Army Forces for Homeland Security

Army Forces for Homeland Security

by Lynn Davis, David E. Mosher, Jr. Brennan

What role can the Army play in protecting the United States from terrorist attacks?


What role can the Army play in protecting the United States from terrorist attacks?

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Rand Publishing
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Army Forces for Homeland Security

By Lynn E. Davis David E. Mosher Richard R. Brennan Michael D. Greenberg K. Scott McMahon Charles W. Yost

Rand Corporation

Copyright © 2004 RAND Corporation
All right reserved.

Chapter One



Considerable attention has been given to providing security for the American homeland since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. The President has formed a Homeland Security Council to coordinate the various federal activities and integrate them with those of state and local governments. Congress has established a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), bringing under one roof most of the domestic agencies and offices responsible for homeland security (HLS), including border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, and critical infrastructure protection.

A National Security Strategy for Homeland Security has been promulgated that lays out a comprehensive plan for fighting terrorism and establishes lines of authority and responsibilities for federal, state, and local governments (Office of Homeland Security, 2002). The President's budget for HLS in 2004 has more than doubled since 2002, with priority being given to improving the capabilities of civilian organizations to respond to terrorist attacks (White House, 2003, pp. 9-14). The Department of Defense (DoD) has stated that defending the nation is the U.S. military's highest priority and taken a number of steps to increase its capabilities,including the creation of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) with the missions to protect the United States against military attacks from overseas and to provide military assistance to civil authorities.

Notwithstanding these initiatives, the U.S. military faces many challenges in providing HLS, largely because of the enormous uncertainties. The most obvious uncertainty has to do with the nature of the terrorist threat. While the prospect of attacks is serious and urgent, with the possibility of widespread and devastating effects, what terrorists will seek or be able to accomplish is unknown. Uncertainties also surround how effective civilian law enforcement agencies will be in preventing attacks and how capable civilian emergency responders will be in handling attacks. While significant funds are being directed to their preparations, lacking is any standard by which to judge their capabilities or effectiveness.

A consensus has emerged that the primary responsibility for HLS should reside with civilian organizations, supplemented as necessary with DoD resources and capabilities. While the active-duty Army and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) can be used for HLS when required, responsibility for the initial and primary military response should be with the National Guard, working under the authority of the state governors. Indeed, federal response planning is based on escalating response capabilities from local to state to national, placing the National Guard in its state mission role most often before states request federal assistance. Precisely how this response framework will apply in the context of future homeland emergencies, however, is still another uncertainty.

The responses following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington provide some useful lessons as to how this might be achieved. However, the attacks occurred in two of the best-prepared cities in the United States and involved conventional explosives, not weapons of mass destruction (WMD). So the experiences may not be transferable to future terrorist attacks.

The challenge then for the U.S. military, and especially the Army, in HLS is to be prepared to make up any deficiencies in the capabilities of others, just as it has done in the past in serious domestic emergencies, and to do this within an environment of significant uncertainties.

By "HLS" in this report, we mean military activities in support of civilian organizations-i.e., those involved in preventing and responding to attacks from terrorist or possibly enemy irregular military forces as well as in responding to other kinds of domestic emergencies, including natural disasters and civil disturbances. This is a broader definition for HLS than is found in The National Security Strategy for Homeland Security, which focuses only on terrorism. It encompasses what the Department of Defense calls Civil Support missions: Military Assistance to Civil Authorities (MACA), Military Assistance for Civil Disturbances (MACDIS), and Military Support to Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies (MSCLEA). We will not examine well-established counterdrug operations or those other activities DoD includes under homeland defense (military protection of the U.S. territory, the domestic population, and critical defense infrastructure against external threats and aggression) or under emergency preparedness.

The Army's Role in HLS

The Army has been involved in what is now called "homeland security" for as long as the nation has existed. It has defended the borders and supported civilian authorities during natural disasters, emergencies, insurrections, and riots when state and local resources have been overwhelmed. On almost a daily basis, some Army units are involved in these traditional HLS missions, though over the last century, protecting the nation's borders has not been a high priority, except in the case of counterdrug operations.

The National Guard is the most often involved in HLS activities, largely because it has a presence in each state and can be called up by the governor within a very short time, measured in hours or a few days. Another advantage is that the Guard is usually closely connected to the state emergency management system. In a majority of states the adjutant general heads both. Finally, Guardsmen on state active duty are not limited in their ability to conduct law enforcement, because federal statutes, including the Posse Comitatus Act, only pertain to the federal military.

The large majority of the Army's HLS activities have been small, such as helping firefighters battle a large forest fire. Most operations involve only a small number of soldiers-perhaps a squad, platoon, or sometimes even a company. In those unusual cases when the incident is large, such as a hurricane, earthquake, or flood, governors may call to state active duty a larger portion of their National Guard forces or request Guardsmen from other states. In those very unusual cases when an incident overwhelms state civilian and National Guard resources, the President has ordered active-duty Army forces to lend support. Such incidents have been relatively infrequent: examples include Hurricane Andrew, Typhoon Iniki, and the Los Angeles riots, all in 1992; Hurricane Marilyn in 1995; Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and forest fires in the western United States in 2000. In these cases, the number of active Army soldiers ranged from several thousand to some 15,000 (Hurricane Andrew). On two of these occasions, the Los Angeles riots and Hurricane Floyd, the President also federalized some tens of thousands of National Guardsmen. The USAR is rarely involved in HLS tasks because legal and policy restrictions require time to call its members to active duty and because Congress has limited its HLS operations to WMD or terrorist attacks that may result in significant losses of life or property.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the military supplemented the capabilities of the police, fire departments, and medical units at both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Within 24 hours, the New York National Guard had more than 4,000 soldiers on active duty, with some 1,000 providing security, medical, and engineering services. The military also took immediate steps to provide security against further attacks in the skies and around critical government facilities. In the ensuing weeks, some 7,000 Army Reserve soldiers were called up to provide rescue support, civil engineers, communication and power-generation systems, medical teams, and other service support operations-e.g., food and shelter. Soon after the attacks, the National Guard, under the control of the state governors, provided security at more than 400 airports. The National Guard and others in the Army also supplemented civilian efforts in providing security of the nation's borders, seaports, bridges, power plants, and government buildings as well as at such special events as the Winter Olympics (Davis and Shapiro, 2003, pp. 67-69).

Although the Army has unique capabilities, it is called on for the most part in domestic emergencies because it can provide an organized pool of labor and equipment and, in exceptional circumstances, it can employ forces to maintain order and assist in the enforcement of state and federal laws. The Army's approach to HLS has, therefore, been to rely on active and reserve forces that have been sized, organized, trained, and equipped to fight wars, essentially treating HLS as a lesser included case.

Over the past few years, the Army has, however, taken some critical steps to improve its HLS capabilities. At congressional urging, the Army is creating in the National Guard special teams to respond to incidents involving WMD. They are called Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs). Fifty-five teams are currently planned and at least one will be deployed in each of the states and territories. They are each manned by 22 full-time National Guardsmen. While they will be federally funded and trained, they will normally perform their mission under the command and control of the state governors. The Army is also in the process of creating the Guardian Brigade from existing units, with a headquarters element and trained personnel, to provide a specialized and tailored response force in the event of an attack involving the use of WMD at home or overseas.

Within the active component (AC), the Army as part of its transformation is increasing from 33 active brigades to 43 modular active brigade units of action and restructuring to provide more high-demand capabilities, such as military police and special operations forces. Both of these steps will make the active Army more responsive not only to overseas contingencies but also to emergencies at home.

The Army has developed plans to provide headquarters elements to assist local, state, and federal civilian agencies and provide command and control of military units responding to HLS emergencies. It has also designated certain active Army units, on a rotating basis, to be on heightened alert for HLS emergencies (Burns, 2003). Two brigades are being maintained to respond to potential actions involving military assistance to civil disturbances in accordance with the DoD Civil Disturbance Plan (DoD, 2003c, p. 5). In addition, five battalions are designated to provide rapid-reaction forces (RRFs) and quick-reaction forces (QRFs) for HLS emergencies, such as critical infrastructure protection, counterterrorism operations, and consequence management (DoD, 2003c, p. 5). The existence of this capability was highlighted in recent DoD reports and testimony, but neither the size of the units nor the speed of deployment was specified. That being said, however, it is likely given past Army practice that an RRF is a battalion that has an 18-hour deployment window, and a QRF is a platoon or company with a deployment window of two to four hours. In both of these cases, the units do not have any specialized training for HLS and are available for deployment to an overseas contingency. If deployed for an HLS contingency, these units would serve under the operational control of NORTHCOM.

In the National Guard, rapid-reaction forces are being planned for every state and territory to handle various types of HLS emergencies. They would deploy as state militia in support of their governors. The National Guard has also consolidated its headquarter organizations in each state into a Standing Joint Force Headquarters, which provides for rapid response within the state and the integration of activities across states through Emergency Mutual Assistance Compacts (EMACs) (Blum, 2004). These EMACs offer a quick and easy way for states to send equipment and personnel to assist in emergencies in other states and provide a legally binding contractual arrangement that makes the requesting state responsible for all costs of outof- state forces. So far, every state but California and two of the four territories have either ratified the EMACs or are in the process of doing so.

The USAR, which has critical types of units for HLS, is also being reorganized to enhance its capability to respond quickly for emergency missions at home or overseas. Units will be placed on a 96-120 hour alert status for six- to nine-month periods (Helmly, 2004).

Outside Groups' Recommendations for Additional Army Steps

Recognizing the critical role that the Army plays in HLS and the new challenges it faces, a few commissions and study groups outside government have offered recommendations for further steps the Army should take. They tend to give the primary role for HLS to the Guard and Reserve and to call for a shift in the priorities of the National Guard away from conventional warfare. Where they differ is in how this should be done.

The Hart-Rudman Commission in 2001 recommended that "the Secretary of Defense, at the president's direction, should make HLS a primary mission of the National Guard, and the Guard should be organized, properly trained, and adequately equipped to undertake that mission.... The National Guard should redistribute resources currently allocated predominantly to preparing for conventional wars overseas to provide greater support to civil authorities in preparing for and responding to disasters, especially emergencies involving weapons of mass destruction" (U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, 2001, p. 24). The commission did not, however, describe what specific changes should be made.

The Gilmore Commission, in its 2002 report, made a number of recommendations to improve the nation's military capabilities for HLS. Given "the possibility of a major attack on U.S. soil of a size that would overwhelm even the best-prepared cities," the commission recommended that "the Combatant Commander, NORTHCOM, have dedicated, rapid-reaction units with a wide range of response capabilities, such as the ability to support implementation of a quarantine, support crowd control activities, provide CBRNE [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High Explosives] detection and decontamination, provide emergency medical response, perform engineering, and provide communication support to and among the leadership of civil authorities in the event of a terrorist attack." It then suggested that the force could be drawn from any part of the Army but should involve such capabilities as military police, command and control, medical, engineering, CBRNE detection/decontamination, and liaison elements (Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2002, pp. 99-101).

The Gilmore Commission further recommended that the National Guard's civil support capability be enhanced by assigning certain units HLS as their "exclusive mission" and by giving them sufficient training and resources. This is a change in the commission's earlier recommendation, which called for the National Guard to be assigned HLS missions "as their primary missions with combat missions outside the United States as secondary missions" (Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2002, p. 103).

The Heritage Foundation Homeland Security Task Force called for freeing up the National Guard and Reserve for HLS. In the task force's view, this should be done by providing additional combat support and combat service support in the active forces, by increasing the number of active-duty personnel, and by ensuring that the National Guard has standing emergency plans to train and work with local authorities on homeland defense and consequence management (Bremer and Meese, 2002, p. 9).

Should the Army Do More?

The question for the nation then is whether the Army should do more to prepare for HLS activities to hedge against the risk of being inadequately prepared, given a world where terrorists have demonstrated the willingness and capability to conduct mass-casualty attacks within the United States and where civilian capabilities are expanding but still untested.


Excerpted from Army Forces for Homeland Security by Lynn E. Davis David E. Mosher Richard R. Brennan Michael D. Greenberg K. Scott McMahon Charles W. Yost Copyright © 2004 by RAND Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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