A Homeland Defense Mission

By Stringer, Kevin | Military Review, May/June 2000 | Go to article overview
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A Homeland Defense Mission

Stringer, Kevin, Military Review

With the rise of transnational security threats such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), international crime, drug trafficking and illegal immigration, the comprehensive defense of the Continental United States (CONUS) takes on increasing importance. The constant possibility of environmental disasters, both man-made and natural, also emphasizes domestic security issues. The term "national defense" resumes its true meaning and focuses on protecting core US values-those political, economic, social and cultural interests and activities that represent our nation.

The US homeland's distance from potential adversaries has long protected its core interests and activities, which form the center of gravity for US security. This luxury no longer exists because of global security threats since the Cold War's end that can target and reach the US mainland. This potential danger requires the military to prepare to defend the US homeland from a multitude of unconventional threats.

Given this security situation, homeland defense (HLD) is high-priority for the United States. Because the United States has a dominant position in the Western Hemisphere and no conventional military threat on its borders, the HLD mission generally excludes the combat role and instead encompasses several nontraditional activities that fall under the aegis of military operations other than war (MOOTW). Because the Department of the Defense (DOD) and individual services have not officially defined the missions with this function, MOOTW activities mentioned in this article are a small indication of missions required to support HLD. The final product may be much more comprehensive as this concept evolves over the next few years but will generally exclude conventional warfighting activities. Given these parameters and considering the land power nature of this HLD mission, the main responsibility for its execution will fall on the US Army, in particular the US Army National Guard (ARNG).

Although DOD has not pinpointed HLD responsibility, the assumption that the ARNG will play a lead role is based on its presence in all states and territories, its historical involvement in MOOTW missions within CONUS and its constitutional obligations to maintain the security and well being of each state. Currently, domestic support for MOOTW missions constitutes the majority of ARNG requirements.1

Although the US Army Reserve (USAR) may play a role in HLD, its involvement will be diminished by the following:

* Its combat support (CS) or combat service support (CSS) functions for the active force.

* Its increasing overseas deployment cycle to Bosnia- and Kosovo-like support missions.

* Its overall integration into Active Component (AC) missions.

Unfortunately, this environment does not bode well for the ARNG's continued ability to maintain its training readiness for the combat role in today's force structure. Rather, there is a distinct danger that a focus on HLD would degrade the ARNG's ability to perform in combat. This possible loss of warfighting readiness stems from three things:

* The nontraditional nature of the HLD mission and the ARNG's unique suitability for this task.

* Spending limited and valuable training time on nontraditional missions rather than combat training missions stressing unit-level combined arms proficiency.

* Building habitual planning and staff relationships with civilian and law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) rather than AC combat formations.

Solving this predicament means restructuring Army Reserve Components (RC) to place the bulk of reserve combat formations in the USAR and reserve CS and CSS units in the ARNG.2 This reorganization would align ARNG unit functionalities with their most common and likely mission requirements while serving under either state or federal control for the HLD role.

Classifying MOOTW Activities

In analyzing the HLD mission, US Army Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Opr erations, provides a framework for classifying MOOTW activities and a guide for identifying those that pertain to HLD.

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