Valued Relationships: The Essential Component to Interagency Cooperation in the National Capital Region

By Horst, Karl R. | Army, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Valued Relationships: The Essential Component to Interagency Cooperation in the National Capital Region


Horst, Karl R., Army


The U.S. Army Military District of Washington (MDW) /Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) mission's success is dependent upon strong, viable interagency cooperation. Our key role is safeguarding the National Capital Region (NCR), and these relationships are the critical component in providing defense support of civil authorities. The high concentration of federal agencies and local municipal jurisdictions, monuments of national prominence and senior military and government leaders makes the NCR a "center of gravity" that requires refined levels of detailed planning, coordination and synchronization among the multitude of regional and interagency partners.

Located at Fort Lesley J. McNair in the District of Columbia, MDW/JFHQ-NCR plans, coordinates, maintains situational awareness, and, as directed, employs forces as a joint task force (JTF) for homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) missions in the National Capital Region's joint operations area. JFHQ-NCR is a subordinate command of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The command has a modest number of permanent forces and is allocated additional forces as ordered by the Secretary of Defense when necessary to execute specified missions. Consolidating the capabilities of our joint partners in the NCR provides unity of effort, which is critical to mission accomplishment. Building and strengthening these relationships with our interagency partners as well as with our service component commands have been our major accomplishments this year.

First, we focused on strengthening and enhancing the relationships with our interagency partners. Fostering these relationships contributes immensely to JFHQ-NCR's unique ability to maintain situational awareness on behalf of USNORTHCOM and DoD across a host of regional emergency support functions in and around the nation's capital. As a result, the command maintains constant awareness of the needs of our civil agency partners in a potential crisis.

The core challenge of fostering interagency relationships is bridging the gap between each organization's interests, various cultures and priorities. Although challenging, this must be accomplished as interagency relationships ultimately turn into interagency operations in which success is dependent upon our collaborative efforts.

For example, during steady-state operations, JFHQ-NCR coordinates with the Coast Guard, which has the maritime responsibility in the NCR littoral regions. A Coast Guard liaison officer assigned to JFHQ-NCR helps to ensure situational awareness. The mission of Coast Guard Sector Baltimore is to effectively and efficiently maximize unit readiness, prevent or respond to incidents, understand and address customers' needs, and achieve unity of effort to provide maritime safety, security, accessibility, and environmental protection for the NCR and the upper Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Even though the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, upon activation as JTF-NCR, Coast Guard Sector Baltimore and Station Washington maintain responsibility of the NCR littoral regions and provide operational support within the joint operations area.

A second accomplishment is how the interagency coordinator and liaison teams manage the numerous relationships in the NCR. A key function of these positions is maintaining contact and coordination with agencies and government organizations through a variety of methods centered on personal engagements and staff interaction.

These liaison teams have direct contact with individual agencies and law-enforcement jurisdictions, with regional bodies such as the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency-Office of National Capital Region Coordination, and numerous subject-matter working groups and committees.

These contacts are not only invaluable in accomplishing homeland defense and DSCA missions in times of unexpected disaster but are critical to our success in supporting the numerous national special security events that occur on a regular basis in the NCR. …

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