Military Support of Civil Authorities A New Focus For a New Millennium

Major General Bruce M. Lawlor
Joint Task Force Civil Support

October 2000
(Updated September 2001)

Major General Bruce LawlorMajor General Bruce Lawlor is the first commanding general of Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) located in Norfolk, Virginia. JTF-CS is a standing joint task force assigned to U.S. Joint Forces Command. It provides command and control over Department of Defense consequence management forces in support of a civilian Lead Federal Agency following a weapon of mass destruction incident in the United States, its territories or possessions. He has a Juris Doctorate (with Honors) from the George Washington University and a Master's in National Security Affairs from Norwich University. He is a graduate of Harvard's National Security Fellows Program, has taught at the U.S. Army War College, and has served as a consultant to the Defense Science Board.

     Concern about the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on U.S. soil has been building within the national security establishment. On September 15, 1999, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century issued a report that predicted, "States, terrorists, and other disaffected groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction and mass disruption, and some will use them. Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers." On October 1, 1999, Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr., Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Joint Forces Command, created a new organization, Joint Task Force-Civil Support, to provide military support to civil authorities during the aftermath of a WMD incident.

     JTF-CS is a standing military headquarters, without assigned forces. It is located at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. Its mission is to provide military support within the United States, its possessions and territories. It plans and integrates DoD's support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for WMD events in CONUS. This support will involve capabilities drawn from throughout the Department, including detection, decontamination, medical, and logistical assets. In addition, once the Secretary of Defense has ordered military forces to provide assistance to civil authorities, JTF-CS will deploy to the incident site and serve as the command and control headquarters for responding DoD units. At the site of a WMD incident, JTF-CS will work to save lives, prevent injury and provide temporary critical life support.

Existing Mission-Improved Capability

     The JTF's mission-providing military support to civil authorities-is not new. For years, Defense Department officials, under a variety of existing federal statutes and regulations, have employed federal military forces to help state and local civil officials cope with emergencies.

     In 1992, more than 22,000 federal troops deployed to South Florida to help civilian officials deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. In 1995, nearly 800 federal troops provided assistance to civil authorities near Los Angeles following the Northridge earthquake. Almost 400 federal troops helped local and state officials following the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The list continues. In each instance, federal military forces deployed under the overall direction of a lead civilian federal agency to help state and local leaders care for civilian populations distressed by natural or manmade disasters.

     The procedures governing the use of military forces for domestic missions are well established within the responder community. Central to their employment is an understanding that military personnel serve in a supporting role and carry out relief missions as designated by the civilian federal agency responsible for leading the federal assistance effort-the lead federal agency (LFA). Normally, this is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It uses the Federal Response Plan (FRP) to coordinate federal assistance to state and local civil officials. The FRP divides the federal response effort into 12 Emergency Support Functions (ESF's). Each ESF is headed by a primary agency designated on the basis of its expertise, authorities, resources and capabilities. Other federal agencies have been designated as support agencies for one or more of the ESF's. Together they deliver needed federal assistance to state and local authorities under FEMA's overall direction. DoD is not in charge of the relief effort. Rather it serves as a support agency and will respond to state and local requests for assistance once they have been validated by the LFA and approved by the Secretary of Defense through his on-scene representative. In the case of the FRP, FEMA serves as the LFA. The JTF is not designed nor does it have authority to move federal military forces domestically in the absence of a LFA request and appropriate orders to do so.

     The use of federal military forces to help state and local officials is not a new mission. State and local officials have often requested federal assistance in times of crises and that assistance has frequently been provided by the military. What is new are the circumstances under which such assistance will be given and the military mechanisms used to deliver it. Like it or not, the United States is no longer immune from the threat of domestic terrorism. That message has been made clear by the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings and by a growing number of lesser incidents and foiled attempts-the most recent being efforts by Islamic radicals to smuggle military grade explosives into the United States in advance of the millennium celebrations.

     The United States Commission on National Security/21st Century, chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, issued a report on September 15, 1999 in which it predicted:

"States, terrorists, and other disaffected groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction and mass disruption, and some will use them. Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers."

     The White House appears to support the Hart-Rudman Commission assessment. In its latest national security policy guidance, entitled "A National Security Strategy for A New Century," the administration states that weapons of mass destruction have emerged as the "greatest potential threat to global stability and security." "Defending the Homeland" against them is listed as a major administration goal.

     The U.S. military has developed considerable expertise over the years in protecting its members against WMD and in operating on nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological (NBCR) contaminated battlefields. These skills were developed in anticipation of their use in foreign conflicts. The threat, however, is no longer confined to U.S. forces on foreign soil. It has reached into the domestic arena and so has the requirement to defend against it. If a WMD event were to occur on U.S. soil, it would be unconscionable for DoD to withhold from domestic civil authorities the experience and expertise it makes available to U.S. forces deployed overseas. That understanding was at least partly responsible for the formation of JTF-CS.

From Part Time to Full Time

     A full-time joint task force is a natural step in the progression in DoD's method for handling requests for large-scale civil support. In the past, whenever a command and control headquarters was needed, DoD formed an ad hoc joint task force and designated an available officer-without regard to prior experience-to lead the response effort. This solution was less than optimal. Frequently the designated joint task force commander and his staff had little or no experience in providing military support to civil authorities and were unfamiliar with the procedures and processes for doing so. The result was at times frustrating for both civilian leaders, who resented the military "I'm in charge" mindset, and military officers, who just wanted the civilians to get out of the way and let them get on with it.

     A change in this approach first emerged during planning for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The level of military support that would be needed in the event of a WMD incident led the 1st United States Army to form a Response Task Force (RTF) headquarters designed specifically to work with federal, state and local civilian officials supporting the event. Staff officers and enlisted personnel were temporarily re-assigned from other duties to work for the RTF. Once the games were over, they returned to their former positions. The RTF's standup in advance of the actual event enabled its personnel to train on civilian response methods and DoD military support procedures. The value added of such an approach was quickly recognized and 5th Army soon followed 1st Army's lead in forming a second RTF to cover WMD response requirements west of the Mississippi. The RTF's represent a substantial improvement over the previous method of using ad hoc JTF's to oversee military support. Their part time nature and single service flavor, however, present them with unique planning and execution challenges. A standing JTF represents the next logical step in moving from ad hoc, to a part-time, to a full time focus on military support to civil authorities issues. The result of this concentration of focus is an improved capability to bring federal military support quickly and efficiently to civil authorities in their time of need.

Four Core Principles

     JTF-CS's standup has not been without its critics. On the one hand, civil libertarians have expressed fear that a large domestic military deployment will have negative consequences for constitutionally protected individual liberties. On the other, organizations opposed to the federal government are concerned about federal usurpation of state and local authority. Such concerns are something we must recognize and respect. Indeed, it is important that these perspectives be raised because we must both understand and be sensitive to them.

     The Secretary of Defense has promulgated four core principles that will govern the JTF's employment. They should allay many of the critics' concerns.

These four core principles form the operational framework upon which the JTF's relations with federal, state and local civil officials are being built.

Operational Focus

     JTF-CS's specified tasks are to save lives, prevent injury and establish temporary critical life support. Its implied tasks run the gamut from command and control to a wide variety of nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological, medical, transportation, and other logistics requirements. Within this general construct, three factors help define JTF-CS's operational focus.

     When these three factors are combined, JTF-CS's operational focus begins to emerge. If requested and ordered by the Secretary of Defense to do so, JTF-CS will respond to an accidental or deliberate release or detonation of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or conventional high yield explosive device. It will bring DoD's WMD expertise and logistics capabilities in support of a lead federal agency to save lives, prevent injury, and provide temporary life support.

Full Operational Spectrum

     JTF-CS will serve across the entire spectrum of response. During routine operations, as with most military headquarters, the unit's main effort will focus on training, exercises and planning for future operations. At present, the JTF-CS is using the deliberate planning process to conduct "what if" drills to develop five separate scenarios based on a nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological, or large conventional explosive release or detonation. The objective is to understand the requirements unique to each scenario and to begin building a template that will shorten the response time needed to support a real world event.

     In addition to routine planning exercises, JTF-CS expects to be involved in planning and operational execution for National Security Special Events. Under Presidential Decision Directive 62, the National Security Council, upon the joint recommendation of the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, has the authority to designate important public events, such as the Olympics or the President's Inauguration, as National Security Special Events. Once so designated, such an event becomes the focal point for contingency planning by the designated lead federal agency-usually the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the U.S. Secret Service. As part of that planning process, certain types of actual and contingent DoD support may be needed to assist the federal, state or local organizers of the event in case of a WMD incident. In such cases, JTF-CS will perform the initial mission planning and, if necessary, deploy to provide command and control of any DoD assets that may be pre-positioned near the event site.

     If a significant WMD threat is identified, an LFA-usually the Federal Bureau of Investigation-will conduct crisis management operations aimed at interdicting or otherwise preventing the threat from becoming fact. During crisis management, if requested by the LFA and when directed by Secretary of Defense, JTF-CS will deploy in support of the LFA to conduct detailed planning for consequence management. The main tasks will be predictive analysis, preparing to deploy WMD consequence management assets, and determining logistics requirements for an effective and timely response should crises management efforts fail.

     Finally, in the event of a no-notice WMD incident anywhere within the U.S., its territories, or possessions and upon a request from civil authorities and after appropriate federal approvals, JTF-CS will deploy to the site, conduct mission planning, and provide command and control of assigned DoD forces in support of the LFA.

The Federal System - Sharing Authority

     It is important to remember that JTF-CS will not be the only agency present at the site of a catastrophic event. The U.S. conducts its public business within a federal system where power and responsibilities are shared both within the federal government and with state and local governments.

     In the event of a WMD incident, local responders will be the first people on the scene. Local directors of emergency management will work to bring the assets of their community to bear and to integrate the assets of nearby communities through mutual aid compacts. Using the incident command system as a command and control mechanism, local emergency managers will quickly concentrate all nearby response capabilities at the site. While this is happening, local authorities will also coordinate with state officials to provide information and to alert them that additional assistance may be needed.

     If the size of the event is such that additional help is needed, the state is responsible for contributing the next level of support. States will bring a broad array of services and significant amounts of manpower to the response effort. Under our federal system, the states exercise much of the authority for transportation, police, and health and welfare matters. A myriad of state agencies that perform these functions can be expected to provide additional help to local officials as they manage the disaster.

     In addition to the capabilities resident in state civil agencies, the governor will likely alert the National Guard and send it to the scene. In 21 states, the state Adjutant General, a two star general officer, acts not only as the commander of the Army and Air National Guard units within the state but also as the director of state emergency management. If an incident occurs within such a state, the National Guard-at least to the extent of its state headquarters-will be heavily involved in the incident from its outset. The National Guard will likely support the response with transportation (air and ground), medical, mess, security, supply and services, communications, administrative and other units all of which would be trained to varying levels of proficiency in nuclear, chemical and biological operations.

     At the same time the state is bringing its internal assets to bear, its emergency managers are in contact with their counterparts in neighboring states. Many states have joined together with others to form interstate compacts that provide for the sharing of resources in response to catastrophic events. The largest of these compacts is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact in which 30 states and one territory participate. Under the compact's provisions, state emergency managers faced with a crisis that taxes their state's ability to respond reinforce their own emergency responders with assets from other jurisdictions. This ability to share among the states substantially increases the response capabilities that any single state emergency manager can marshal to address the crisis.

     The state's emergency manager, in addition to calling upon other states for support, also notifies FEMA in case federal help is needed. If so, the procedure begins with a request by the governor to the President for federal assistance. If the President agrees with the governor's assessment, he issues a presidential disaster declaration. This activates FEMA and energizes the Federal Response Plan. Under the FRP, an approved request for assistance that cannot be met by the ESF's primary agency may be forwarded to the Secretary of Defense, who will assess it against six criteria.

  1. Is the requested support legal for DoD to provide?
  2. Does it involve the use of lethal force?
  3. What is the risk of injury to U.S. service members?
  4. What is the cost and who is paying?
  5. Is it appropriate for DoD to be providing the kind of support requested?
  6. What is the impact of providing this support on military readiness?

     Assuming all of these questions are answered satisfactorily, the Secretary will issue an execute order instructing the appropriate warfighting commander-in-chief to provide the requested support. If the crisis involves a WMD and the size of DoD's participation in the response is significant, JTF-CS will deploy to provide command and control of DoD forces.

Operations At The Scene

     JTF-CS deploys in stages. Upon notification, and after appropriate authorization, JTF-CS immediately dispatches an Advance Party to the site. This element acts as JTF-CS's forward eyes and ears. The Advance Party contains between five-seven staff officers and is configured to fit a particular incident. Generically, it will contain representatives from current operations, plans, and communications sections. Its purpose is to link up with the lead federal agency's advance party, obtain that agency's assessment of the situation, determine what might be forthcoming by way of requests for assistance, and establish communications with JTF-CS headquarters. The Advance Party passes this information back to the JTF and through it to the U.S. Joint Forces Command Joint Operations Center.

     The U.S. Joint Forces Command Joint Operations Center plays a critical role throughout the operation. Upon receipt of a deployment order, the Joint Operations Center arranges for JTF-CS's transportation needs and works to gain situational awareness at the site. This effort frees the JTF to focus its attention on preparations for immediate deployment of the main body. The Joint Operations Center serves as JTF-CS's lifeline. It will source all requests for assistance, and plan for and monitor the movement of DoD forces responding to the incident.

     Following deployment of the Advance Party, a number of activities will take place-not necessarily in sequence. JTF-CS's main body will arrive and set up its operations center at a site best suited to conduct liaison with the lead federal agency and provide command and control for subordinate military forces. It will also immediately establish communications as directed with the federal, state, and local organizations it is being requested to support to further refine its situational awareness.

     A Base Support Installation, usually a nearby military installation will be designated to support deploying forces and to store and distribute the large quantities of material and supplies that will flow into the area. In addition to the Base Support Installation, one or more Joint Personnel Reception Centers will be established to conduct reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of follow-on military forces into the response effort. As units arrive, they will become a part of the overall DoD response effort and will be tasked to execute approved requests for assistance in support of various civil agencies.

     When deployed, JTF-CS is functionally organized according to the situation. Likely subordinate elements may include medical, air or ground transportation, supply and services, evacuation, decontamination, and an information center. In accordance with the FRP, the Defense Coordinating Officer will be supplanted by the JTF-Commander as the senior DoD official on the scene. However, both the DCO and the Defense Coordinating Element will continue to act as a liaison between the LFA and the JTF and perform mission assignment coordination and validation as delegated. Requests for assistance will be processed in the same manner as requests for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires. However, because of the expected size of DoD's response to a WMD incident, decisions regarding the commitment of large numbers of military forces will likely be made at higher levels.

     In an effort to facilitate smooth, rapid and efficient military support to state and local officials, JTF-CS will organize its Joint Operations Area, the area of its responsibility, to mirror the existing civil administrative boundaries. For example, if the local jurisdiction is organized into precincts and that is how responders are organizing their support, JTF-CS will organize along the same precinct lines. If it is by cities, fire districts, or other civil jurisdictional boundaries, JTF-CS will comply and copy these administrative boundaries. The intent is to overlay JTF-CS's geographic organization over the existing civilian framework for managing the crises.

     JTF-CS will form a subordinate element called Task Force Liaison to serve both as part of a support distribution system and as a mechanism to assist end users. Task Force Liaison will organize itself into contact teams, equipped with organic transportation and communications and capable of 24-hour sustained operations. Each end user will be assigned a contact team to provide the user with a single DoD point of contact for all DoD support. Contact teams will perform functions similar to support platoons in maneuver units. They will ensure that once a request for assistance has been approved, the appropriate DoD resources are collected and escorted to the work site. They will also facilitate the integration of military and civilian organizations, help to resolve minor disagreements, provide a support distribution system, and monitor mission accomplishment. It is important to note that contact teams will not be authorized to accept requests for assistance directly from the users they support. All such requests will have to be processed through regular channels and receive prior approval from the state coordinating officer and FEMA.

     One of the earliest tasks to be accomplished by JTF-CS is to establish disengagement criteria. It's important to remember that JTF-CS's mission is temporary in nature and not one of sustainment or reconstitution. Long-term rehabilitation efforts belong exclusively to civil authorities. At a mission's outset, JTF-CS will develop measures of mission effectiveness and establish criteria, which will set the stage for its disengagement from the response effort. In general terms, JTF-CS will begin to disengage when the operational environment is stabilized and conditions are set for long-term recovery. At that point, all JTF-CS operations will be transferred to the lead federal, state, or local agency or to a follow-on headquarters.

Warfighters - A Helping Hand if Asked

     Military support to civil authorities has become a complex operation. The possibility of a WMD event within our borders has raised considerable planning and support requirements. JTF-CS is DoD's response to the challenge of providing that support while maintaining important Constitutional safeguards. As members of DoD, we are the nation's warfighters, but we are willing to lend a hand here at home-if necessary and if asked.