Guard Makes Play for Leadership Role in National Security Events

By Pappalardo, Joe | National Defense, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Guard Makes Play for Leadership Role in National Security Events


Pappalardo, Joe, National Defense


The National Guard has found a niche in securing high-risk events.

The past year featured a plethora of these "national security special events," or NSSEs, as designated by the Department of Homeland Security. These high-profile operations provided the National Guad many opportunities to showcase its new capabilities and fill needed leadership roles, according to Guard officials.

The Super Bowl, Group of Eight (G8) economic summit, funeral of Ronald Reagan and both political parties' national conventions all were designated as NSSEs, because of their high profiles and presence of political leadership. Guard tasks included preparing to react to weapons of mass destruction attacks, handling protesters and coordinating the movements of VIPs. Guard soldiers also staffed vehicle checkpoints, provided overwatch in helicopters and maintained a security cordon around sensitive sites. More importantly, however, the events have been instrumental in the push for Guard officers to take leading roles in planning and executing security operations.

However, forging ahead into new roles means shaking up entrenched operating procedures. "The rules have not caught up with the new environment. I hope one day they will," said Col. Peter Aylward, chief of the Guard Bureau's homeland defense division.

One watershed event was the G8 summit, during which the Guard played a major security role. Brig. Gen. Terry Nesbitt commanded Army and Air National Guard troops on state or active-duty status and soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are on federal, or Title 10, status. He is the first National Guard general to be in command of a variety of military forces under this structure.

Although the U.S. Secret Service was the lead agency for the G8 summit security, Nesbitt found himself in command of troops from a dozen state National Guards, as well as active military services. Military personnel provided the bulk of the 10,000 people involved in the operation.

"The National Guard helped develop the plan with the Secret Service. As a result of that, we got to shape the battlefield a lot," Nesbitt said. "It is being looked at, I think, as a model for future homeland defense and homeland security operations, so that same unity of command can be put in place."

Nesbitt operates under a domestic version of the Powell Doctrine, which prioritizes an over-abundance of capabilities to plan for the unexpected. "If you go in with just enough to get the job done, you won't," Nesbitt said. "During the execution phase, you have to be flexible to changes."

President George W. Bush and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue had to approve the idea of a single commander for military forces on state and federal duty for the G8 summit. …

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