Academic journal article Military Review

Brigade Headquarters for National Guard Civil Support Teams: A Homeland Security Imperative

Academic journal article Military Review

Brigade Headquarters for National Guard Civil Support Teams: A Homeland Security Imperative

Article excerpt


Public safety organizations, chief administrative officers, slate emergency management agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security should develop a regional focus within the emergency responder community ...

--The 9/11 Commission Report (1)

IN MAY 1998, after a series of presidential decision directives and congressional actions, President Bill Clinton announced the formation of 10 weapons of mass destruction--civil support teams (WMD-CST) within the National Guard. (2) The original 10 teams were located 1 per Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region to coordinate with federal agencies and synchronize training and operational responses to terrorist incidents region-wide. Since their formation, the number, structure, and missions of these units have evolved. There are now 55 CSTs, 1 in each state and territory except California, which has 2. Each unit has the same table of distribution and allowances and basic mission, but disparities have developed over time in functional organization and some equipment. And as the units have matured, each has developed a new mission focus and skill set suited to its local or state geography and threats. For example, the 2d CST, in New York, developed an ability to work in the urban environment of New York City, while the 93d CST, in Hawaii, cultivated strong maritime contingency skills.

It would be natural to think that these units, with their deeply important state and federal roles, would have their training and operational cycles closely coordinated. Further, it is almost a military truism that there should be robust operational oversight of these functions with a strong interface between the CSTs and the critical federal agencies they will assist in the event of a terrorist incident. And it is logical to assume that given the regional nature of most threats the CSTs might face, there would be a regionally based command structure ensuring that the teams are interoperable and mutually supporting, and that response planning occurred that not only maximized the capabilities of the region's CSTs, but ensured that this important capability was linked with response planning at the regional and federal levels.

This is, unfortunately, not the case. Beyond verbal or other informal agreements between unit commanders and mid-to-lower-level authorities in other government agencies, there is no formal mechanism by which the individual state CSTs coordinate any of their efforts in planning, training, or operational response, and no mechanism to ensure coordination with other agencies in the homeland security arena. Given the critical place these units hold in the realm of homeland security, this situation is potentially very dangerous and must be addressed. Establishment of regionally based CST brigade headquarters is a solution.


As mentioned above, the first 10 CSTs were located in FEMA regions to provide counterterrorism assistance to regional federal authorities. (3) Now, however, the 55 CSTs--54 of which are controlled by state or territorial joint forces headquarters (JFHQ)--focus on local and state response capabilities rather than regional ones. (4) Not only do the CSTs focus less on the regional mission, but since civilian first-responders and local authorities have increased their capacity to respond to terrorism, the CSTs are in some instances redundant as a purely local asset.

There are several reasons why CSTs should be formed into brigades with brigade headquarters. For one, the terrorist threat has not changed. Terrorist incidents have repercussions well beyond the local and state level, as attacks in Oklahoma City, New York City, and Washington, D.C. have shown, and CSTs need to be able to respond regionally. For another, because CSTs are not designed to support operations lasting more than 36 hours, large-scale incidents will likely require the deployment of multiple CSTs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.