Department of Defense Role in Incident Response
The use of Department of Defense (DOD) resources in disaster response efforts is always the last resort because the commitment of military resources detracts from national defense and the Constitution and federal legislation limit operations of federal armed forces on domestic soil.
Even so, a federal incident management response to a state's request for assistance can include DOD resources. DOD support is called defense support to civil authorities (DSCA). All DOD support to disaster response is temporary with the end state being transfer of all emergency functions back to civilian authorities.
In addition to the legislation cited in Chapter 2, DOD directives also govern the use of DOD assets in supporting civil authorities. DOD assistance should be requested through an emergency support function (ESF) coordinator only when other local, state, and federal capabilities have been exhausted or when a military-unique capability is required.
Department of Defense Coordinating Officers and Entities
Army civil support spans both DSCA and National Guard civil support. Army civil support doctrine applies to the regular Army, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. It guides Department of the Army civilians and contractors assigned to support Army elements conducting civil support operations. This doctrine does not apply to Army forces engaged in counterterrorism operations, nor does it apply to any state defense force that is not part of the National Guard. It also does not cover operations of the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers is a direct reporting unit of the Army that exists to provide civil support according to U.S. law and other applicable regulations.
DSCA requires Army forces to provide essential services and work with civilian authorities. However, domestic operational environments are quite different from expeditionary stability operations in terms of law, military chain of command, use of deadly force, and the interagency process.
Military forces called to conduct civil support operations respond under federal status or state status. Title 10 of the U.S. Code is the principal statute covering federal military forces. Federal military forces operate under the command and control of the president, the secretary of defense, and the supported combatant commander. State military forces (those assigned to state active duty under Title 32 of the U.S. Code) operate under the command and control of the governor through a state joint-force headquarters led by the adjutant general of the state. While federal and state forces operate in proximity to one another, they remain under their respective chains of command. Unity of command, as the military defines it, does not apply to the broader structure of American government when state and federal government agencies coordinate efforts. Unity of command applies to federal and state military forces only when the president and the governor formally agree to appoint a dual-status commander. In the absence of unity of command, achieving unity of effort in civil support operations becomes essential.
U.S. Coast Guard forces are unique in that they normally operate under Title 14 of the U.S. Code, serving under the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard may, however, come under the operational control of DOD for some missions. In some homeland security missions the Coast Guard may exercise tactical control of Title 10 forces.
National Guard forces in state active duty status
When a governor mobilizes the state National Guard, the forces are in state active duty status and under the command and control of the governor. The state government pays expenses for forces in state active duty status. National Guard members on state active duty conduct all missions according to the needs of the state and within the guidelines of state laws and statutes. National Guardsmen on state active duty are paid by the state and subject to the state military code, not the Uniform Code of Military Justice. National Guard forces in state active duty status can perform civil law enforcement missions in accordance with the laws and statutes of their state. Generally, National Guard forces assist with incident management and homeland security operations within the state.
National Guard forces in Title 32 status
Under certain circumstances, a governor may request that the federal government pay for the costs associated with a state call-up of the National Guard for responding to an emergency. When the secretary of defense approves, National Guard forces change from state active duty status to Title 32 status. (Title 32, U.S. Code, is the principal federal statute covering the National Guard.) Even though the National Guard forces are on Title 32 active duty and funded by the federal government, National Guards members remain under the command of the governor. The distinction between funding lines is important to the respective state and federal treasuries. For Army commanders, the important distinction is that National Guard units in Title 32 status remain under state control and therefore have authority for some missions that, because of Posse Comitatus Act restrictions, regular Army and Army Reserve units do not. Because National Guard forces in Title 32 status remain under the command of the governor and are not subject to restriction of the Posse Comitatus Act, they may conduct law enforcement missions.
The National Guard of one state can assist other states responding to a disaster through formal agreements, such as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). Typically, this occurs in state active duty, and may transition to Title 32 status upon approval by the secretary of defense. When requested by the supported state's governor and authorized by the supporting state's governor under a separate memorandum of agreement, National Guard elements deploy to the supported state. The supporting National Guard operates under the operational control of the supported state's adjutant general. Typically, deployments under an assistance memorandum are limited to a specific period, such as 30 days. Often military and civilian officials refer to all National Guard forces as "Title 32 forces" notwithstanding that some of them may be in a purely state active duty status, without federal funding. Table 4-1 summarizes the types of National Guard duty status.
State and territorial National Guard forces have primary responsibility for providing military support to state and local authorities in emergencies. In most civil support situations, the president will not federalize National Guard forces. National Guard units conduct advance planning with civilian responders. Together, these organizations - civilian and military - establish coordination plans and procedures based on national policy such as the National Incident Management System, the National Response Framework (NRF), and national planning scenarios. Command and control follows the authority under which service members are ordered to duty: State active duty and Title 32 remain under the authority of the respective governor/adjutant general and Title 10 under federal command and control.
Table 4-1. State Active Duty, T-32, and T-10
Federal forces (Title 10 status)
Title 10, U.S. Code, governs all federal military forces. For the Army, these forces include the regular Army, the Army Reserve, and all National Guard units ordered to federal Active Duty in Title 10 status. For the other services, Title 10 forces include all components except the Air National Guard unless it mobilizes for federal service. Title 10 forces are federal assets under the command of the president. Forces in Title 10 status are restricted from conducting law enforcement missions by the Posse Comitatus Act (See Chapter 2).
In a large-scale disaster, the president may direct that federal military forces support federal agencies, but these forces will remain under federal, not state, command. In most cases, there are separate federal and state chains of command assisting numerous organizations on the ground. Unity of effort across jurisdictions and involving multiple organizations requires significant effort in establishing effective communication. Duplication of effort is likely unless Title 32 and Title 10 forces keep each other informed to ensure joint headquarters have an accurate assessment of the situation. The DCO serves as the vital link between the state EOC, state National Guard joint headquarters, federal agencies, and Title 10 military forces.
FM 3-28, Civil Support Operations (draft released June 2010) will add two primary tasks to the three tasks specified in FM 3-0, Operations, February 2008. There are now five primary civil support tasks:
The expansion to five tasks recognizes the increased emphasis placed on CBRNE response, particularly if terrorist groups employ WMD. The primary purposes of civil support are to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect property.
The U.S. Army is organized into six numbered armies. Fifth U.S. Army, headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, TX, is responsible for command and control of military support to domestic disaster response efforts throughout the entire continental United States. It acts as the Army service component command of USNORTHCOM.
Regular Army divisions can provide two or more combat brigades for a total of 10,000 to 25,000 personnel. The brigades are capable of intratheater movement deployment using air, rail, and vehicular movement. Divisions have advanced command and control capabilities and highly trained commanders and staffs with robust sustainment. Units have CBRNE defensive equipment, can provide their own life support, and can be alerted and prepared for initial deployment within 18 to 24 hours.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or High-Yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force
A CBRNE consequence management response force (CCMRF) is a brigade-level organization of roughly 4,500 personnel. That includes at least three task forces: medical, aviation, and operational. The operational assets include transportation, communications, logistics, public affairs, military information support operations (formerly psychological operations), intelligence, and specialized CBRNE detection and decontamination units.
When a CCMRF is deployed to assist with the results of a CBRNE attack or accident, it will do so in support of the civil authorities as specified in the mission assignment from the FCO at the joint field office. But there are important limitations on how the military should engage this mission.
The CCMRF's primary role in the operation is likely to focus on its specialized competence in biological, chemical, and radiological reconnaissance and decontamination, medical surge, transportation, and communication. The taskings include:
The DCO will work with civilian counterparts in the joint field office - the FCO and state coordinating officer - as well as local liaison officers to determine where and what support is required. The CCMRF unit will not coordinate directly with civil authorities, except when actually doing the work per their mission assignment.
Specialized CCMRF assets
A typical aviation task force for the CCMRF will consist of the following:
The medical task force operates with seven priorities:
A CCMRF is most likely to be deployed under provisions of the Stafford Disaster and Emergency Assistance Act. According to joint doctrine, a Stafford Act incident is one in which state and local authorities declare a state of emergency and request federal assistance. According to the Stafford Act, the federal role in disaster response is to support the "state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage." The federal government does not replace state and local authority or responsibility. The federal government is in a supporting role, not one of authority or responsibility, to the state and local agencies.
The CCMRF advances its mission by deploying its particular expertise in CBRNE consequence management and in providing communications, transportation, medical surge, mortuary surge, and other resources helpful in the aftermath of a disaster.
The CCMRF's implicit mission is to support civil authorities in such a manner that a rapid recovery is enabled and public confidence is maintained or restored. The CCMRF - and every element of the civil support function - is focused on reinforcing the resilience of the American people, both those immediately affected by the incident and those outside the disaster zone.
The CCMRF will, at all times, remain under the control of the military chain of command and under the direction of the secretary of defense and the president. The CCMRF will, however, need to coordinate its activities with a wide range of players. They include state and local officials, owners and managers of private property, religious and civic organizations, and individual citizens.
In the case of a CBRNE event, other organizations with expertise similar to the CCMRF are likely to be engaged. These are important sources of information for the CCMRF and assets with which CCMRF capabilities should be tactically coordinated. These include, but are not limited to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is an Army major command assigned mission responsibilities in major construction and other engineering support to the Army and the Air Force, in nationwide water resource management, in engineering research and development, and in real estate services for the Army and DOD. USACE employs approximately 34,600 civilians and has approximately 650 military members assigned. USACE is organized geographically into eight divisions in the United States and 41 subordinate districts throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe. Divisions and districts are defined by watershed boundaries, not by states. In addition, a ninth provisional division with four districts was activated 25 January 2004 to oversee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
USACE's mission is to provide quality, responsive engineering services to the nation including:
In addition to the long-standing programs noted above, USACE has been called upon with increasing frequency since the 1990s to take part in contingency operations at home and abroad. These contingency operations include natural and man-made disasters as well as military/foreign policy operations in support of the U.S. national interest. Contingency operations at home and abroad became more common during the 1990s, with the frequency, duration, and the scope increasing greatly since the events of September 11, 2001.
USACE and domestic incident response
USACE conducts its emergency response activities under two basic authorities: the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (P.L. 84-99, as amended) and the Stafford Disaster and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended). Under the Stafford Act, USACE supports FEMA in carrying out the NRF, which calls on 26 federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated disaster relief and recovery operations. Under the NRF, the Army has the lead responsibility for public works and engineering missions (ESF #3, Public Works and Engineering).
Planning and response teams
USACE maintains 44 planning and response teams (PRTs) stationed around the country to facilitate a rapid response to disasters. PRTs include the following:
Deployable tactical operations system
USACE also manages a deployable tactical operations system (DTOS), which includes a national fleet of rapid response vehicles that are designed to deploy within 18 hours as field offices for the PRTs. The DTOS includes:
Immediate Response Situations
Imminently serious conditions resulting from any civil emergency may require immediate action to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate property damage. When such conditions exist and time does not permit approval from higher headquarters, local military commanders and responsible officials from DOD components and agencies are authorized by DOD directive and pre-approval by the secretary of defense, subject to any supplemental direction that may be provided by their DOD component, to take necessary action to respond to requests of civil authorities consistent with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S. Code, Section 1385). All such necessary action is referred to as "immediate response."
In addition to direct support for incident response, DOD possesses specialized capabilities employed in support of federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies, including first-responder communities within those agencies. Included among these specialized capabilities are test and evaluation facilities and capabilities; education and exercise expertise; explosive detection; technical escort; medical services; the transfer of applicable technologies, including those developed through DOD science and technology programs; and the expertise of DOD personnel. The DOD homeland defense coordination office established at the Department of Homeland Security headquarters facilitates interdepartmental cooperation and transfer of the specialized capabilities to the emergency responder community.
Table 4-2. DCO contact information
Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012