Magazine article National Defense

Homeland Security Mobilization Requires Greater Coordination. (Academic Viewpoint)

Magazine article National Defense

Homeland Security Mobilization Requires Greater Coordination. (Academic Viewpoint)

Article excerpt

(This article was adapted from a paper, titled, "Mobilization for Homeland Security: Preparedness, Response and Recovery," written by members of the 2002 class of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University)

A combined, interagency effort between military, government, non-government and business emergency-response resources is necessary for the United States to be able to react to and recover from a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction.

These agencies should work together to identify vulnerabilities, develop robust emergency-management plans based on an all-hazards approach, conduct training and exercises, educate first-responders and public officials, facilitate intelligence sharing between agencies, improve public health monitoring and surveillance systems, expand medical surge capacity, evaluate available stocks of pharmaceuticals, improve communication systems, mandate interoperable communications and develop or fortify mutual aid agreements within metropolitan regions and with neighboring states.

The use of weapons of mass destruction is nor a new trend, by any means. In 429 B.C., the Spartans ignited pitch and sulfur to create toxic fumes in the Peloponnesian War. In 1456, the city of Belgrade defeated invading Turks by igniting rags dipped in poison to create a toxic cloud. In 1710, Russian troops used plague-infected corpses against Swedes. Several countries used WMD during World Wars I and II.

From the 1940s to the early 1990s, "duck and cover exercises and fallout shelters represented our domestic preparation for a possible Soviet nuclear attack The WMD of the Cold War were considered weapons of last resort.

During the past decade, globalization, the explosion of knowledge, exponential expansion of technology and ever-growing distance between the "have" and "have-nots" provide rogue states and terrorists with ways, means and reasons to employ WMD terrorism.

Our seemingly uncivilized foreign and domestic opponents have proven themselves quite resourceful and knowledgeable. They understand our vulnerabilities and strengths, the relationship between psychological and physical aspects of war and the art of indirect and direct targeting. Our most evasive, irrational, and dangerous adversaries are very likely transnational terrorists.

Although WMD terrorism, per se, has not been prevalent in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the possible use of biological toxins and industrial chemicals as most threatening.

The mobilization role of the federal government, essentially, is to assist and support state governments, coordinate and communicate with foreign governments and support public will.

The bulk of federal plans regarding continuity of government are classified. Yet farmework documents laying out key strategies have long been in the public domain. That those plans are being put to use in the post-September 11 environment should have come as no surprise. What remains unclear is how classified continuity-of-government plans have been modified from their original Cold War purpose of surviving a Soviet nuclear strike and mobilizing for retaliation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the executive agent for continuity-of-government activities, and within FEMA, this task is the responsibility of the Office of National Security Affairs. FEMA's Federal Preparedness Circular 65 of July 26, 1999, establishes three phases: activation and relocation (0-12 hours), alternative facility operations (12 hours-termination) and reconstitution (termination and return to normal operations).

Many state and local jurisdictions, some of which have constitutions, have derailed continuity-of-government plans. But evidence suggests they have not filly considered the potential assistance that U.S. armed forces can provide, especially during the early phases. …

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