Department of Defense Support to Domestic Incidents
From the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense/Homeland Defense and America's Security Affairs, January 2008: "http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/DOD_SupportToDomesticIncidents.pdf"
The primary mission of the Department of Defense (DOD) and its components is national defense. In some instances, national defense assets may be available to support civil authorities for routine and catastrophic incidents. Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) refers to support provided by U.S. military forces (Federal military, Reserve, and National Guard), DOD civilians, DOD contract personnel, DOD agency and DOD component assets.
DOD normally provides DSCA in response to requests for assistance (RFAs) from other Federal departments or agencies, or in some cases, local, tribal or State governments. Support provided in response to such RFAs may help civil authorities prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents including terrorist attacks, and major disasters. Such assistance may also be used to support domestic special events of national importance, such as the national political conventions. DOD assets are usually requested if local, tribal, State, and other Federal assets are not available. However, DOD resources are not typically required to mitigate every domestic incident. For example, of the 65 disasters Presidentially declared as major disasters or emergencies in 2005, DOD responded to only three.
Defense resources are committed after approval by the Secretary of Defense or at the direction of the President. Many types of DOD support can be provided by individual DOD Components under separate established authorities. When deciding to commit DOD resources, consideration is given to military readiness, cost, lethality, risk, appropriateness, and whether the response is in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Continuous coordination with Federal, State, tribal, and local authorities before, during, and after an event is essential for efficient and effective DSCA.
With the exception of immediate response authorities and support provided under mutual aid agreements, which are described below, DOD does not provide first responder support to civil authorities. When planning or conducting exercises, civilian responders must understand that DOD resources may not be immediately available due to the Department's primary mission and should be prepared to conduct the initial response with limited DOD assistance. DOD assets may require some time to mobilize, train, and deploy to respond to a RFA.
DOD is a full partner in the Federal response to domestic incidents and the DOD response is fully coordinated through the mechanisms outlined in the National Response Framework (NRF). In providing DSCA, the Secretary of Defense will always retain command of DOD personnel, with the exception of National Guard forces under the command and control of the Governors. Nothing in the NRF impedes the Secretary of Defense's statutory authority pertaining to DOD personnel and resources.
Concepts of "command" and "unity of command" have distinct legal and cultural meanings for military forces and military operations. For deployed Federal military forces, command runs from the President through the Secretary of Defense to the combatant commander to the DOD on-scene commander. The civilian community's Incident Command System (ICS) definition of "unified command" is distinctly different from the military definition of this term. DOD resources will support the Incident Action Plan.
CATEGORIES OF CAPABILITIES: If requested, DOD could provide the following categories of capabilities:
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE: In most instances, DOD provides DSCA in response to RFAs from another Federal agency. DSCA normally is provided when local, tribal, State, and Federal resources are fully committed or when a capability unique to DOD is required. DOD typically provides DSCA on a reimbursable basis, as required by the appropriate statutory authorities.
CRITERIA: Upon receipt of an RFA, DOD uses the following criteria to evaluate the RFA for supportability:
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE SITUATIONS
Prior to a Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster and/or Emergency: During the immediate aftermath of an incident that may ultimately qualify for assistance under the Stafford Act, the Governor of the State in which an incident occurred may request the President to direct the Secretary of Defense to utilize DOD resources to perform emergency work that is essential for the preservation of life and property. The President may direct this emergency work for a period not to exceed ten days.
After a Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster and/or Emergency: Once the President issues a major disaster and/or emergency declaration, DOD is normally in direct support of a primary Federal agency.
Non-Federally Declared Disaster: Within DOD, local military commanders and responsible officials from DOD components and agencies are authorized by the Secretary of Defense to provide support to save lives, prevent human suffering, and mitigate great property damage. The following are examples of such support:
ADDITIONAL DOD SUPPORT: Requests for direct law enforcement support, including interdicting vehicles, conducting searches and seizures, making arrests or apprehensions, surveillance, investigation, or undercover work may not be approved at the local level.
Support to Law Enforcement: Federal military support to law enforcement is provided in accordance with appropriate statutes, when directed by the President. The Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense are key advisors to the President during the decision process for certain types of assistance, e.g., assistance provided under Chapter 15 of Title 10, U.S. Code, "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order." Provision of law enforcement support does not have to be initiated by a request for assistance.
KEY DSCA POSITIONS/STRUCTURES
Defense Coordinating Officer: DOD has assigned ten Defense Coordinating Officers (DCOs), one to each Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS/FEMA) Region. If requested and approved, the DCO serves as DOD's single point of contact at the Joint Field Office (JFO) for requesting assistance from DOD. With few exceptions, requests for DSCA originating at the JFO are coordinated with and processed through the DCO. The DCO may have a Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) consisting of a staff and military liaison officers to facilitate coordination and support to activated Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). Specific responsibilities of the DCO (subject to modification based on the situation) include processing requirements for military support, forwarding mission assignments to the appropriate military organizations through DOD-designated channels, and assigning military liaisons, as appropriate, to activated ESFs.
Joint Task Force: Based on the magnitude, type of incident and anticipated level of resource involvement, the combatant commander may utilize a Joint Task Force (JTF) to command Federal military forces (excluding U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resources) in support of the incident response. If a JTF is established, consistent with operational requirements, its command and control element will be co-located with the senior on-scene leadership at the JFO to ensure coordination and unity of effort. The co-location of the JTF command and control element does not replace the requirement for a Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO)/Defense Coordinating Element as part of the JFO Unified Coordination Staff. The DCO remains the DOD single point of contact in the JFO for requesting assistance from DOD.
Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012