” better described as using the dialect to develop policy?

Spencer Hsu’s “Pentagon, DHS Divided On Military’s Role at Border” outlines some legitimate policy differences between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security over the military’s role in domestic security.

The debate goes to the heart of the military’s role, which has expanded since the 2001 terrorist attacks, with an increasing commitment of troops and resources to homeland defense, particularly to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear attack or other domestic catastrophe. The deployment of new troops to the [US – Mexican] border [to help counter narcotics efforts] would represent a mission the military has not traditionally embraced.

Bert B. Tussing, director of homeland defense and security issues at the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership is quoted briefly in the article:

“What we’re seeing … here is a move toward reframing where defense begins and ends…. Traditionally the military looks outward, but looking outward has begun a lot closer to home, and it may involve looking just across the border.”

Last October, Bert wrote a substantive strategic analysis of this topic: “New Requirements for a New Challenge: The Military’s Role in Border Security.”  The article is available here, and is worth reading if this is a homeland security-related issue you follow.

From a process perspective, Hsu’s article provides an example of the role metaleadership plays (at least implicitly) in the way the Obama administration treats wicked problems:

A senior White House national security official said the president is comfortable with the disagreement and “wants to see the kind of creative tension and full-out debate that major policy decisions engender.”  The official added, “It’s the president’s view that . . . frankly, that kind of debate among two Cabinet officers like Secretary Gates and Secretary Napolitano, both of whom he holds in high regard, will inevitably lead to a better policy.”

Tossed the right way, food fights can nourish.

May 14, 2009

Homeland defense: a Pandora’s box of unanswered policy questions

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on May 14, 2009

Presidential nominees receive a set of questions from “their” Senate Committee in advance of testimony.  In all but a few nominations — for example, supreme court justices — both questions and answers are rather pro forma. 

Pro forma does not mean unimportant.  The questions serve as markers for the Committee — or individual members — to signal their priorities.  For oversight committees the written Q&A is the beginning of a give and take that will continue while the nominee holds the position.

Many of the questions recently asked of Paul Stockton,  the President’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, related to roles within DoD, between DoD and the Department of Homeland Security, relationships with the National Guard, with the States, and so on. This collection of questions and answers highlights the complicated matrix of players, authorities, and responsibilities that make up homeland security. Today, for example, Secretary Napolitano is in Colorado Springs meeting with General Gene Renuart the head of USNORTHCOM.

The Committee questions I found most interesting are collected below.  In the original document these questions are scattered, but taken together may suggest a pattern of concern by the Committee.  In this case the questions — and their ongoing implications — may be more important than any current answer.

The Secretary of Defense has issued guidance to establish 3 CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces (CCMRFs) by October 1, 2010. Please provide your understanding of the roles and capabilities of the CCMRFs. Do you have any concerns about the ability of the Department to implement the Secretary’s direction to create the three CCMRFs on the prescribed schedule?

If confirmed, what would be your role with regard to the oversight, training, and employment of the CCMRFs?

Concerns have been raised about CCMRFs having a possible peacetime role that is inconsistent with other laws (such as Posse Comitatus). Do you agree that the purpose of CCMRFs is as a DOD support element for CBRNE incidents, and not for peacetime or civil disturbance missions?

There is currently considerable debate about the role the National Guard should play in defending the Homeland and in providing civil support assistance in Homeland security missions. The Commission on the National Guard and the Reserves recommended that the National Guard and Reserves be given “the lead role in and form the backbone of DOD operations in the homeland. Furthermore, DOD should assign the National Guard and Reserves homeland defense and civil support as a core competency consistent with their warfighting tasks and capabilities.” What role do you believe that the National Guard and Reserve should have in Homeland defense, as compared to the Active Component?

The Department of Defense has a mission to provide support to other federal agencies in the event of a domestic incident that requires a federal response, if directed by the President or the Secretary of Defense. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits military personnel in a federal status from engaging directly in domestic law enforcement “except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress.” Use of National Guard personnel in a state status is not prohibited by this act, but the use of military personnel, including the National Guard in a Federal status, is prohibited.

What is your understanding of the legal issues and authority associated with using National Guard and Reserve personnel in security roles within the United States?

In your opinion, does the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385) or chapter 18 of title 10, U.S.C. (which regulates the use of the armed forces in support of civilian law enforcement and related activities) require amendment to deal with the present homeland security situation?

Under what circumstances do you believe that it is appropriate for the Department of Defense to provide assistance to law enforcement authorities in response to a domestic terrorist event? What about a non-terrorist event?

None of these are new issues.   Most of the issues are far from having a consensus answer.  Many of these questions are a kind of Pandora’s box of policy problems for ongoing attention.  Raising the question is helpful to keeping the issue on top of the list for both the Committee and the nominee.  Trying to provide an entirely complete answer, especially in public session, would open the box and release an army of curses on  the Committee and — especially — the nominee.  This is usually understood by all involved.

On Tuesday, though, Senator McCain found Mr. Stockton’s answers to some of the Latin America related questions “lacking.”  Here, perhaps, is an example:


In the past few years, Bolivia has experienced extreme political unrest and, lately, President Morales has taken some positions that could complicate U.S. relations with Bolivia. How do you assess the situation in Bolivia and, if confirmed, how would you seek to accomplish the goals of combating drug trafficking and enhancing military engagement goals?


The situation in Bolivia is of concern. I have not had the opportunity to review the existing DoD plans, approaches, and actions for Bolivia. If confirmed, one of my priorities will be to review such plans, approaches, and actions and make recommendations to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

I understand a new set of answers to the questions of interest to Senator McCain will be provided. The lid on Pandora’s box will, however, be kept closed and the nominee will be confirmed to the position for which he is highly qualified.  Along the way the ranking member and his staff has made a point regarding their role in oversight, the minority’s continuing place in the process, and the ranking member’s own place.

The complete original set of advance policy questions and answers can be found at the Senate Armed Services Committee website (pdf).

May 12, 2009

Homeland defense hearing

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on May 12, 2009

Today, Tuesday, May 12 at 10:00 (eastern) the Senate Armed Services Committee will meet to consider the nomination of Paul Stockton to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs.

An archived copy of the hearing’s webcast is available at:


Several readers have previously critiqued the lack of substantive questioning of those being nominated.  The questions asked of these four nominees by the Armed Services Committee struck me as usually matching the serious issues the positions would engage.

April 2, 2009

Wormuth to Homeland Defense

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on April 2, 2009

Earlier today Secretary of Defense Gates announced the appointment of Christine Wormuth as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense (homeland defense and America’s security affairs), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C. 

Ms. Wormuth is currently a Senior Fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  According to the biography from the CSIS website:

Christine Wormuth is a senior fellow in the International Security Program, where she works on defense and homeland security issues, including emergency response and preparedness challenges, homeland security policy development, defense strategy and resources, and the capabilities and readiness of the U.S. military. In 2007, she served as staff director for the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, also known as “The Jones Commission.” As staff director, she traveled with the commission to Iraq and focused in particular on the readiness of Iraqi police forces. Her other projects include developing recommendations for America on better managing responses to future catastrophes (expected in early 2008) and a study on the future of the National Guard and Reserves, an 18-month project completed in July 2006 under the umbrella of the CSIS Beyond Goldwater-Nichols project. The National Guard study made more than more than 40 recommendations on issues such as future roles and missions of reserve components, how to organize, train, and equip them, and how the social compact with citizen-soldiers should change for the future. In 2005, Wormuth was a contributing author of the CSIS Beyond Goldwater-Nichols Phase II study, writing the chapter on elevating and strengthening homeland security policy.

Wormuth has held a variety of jobs in the defense world. She was a principal at DFI Government Services (now DeticaDFI), where she developed and managed projects for clients at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. She has worked in the Policy Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, was a French desk officer during and after the September 11 attacks, and was special assistant to the under secretary for policy. She worked on the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review Process and focused on a range of European issues. Wormuth received her masters in public policy from the University of Maryland, her bachelor’s degree from Williams College, and is a member of Women in International Security.

If the name seems especially familiar, I assigned one of Ms. Wormuth’s more recent publications as “homework” for today’s HSC hearing (below).

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. 

March 26, 2009

The Republic of Texas v. United States

Filed under: Border Security,Budgets and Spending,Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on March 26, 2009

Secretary Napolitano has canceled today’s scheduled trip to Texas.  She was to have joined Governor Rick Perry in Port Arthur.  A bit before 10:00 pm (eastern) last evening the DHS press office announced the decision, “due to bad weather predictions for tomorrow. The inclement weather would prohibit Secretary Napolitano from being able to take her trip as planned to fully assess recovery and rebuilding efforts from hurricanes Ike and Gustav.”

Today’s weather forecast for Port Arthur reads, “Variable clouds with scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly during the afternoon hours.  A few storms may be severe. High 78F, Winds SSE at 10 to 20 mph.  Chance of rain 40%.”

The storm warning of most concern may be more political than meterological.  While the trip was scheduled to examine hurricane recovery, whaddaya want to bet the border might  be brought up?

One month ago Governor Perry asked the Secretary for, “… an additional 1000 Title 32 National Guard positions… along with six OH-58 helicopters equipped with Forward Looking Infrared Radar for night operations.  These resources will be utilized only in Defense Support of Civilian Authorities (law enforcement).”  Perry’s letter and some contextual comments can be accessed on the Office of the Governor website. 

The request for sending 1,000 troops to the border, “is under active consideration in the Defense Department and will depend on several factors,”  Napolitano is quoted as saying in the Latin American Herald Tribune.   In a Wednesday interview the Secretary explained, “It’s a decision that must be made with much caution because, as President (Barack) Obama has already said, we don’t want to militarize the border. We want to lead (the anti-drug fight) with the civil authorities and that’s what we’re doing.”

In Texas and other border states, this issue is being played as an example of  federal restraint limiting local authority.  In yesterday’s  Dallas Morning News blogsite  there was a spirited discussion (or at least an exchange of views).  One of the blog contributors, signing in as True Texan, wrote, “I’ll side with a Texan versus a Washington insider EVERY TIME when it comes to the safety and protection of Texas. Obama doesn’t live here and doesn’t know what’s going on. He, like the other Ivory Tower dwellers, are insulated from reality, especially the reality of the Texas border.” 

I expect the Governor’s political operatives are not unhappy with True Texan’s characterization.

As is so often the case, reality can be complicated.  Notice that in his letter the Governor is requesting 1000 Title 32 National Guard positions.  This is a reference to the ever popular Title 32 of the United States Code.  The Governor already has authority to deploy any Texas Title 32 forces.  This is explicit in several sections of the Code (and the US Constitution), including Chapter 9, Section 907, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as a limitation on the authority of any unit of the National Guard of a State, when such unit is not in Federal service, to perform functions authorized to be performed by the National Guard by the laws of the State concerned.”

But if the Governor deploys on his own authority, he will need to pay for the deployment with state dollars.  What he is really requesting is not federal permission to use Texas troops, rather he is requesting federal funding for those troops.  To Governor Perry’s credit he has pressed the Texas state legislature to continue funding extraordinary costs associated with the State’s role in border security.  But 1000 troops and six helicopters can eat up millions more very quickly.

Related news coverage KFOX El Paso, Dallas Morning News (editorial),  the Daily Telegraph, and the American Forces Press Service.

(Last evening Mr. William R. Cumming, a regular contributor to HLSwatch, was kind enough to respond to my request for his read on the situation.  From 1979 to 1999 Mr. Cumming was on the staff of the FEMA General Counsel.  As Mr. Cumming wrote me, “… looks like (it’s) really all about money.”)

UPDATE: In her Wednesday meeting with the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Secretary Napolitano demurred regarding additional funding focused on the Southern Border.

March 19, 2009

No Army Police Work, Sheriff Says

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on March 19, 2009

An Alabama sheriff tells CNSnews he requested help from the Army’s Ft. Rucker when his county was dealing with a shooting spree that killed ten.  DOD has launched an investigation to see if  federal forces were deployed in a manner consistent with the Posse Comitatus statute.

“I’m assuming that the problem would be that their thinking is that the military came in and actually did police work – investigating, or whatever – and that’s bull,” said Greg Ward, Sheriff of Geneva County, Alabama. 

According to DOD Joint Doctrine, “Under imminently serious conditions, when time does not permit approval from higher headquarters, any local military commander, or responsible officials of other DOD components may, subject to any supplemental direction by higher headquarters, and in response to a request from civil authorities, provide immediate response to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage.”  This is analogous to police action consistent with the emergency aid doctrine (Johnson v. United States, [1947] and Wayne v United States [1963]).

Peter Winn of CNSnews is continuing to scoop other media on this emerging story.

March 18, 2009

Army response to Alabama shootings?

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on March 18, 2009

The Alabama Department of Public Safety and CNSnews are reporting that military police based at the Army’s Ft. Rucker responded to last week’s murder spree in Southern Alabama.

According to CNSnews, the Department of Defense has begun an investigation into how and why the federal troops were deployed.  No official statement is yet available on the principal DOD website.  Under the so-called Posse Comitatus statute, use of federal troops to enforce the law is illegal except under very specific circumstances.

In recent months concern has been expressed regarding the potential role of federal military assets assigned to assist in domestic disaster response.  If confirmed – and depending on how it is confirmed – the Ft. Rucker incident will further fuel such concern.

UPDATE: Regional coverage from the Dothan Eagle.  National coverage from USA Today.  Story published by the Army Times.

December 16, 2008

DOD & DHS Convene 2-Day Workshop on “Jointness”

Filed under: Events,Homeland Defense,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on December 16, 2008

For the next two days I’ll be participating in a conference/workshop hosted by the Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, entitled “DHS and DOD in Review: Ensuring We Ask the Right Questions.” We’ll join in a “strategic review of the foundational concepts of homeland security and homeland defense and validate their applicability to evolving domestic security requirements.” I sort of wish we had more than two days.

But we’ll be in good hands. Alan Cohn, DAS for Strategic Planning at DHS, and Bert Tussing, Director of Homeland Defense and Security Issues at Carlisle, will host the event. Paul McHale, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland, Defense, and Americas’ Security Affairs, will join Alan in kicking off the two-day gathering focused on the following key questions:

• What is the relationship and/or distinction between national security and homeland security, and more specifically homeland defense and homeland security?

• Are these concepts complementary, supplementary, and/or contradictory to achieving an optimal and seamless security posture?

• Have these definitions, in their current form, outlived their usefulness?

• How should DHS and DOD pursue joint capabilities?

• What is the best way to ensure coordination and synchronization, where appropriate, between and across the functional areas called out in the Homeland Security Enterprise Architecture and DOD’s Joint Capability Areas?

• How can DHS and DOD pursue interagency jointness at the operational level?

• What models of jointness could/should DHS adopt to ensure integration and coordination internally across its operating components?

• What models provide the best foundation for jointness between DHS and DOD, and with other federal, state, and local agencies?

This is an ambitious agenda for two days of work, but even scratching the surface will be productive. In fact, much of the dialogue may focus on validating or dismissing assumptions we’re all making about the ongoing effort to knit together the homeland security enterprise. Readers are encouraged to respond to these questions in comments below. Bert and Alan do read the blog.

May 22, 2007

Fun and Games on the Homeland

Filed under: Homeland Defense,Preparedness and Response — by Jonah Czerwinski on May 22, 2007

DHS concluded Ardent Sentry – Northern Edge, a full scale exercise testing DOD, state/local, and interagency responses to a range of scenarios to stress test capacity and knowledge of NIMS, the NRP, etc.  Even the Canadians are involved. 

AS/NE introduced an interesting new role that reflects progress from the post-Katrina position to consider turning to the Pentagon as lead federal agency too quickly.  The “Defense Coordinating Officer” (DCO) debuted to coordinate information and requests between FEMA and the Department of Defense.  Apparently it worked so well that DCOs will be assigned to each of FEMA’s 10 regions.  It probably helps that even before Katrina the Homeland Defense team at DOD was steadily writing up “prescripted requests for assistance” to anticipate the kinds of state and local needs that might arise in any of the 15 national planning scenarios. 

But I digress.  The Ardent Sentry-Northern Edge war game kicked off a five-year schedule of national level exercises.  It began with FEMA Regions I and II dealing with hurricanes from New York to Maine.  Region X’s (Alaska) scenario even involved terrorist threats to energy infrastructure.  FEMA Region V got the real deal with managing response mechanisms and practices following the fictitious detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device in Indianapolis.

I’m traveling until Memorial Day.

October 31, 2006

New plan on emergency control of airspace

Filed under: Aviation Security,Homeland Defense — by Christian Beckner on October 31, 2006

A few months ago, the White House quietly issued a classified joint Homeland Security Presidential Directive / National Security Presidential Directive – HSPD-16/NSPD-47 – and has not released its contents. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about the directive in mid-August, noting that it contained the following contents:

The order, confirmed to The Chronicle by officials with knowledge of its contents, focuses on threats to aircraft from passenger baggage and air cargo — including detection of conventional, nuclear, radiological, and chemical devices — securing the airspace over the continental United States, and developing technologies to detect and prevent missile attacks on aircraft.

The directive, known as both National Security Presidential Directive 47 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 16, also orders the agencies to implement a plan to check airline passenger lists against the government’s watch lists and to assume the costs of conducting the database searches. The cost of checking passenger lists currently falls to the airlines.

Recently a notice appeared in the Federal Register that is the first government confirmation of HSPD-16/NSPD-47 that I’ve seen. The notice describes a new Plan for the Emergency Security Control of Air Traffic, which cleary defines DOD, DOT, and DHS roles in the event of an emergency airspace incident, and establishes a “ESCAT Air Traffic Priority List (EATPL)” which serves as an order of priority for use and entry into U.S. airspace in the event of the activation of this plan.

This EATPL seems a bit out of balance to me, putting state and local law enforcement and first response activities near the end of the air traffic priority list, after a long list of military air assets. In a scenario where an attack has taking place and out-of-region emergency services are needed, it seems as if this priority list create a risk that state and local response assets would be stuck at the back of the queue, behind military assets who may be necessary to secure airspace and facilitate continuity of government, but who aren’t going to save any civilian lives. Hopefully this is an issue that is being discussed between DHS and DOD; otherwise this could lead to of the same command-and-control response breakdowns that we saw in the response to Hurricane Katrina.

August 7, 2006

National Guard at the border: an update

Filed under: Border Security,Homeland Defense — by Christian Beckner on August 7, 2006

The New York Times reported over the weekend on the National Guard deployments to the U.S.-Mexico border, leaving an open question as to whether they are making an impact at the border:

The border may have a reputation for drama, intrigue and danger, but Specialist James Dwiggins of the Wisconsin National Guard has not seen much of that in the reception booth of the Border Patrol station here, where he works answering phones and sliding a clipboard for visitors to sign in.

From a camera room at the station, Specialist Kirsten Schultz of the Wisconsin Guard has seen a lot of people crossing the border. Out in the field, Specialist David Murray of the Virginia National Guard stares out at the loping hills lining the border, waiting and watching.

“I don’t see that we are having an impact,” said Specialist Murray, camped on a rainy afternoon at an observation point covered in camouflage netting with three other soldiers. “But every time the Border Patrol comes up, they tell us movement of people has almost completely stopped through here.”

For the National Guard troops sent here, many of the tasks in the border mission may seem humdrum, but the Border Patrol, eager for any help it can get, has claimed some early success as the operation moves into full swing.

The article later notes that only 3,000 of 6,600 people are “forward-deployed”, with the rest performing administrative tasks or being trained. And it answers my earlier question about where these folks would be housed:

…unlike normal deployments, the soldiers, at least for now, are largely camped in motels and hotels, ranging from the highly rated Loews Ventana Canyon resort near Tucson to the more modest Americana hotel in this city’s gritty downtown.

This is good news for hoteliers in Tucson, Yuma, Laredo, etc., but a bad deal for everyone else. Say an average hotel room costs $75/night for the people deployed. For 6,600 people @ 365 days/year, we’re talking about $180.7 million/year for hotel costs alone. Is this really the best way to spend money on border security…to say nothing of broader homeland security funding needs? (cf. the $93 million cut in the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office’s budget request.) The National Guard members who have been deployed to our border are doing a fine job at the task that they’ve been given, but with the exception of the construction teams, I still question the security value of this deployment.

August 2, 2006

Vanity Fair plays the NORAD 9/11 tapes

Filed under: Aviation Security,Homeland Defense — by Christian Beckner on August 2, 2006

Vanity Fair has a new story online today that provide a detailed chronology of the morning of 9/11 from the perspective of the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), the East Coast regional HQ for NORAD. The author of the story received 30 hours of audio files from the operations floor at NEADS, which serve as the basis for the piece. The tapes tell a story of mass confusion on the day of 9/11, with multiple contradictory pieces of evidence about hijackings lasting all day. And while F-15 fighters were finally in place over DC after AA 77 hit the Pentagon, they were not authorized to shoot down UA 93 until after it had already crashed in Shanksville, PA, in large part because the FAA did not notify NORAD about UA 93 for 35 minutes. This belies the commonly-accepted wisdom about this decision:

In his bunker under the White House, Vice President Cheney was not notified about United 93 until 10:02—only one minute before the airliner impacted the ground. Yet it was with dark bravado that the vice president and others in the Bush administration would later recount sober deliberations about the prospect of shooting down United 93. “Very, very tough decision, and the president understood the magnitude of that decision,” Bush’s then chief of staff, Andrew Card, told ABC News.

Cheney echoed, “The significance of saying to a pilot that you are authorized to shoot down a plane full of Americans is, a, you know, it’s an order that had never been given before.” And it wasn’t on 9/11, either.

President Bush would finally grant commanders the authority to give that order at 10:18, which—though no one knew it at the time—was 15 minutes after the attack was over.

The story also focuses on an initial false presentation of this narrative by military commanders before an early hearing of the 9/11 Commission, which led the commission to bring back top commanders for a second hearing to try to get the story straight. The Commission eventually decided to refer this matter to the Inspectors General of the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation, and as noted in a story in the Washington Post today, these investigations have been completed and should be publicized soon. The Post story indicates lasting vexation among Commission members and staff at the initial timeline provided by officials:

“We to this day don’t know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us,” said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. “It was just so far from the truth. . . . It’s one of those loose ends that never got tied.”

Hopefully these IG reports will finally clear this matter up, and if there was any deliberate effort to mislead or conceal information, then those people should be punished severely. Anything that gives new ammunition to delusional 9/11 conspiracy theorists weakens the essential base of public support that the United States needs if it is going to successfully wage the war on terror. For that reason, it’s essential that there be zero tolerance in the government for actions that shade or distort the truth about 9/11.

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