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Handbook 11-07
December 2010

Chapter 4

Department of Defense Role in Incident Response

"During a disaster, governors have at their disposal a crucial state resource in the National Guard. These state military forces have equipment and expertise in communications, logistics, search and rescue, law enforcement, and decontamination and can serve as a significant resource during a disaster response. When National Guard forces from disaster-impacted and supporting states are insufficient, federal military assets also are available through the U.S. Department of Defense."

- A Governor's Guide to Homeland Security, 2007 

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

  • Defense coordinating officers (DCOs) are military officers in the grade of O-6 (or the civil service equivalent) who represent the DOD at joint field offices (JFOs). The DCO is the single DOD point of contact at the JFO. The DCO will provide operational control to the designated supported combatant commander or designated joint task force (JTF) commander. DCO contact information appears at the end of this chapter in Table 4-2.
  • The DCO assists in planning and coordinating the delivery of all DOD disaster response assets and resources provided to a state through the federal coordinating officer (FCO). Requests for DSCA originating at a JFO are coordinated with and processed through the DCO to the secretary of defense for approval, and then on to the joint directors of military support for transmission to one of the unified combatant commands. DCOs are designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions, and one DCO is assigned to each state disaster. All DCOs and their associated defense coordinating elements (DCEs) undergo periodic, externally evaluated readiness exercises to ensure they are trained and ready.
  • The DCE is the DCO's staff. It consists of staff and military liaison officers responsible for facilitating DOD coordination and support. The DCE processes requirements for military support; forwards mission assignments through DOD channels; tracks expenditures; assists with reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of DOD resources; and assigns military liaisons to activated ESFs.
  • Emergency preparedness liaison officers (EPLOs) are reserve component officers in the pay grade of O-6 (Army, Air Force, and Marine colonels and Navy captains) who represent their respective service component at the state emergency operations centers (EOCs) and the JFO. EPLOs serve as military liaisons at the FEMA region level. They identify potential DOD support requirements and function as service representatives and advisers to the DCO as part of the DCE staff.

Joint Entities

  • The following unified combatant commands are directed in DSCA efforts by Joint Publication 3-26, Homeland Security, which states that: "The combatant commanders responsible for homeland defense and civil support incorporate plans for civil support by task-organizing their commands to accomplish civil support missions as well as other assigned missions."
    • U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, CO, is responsible for providing resources for domestic disaster relief to the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    • U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith, HI, is responsible for providing resources for Hawaii; American Samoa; the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; Guam; and the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
  • Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) is a standing military headquarters without assigned forces that is located at Fort Monroe, VA. JTF-CS studies city and state emergency plans to evaluate the potential needs of cities and determine how best to support a coordinating agency dealing with the consequences of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) attack. JTF-CS plans and integrates DOD support to FEMA for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) events in the continental United States and draws on DOD capabilities including detection, decontamination, medical, and logistical assets. Once the secretary of defense authorizes military support to civil authorities, JTF-CS deploys to the incident site to serve as the command and control headquarters for responding DOD units.
  • A JTF is constituted and designated by the secretary of defense and consists of a combatant commander, a sub-unified commander, or an existing joint task force commander.

Army Overview

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.

Graphic showing diagram of range of Army civil support

Figure 4-1. Range of Army civil support


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.


State Active Duty

Title 32

Title 10

Command and control





Within respective state or territory and according to Emergency Management Assistance Compact or state-to-state memorandum of agreement

Within respective state or territory and according to Emergency Management Assistance Compact or state-to-state memorandum of agreement


Funded by


Federal funds administered by the state



According to state law; includes riot control, law enforcement, and emergency response

Annual training, drills, and other federal military requirements; disaster and law enforcement missions, based on disaster and emergency declarations by the president

Worldwide training and operations, as assigned by joint commander


State military code

State military code

Uniform Code of Military Justice

Conduct law enforcement

Yes (as authorized by the supported governor)

Yes (as authorized by the supported governor)

No, (Strictly limited by Posse Comitatus Act, standing execute orders, and DOD directives)


Determined by state law

DOD Financial Management Regulation Volume 7A

DOD Financial Management Regulation Volume 7.0

Travel, lodging, and benefits

Determined by state law

Joint Federal Travel Regulations, chapter 10/public law

Joint Federal Travel Regulations, chapter 10/public law

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.

Graphic showing spectrum of response over time - pre-event to 30 days


C2: Command and control
C4I: Command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence
CBRN: Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
CCMRF: CBRNE consequence management response force
CERFP: CBRNE-enhanced response force package

CST: Civil support team
DOD: Department of Defense
ID: Identification
Med/Tech: Medical/Technical
NG: National Guard
SA: Situational awareness
SAD: State active duty

Figure 4-2. Spectrum of response

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:

  • Provide support in response to a disaster.
  • Support CBRNE consequence management (added task).
  • Provide support during a pandemic (added task).
  • Support civil law enforcement.
  • Provide other support as required.

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.

Army Support

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:

  • Logistics and distribution.
  • Citizen evacuation.
  • Support of displaced population.
  • Mortuary operations.
  • Clearing major transportation routes.
  • Hazard surveying and monitoring.
  • Decontamination.
  • Search and rescue (extraction).
  • Medical transport.
  • Medical services.
  • Public affairs.

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

  • CHEM Co (Decon): chemical company decontamination (Army).
  • CHEM Plt (Recon): chemical platoon reconnaissance (Army).
  • CHEM Plt (BIDS): chemical platoon biological integrated detection system (Army).
  • NBC Bio Det TM: nuclear, biological and chemical biological detection team (Air Force).
  • CBRNE CE: CBRNE coordination element (Army).
  • HAMMER ACE: hammer adaptive communications element (Air Force).
  • AFRAT: Air Force radiological assessment team (Air Force).
  • DTRA CMAT: Defense Threat Reduction Agency consequence management advisory team (DOD).

A typical aviation task force for the CCMRF will consist of the following:

  • Headquarters, aviation brigade.
  • Aviation battalion medical lift.
  • Aviation battalion medical.
  • Aviation intermediate maintenance (AVIM) platoon (maintenance and supply).

The medical task force operates with seven priorities:

  • Provide public health support.
  • Provide medical augmentation to existing hospitals or other facilities.
  • Provide definitive medical care.
  • Establish casualty collection points and emergency medical care locations.
  • Assist with patient movement.
  • Provide medical logistics support.
  • Support patient redistribution through the National Disaster Medical System.

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.

CCMRF guidelines

  • Develop measurable objectives.
  • Coordinate with other organizations.
  • Plan to hand over tasks.
  • Provide essential support to the largest number of people.
  • Know all legal restrictions and rules for the use of force.

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:

  • Corporate hazardous materials units (chemical plants, refinery operations, and nuclear power stations often have their own response capability)
  • Civilian fire service hazardous materials units.
  • National Guard WMD civil support teams.

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:

  • Planning, designing, building, and operating water resources and other civil works projects (navigation, flood control, environmental protection, disaster response, etc.).
  • Designing and managing the construction of military facilities for the Army and Air Force (military construction).
  • Providing design and construction management support for other defense and federal agencies (interagency and international services).

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).

Primary activities

  • Flood control and coastal emergencies (P.L. 84 through 99, as amended). Readiness teams in USACE districts nationwide are trained, equipped, and prepared to participate in flood control activities. Activities include:
    • Disaster preparedness.
      • Participate in state and local emergency seminars and exercises.
      • Inspect flood control works constructed or repaired by USACE, and make maintenance recommendations.
      • Upon request, inspect nonfederal dams and flood control projects.
    • Flood fighting.
      • Assist in search and rescue operations.
      • Provide technical assistance and advice.
      • Conduct emergency repairs to levees and other flood control projects.
      • Furnish materials such as sandbags, polyethylene sheeting, lumber, pumps, or rocks when USACE is actively participating in a flood fight.
    • Post-flood response.
      • Clear drainage channels, bridge openings, or structures blocked by event-generated debris.
      • Clear blockages to critical water supply intakes and sewer outfalls.
      • Conduct debris removal necessary to reopen vital transportation routes.
      • Temporarily restore critical public services or facilities.
      • Identify hazard mitigation opportunities.
    • Rehabilitation.
      • Repair or restore flood-control structures.
  • Repair or restoration of hurricane or shore protection structures damaged or destroyed by wind, wave, or water action not of an ordinary nature.
  • Public works and engineering, NRF, (ESF #3). USACE is committed to ensuring that its emergency management teams are well-prepared, well-equipped, and ready to respond instantly. When disaster strikes, response teams can be onsite within hours to provide immediate relief and support. Under the NRF, USACE is designated as the lead agency for public works and engineering. DOD can authorize USACE to provide the following assistance on a temporary basis:
    • Emergency services including supplying potable water, removing debris, conducting urban search and rescue, and providing emergency electrical power and ice.
      • Technical advice and evaluations including structural analysis.
      • Construction management and inspection.
      • Emergency contracting.
      • Emergency repair of public infrastructure and facilities such as water supply sources.
      • Real estate support.

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:

  • Seven ice teams.
  • Seven water teams.
  • Eight emergency power teams.
  • Seven debris removal teams.
  • Five temporary housing teams.
  • One emergency access team.
  • Five temporary roofing teams.
  • Four structural safety assessment teams.

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:

  • Three deployable tactical operations centers.
  • Six rapid response vehicles.
  • Two containerized tactical operations centers comprised of laptop computers, global positioning equipment, two high-frequency radios, a satellite telephone, and a digital camera.

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.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions

FEMA Region I Headquarters

99 High Street, 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 956-7501

FEMA Region VI Headquarters

800 N. Loop 288
Denton, TX 76209
(940) 898-5399

FEMA Region II Headquarters

Bldg 2700
Fort Monmouth, NJ 07703
(732) 427-1512

FEMA Region VII Headquarters

Bannister Federal Complex
Kansas City, MO 64131
(816) 926-7333

FEMA Region III Headquarters

625 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 931-5765

FEMA Region VIII Headquarters

Denver Federal Complex
Denver, CO 80225-0267
(303) 235-4770

FEMA Region IV Headquarters

3003 Chamblee-Tucker Rd
Atlanta, GA 30341
(678) 530-5823

FEMA Region IX Headquarters

Bldg 370, 10th St.
Camp Parks, CA 94568
(925) 875-4465

FEMA Region V Headquarters

536 South Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 408-5500

FEMA Region X Headquarters

18939 120th Ave NE
Bothell, WA 98101
(425) 487-4757

Table 4-2. DCO contact information



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