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Newsletter 10-16
December 2009

Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS): A National Asset

by MSgt (Ret) Michael Eck

Reprinted with permission from the Joint Center for Operational Analysis Journal


"September the 11th provided a warning of future dangers, of terror networks aided by outlaw regimes and ideologies that incite the murder of the innocent, and the use of biological and chemical and nuclear weapons that multiply destructive power."

-President George W. Bush

"Terrorists and/or rogue states will attempt multiple, simultaneous mass casualty CBRNE attacks against the US Homeland. What is at issue is the timing of the event, not that it will occur."

-Paul McHale, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense


March 11, 2004-Ten bombs concealed in backpacks are detonated via cell phone on crowded commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,500.

July 23, 2005-At least 83 people are killed when three bombs explode in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

August 10, 2006-Police conduct a coordinated sweep in and around London and Birmingham, England to break up a plot to blow up 10 transatlantic passenger jets.

September 8, 2006-A car bomb exploded near the US Embassy in Kabul, killing at least 16 people.

Date not yet known-A Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) event in the United States.


"Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government."

-President George W. Bush


The Department of Defense (DOD) remains ever vigilant in its effort to prevent further attacks on American soil. In response to the tragic events of 11 September 2001, the Secretary of Defense created US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). USNORTHCOM provides command and control of DOD's Homeland Defense efforts and to coordinate Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). USNORTHCOM's specific mission is to conduct operations to deter, prevent, and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories and interests within its assigned area of responsibility (AOR); and, as directed by the President or Secretary of Defense, to provide DSCA. DSCA includes support of civil authorities conducting consequence management (CM) of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident. Domestic CBRNE CM support encompasses both deliberate and inadvertent CBRNE incidents, including terrorism, acts of aggression, industrial accidents and acts of nature in the 50 States, US territories, and possessions.

Force Requirement

The unit charged to assist civil authorities in conducting CBRNE CM within the USNORTHCOM AOR is Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS). JTF-CS is a standing Joint Task Force headquarters located on Fort Monroe, near Norfolk, Va. In response to base re-alignment decisions, it will eventually relocate to Fort Eustis, Va. Tracing its establishment back to 1998, through actions taken by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), JTFCS stands ready to provide command and control of military resources when called upon to support federal, state and local authorities in the United States, its territories and its possessions as a result of a CBRNE attack or incident within America's borders.

On Oct. 1, 2008, US Army North (ARNORTH), as USNORTHCOM's, Joint Force Land Component Commander (JFLCC), assumed operational control of JTF-CS. On order, JTF-CS deploys in response to a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) attack with CBRNE consequences; a team of military and civilian planners then executes a plan that brings a variety of military capabilities to assist the federal, state and local agency response to CBRNE incidents.

Interagency - National Response Plan Partnerships

Preparing for and executing a domestic consequence management mission requires JTF-CS to work closely with the many other federal, state, and local agencies that also respond to CBRNE incidents. Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will most likely be the agency JTF-CS supports during an incident of national significance, liaison with other federal and state agencies, is critical. These agencies include, but are not limited to, the Department of Justice, the Department of Energy, and the Centers for Disease Control, various State Emergency Management Agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, state National Guard headquarters, and state medical and public health agencies. The Department of Defense is just one member of the federal response community. JTF-CS therefore recognizes the vital need for interagency coordination.

Capability / Skill Set Requirement

As a partner in the National Response Framework, DOD provides support to state and local authorities managing responses to natural disasters. However, the forces, equipment, and experience required to effectively respond to a CBRNE incident are very different from those needed to respond to natural disasters. The JTF-CS was established to develop the expertise and maintain the focus on the mission of providing command and control during domestic CBRNE CM missions. Authorization and designated forces are articulated in the CJCS CBRNE Consequence Management Execute Order (EXORD).

DOD CM support and assistance to civil authorities may require DOD's robust logistical roles, skills and structures, such as the ability to mobilize large numbers of people, to move large amounts of material and equipment, and to provide other logistical support beyond civil authority capability.

Legal / Funding Constraints

JTF-CS accomplishes its CM mission in strict adherence to existing federal law, which carefully balances the support capabilities of the US military with the needs of civil authorities during emergencies. The primary mission authority for DOD to engage in domestic consequence management operations is the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 USC 5121 et seq). The Stafford Act authorizes the President to provide disaster and emergency assistance to state and local governments upon receipt of a request from the state or territorial governor. Only upon Presidential and Secretary of Defense direction, can JTF-CS (USC Title 10 forces) engage in civil support domestically. When deployed in any domestic setting, JTF-CS supports the primary and coordinating agencies, as defined in the National Response Framework. This support will continue throughout the CBRNE CM operation so long as JTF-CS support is required to supplement civil capability. It is understood that the long-term recovery efforts are the responsibility of civil authorities.

Tasks and Responsibilities

JTF-CS' ongoing support includes deliberate planning activities; developing CBRNE doctrine and identifying requirements; analyzing local and state emergency plans to help anticipate requirements for DOD assistance; and managing high fidelity geo-spatial products and geographic information system (GIS) data sets. These data sets relate to US municipalities and critical infrastructure and are established in a web-based architecture. JTF-CS participates in joint and interagency exercises and supports contingency planning for National Special Security Events (NSSE). Additionally, JTF-CS has taken the lead to assist the JFLCC and USNORTHCOM with situational awareness and intergovernmental coordination efforts to improve DOD civil support readiness in the face of current threats from pandemic influenza. In the event of multiple CBRNE events, JTF-CS may be directed to deploy a Joint Planning Augmentation Cell (JPAC) to support other domestic command and control headquarters. The JPAC is a tailored group of functional planners that assist a supported staff in planning joint force CBRNE CM operations.

Concept of Operations

The JTF-CS concept of operations guides the organization in executing its mission and describes how it will respond. This concept of operations has been validated through the CJCS exercise program. Taking lessons learned from these exercises, the concept of operations has then been retested and validated in numerous subsequent exercises. The concept of operations is divided into six separate phases.

Phase 0, Staging: Phase 0 is maintaining continuous situational awareness and preparedness. Actions in this phase include interagency coordination, exercises, and public affairs outreach (which continues through all phases). Phase 0 ends with the identification of a potential CBRNE-CM incident.

Phase I, Anticipate: Phase I begins with the identification of a potential CBRNE CM mission or when directed by the Secretary of Defense. The purpose of Phase I is to position forces to expedite the response. Phase I success includes the deployment of the Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) and the Defense Coordinating Element (DCE), in coordination with state and local officials. Phase I ends when the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF, receives a prepare-to deploy order.

Phase II, Respond: Phase II begins with the CCMRF deployment and may be concurrent with Phases 0 and I. Because of the nature of CBRNE CM operations, forces will likely deploy into and out of the Joint Operations Area (JOA) as long as the CBRNE CM operation requires DOD support. Phase II success equals forces deployed with enough consequence management capability to accomplish the mission. Phase II ends when response forces are ready to conduct operations in the JOA.

Phase III, Operate: Phase III begins when CBRNE CM operations commence. The purpose of this phase is to conduct consequence management operations. Success equals civil authorities capable of effectively continuing consequence management requirements. This phase ends with civil authorities prepared to assume responsibility for operations. In cases where JTF-CS is redeployed to a secondary CBRNE site, this phase would end for JTF-CS when a follow-on DOD force assumes command and control of continued CM operations at the initial CBRNE site.

Phase IV, Stabilize: Phase IV begins when civil authorities or follow-on DOD forces scale down operations and civil authorities resume "new normal" activities. This phase ends when redeployment criteria have been met.

Phase V, Transition: Phase V starts when all response forces begin redeployment and operational control transfers to the designated command, usually the DCO. Response forces will deploy to follow-on or a near simultaneous CBRNE incident or return to their home base. Success equals a complete transfer of responsibilities to civil authorities.

Sourcing the CCMRF

JTF-CS, in accordance with the CJCS CBRNE CM EXORD, and the USNORTHCOM CONPLAN 3500, is sourced through force providers, such as US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM). On Oct. 1, 2008, USNORTHCOM was assigned a dedicated force capable of responding within 48 hours to CBRNE incidents in the homeland. The CBRNE CCMRF is a team of about 4,700 joint personnel that deploy as DOD's initial response force to a CBRNE incident.

Each CCMRF will be composed of three functional task forces - Task Force Operations, Task Force Medical and Task Force Aviation - that have their own individual operational focus and set of mission skills. Their capabilities include search and rescue, decontamination, medical, aviation, communications and logistical support.


JTF-CS is not a primary agency as defined in the National Response Framework, nor does it provide a first response capability commensurate with local and state incident specific responders, to include the National Guard. JTF-CS is, however, ready to support those first responders, as directed with control authority maintained by the DOD. The authorization process to deploy JTF-CS begins with a request from a governor to the President for federal support. JTFCS (DOD) support would then be contingent upon a follow-on Presidential, or Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security declaration. In coordination with other federal and state agencies, JTF-CS continuously prepares for such an event; to respond to the broadening spectrum of potential terrorist attacks- chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive - anywhere in the United States.

Note: This article was originally published in the winter 2008-2009 edition of Joint Center for Operational Analysis Journal. References and endnotes were removed from this article for reprinting and are available upon request from the original publisher of this article.


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