Security Beat

By Book, Elizabeth B. | National Defense, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Security Beat


Book, Elizabeth B., National Defense


Pentagon Defining Homeland Security Role

The Defense Department continues to focus and clarify its role in homeland security, said Peter Verga, special assistant to the secretary of defense for homeland security. The department contributes to homeland security in two ways, he said. "First, we guard against threats and aggression, and we provide support for civil authorities," he said. The Defense Department "effectively bridges the divide between homeland security and national security," said Verga.

Speaking at a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Verga said that the Defense Department has a history of involvement in domestic security matters, providing civil support to communities in three ways. First, in extraordinary circumstances, there has been a need for the deployment of Defense Department air combat power in the continental United States. Second, in emergency circumstances, the Defense Department has assisted a lead federal agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), by providing military resources for projects, such as an environmental or hazardous material clean-up.

Verga said the Defense Department most recently partnered with FEMA (one of 22 agencies absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security), to pick up the scattered pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia in Texas and Louisiana.

Third, the Defense Department provides support and assistance to states or localities for temporary security situations, when the resources of the department are made available to a lead federal agency.

TSA Builds Homeland Security Command Center

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is home to a new command center, according to Terry Maynard, assistant undersecretary for intelligence at TSA. Maynard was part of a panel discussion at a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Maynard, who came to TSA from the Central Intelligence Agency, said the command center "provides a single voice to the [transportation] secretary, who can speak authoritatively to the president, and then to the nation," he said.

The center, which collects and synthesizes information from transportation entities around the country, can hold as many as 400 people. It is currently functioning on an interim basis at the TSA's offices on Nebraska Avenue, in Washington, D.C., Maynard said.

Though the command center was conceived by, and initially, for, the TSA, it was to serve the entire Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as its central command center, after DHS stood up on March 1, Maynard said.

Northcom `Different From Other Commands'

The Northern Command will focus on sharing information with other agencies so it can better execute its homeland security mission, said Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, deputy director of Northern Command, or Northcom.

Anderson noted there are two main parts to Northcom's mission. The first is "deterring, preventing and destroying threats within our area of responsibility," and the second is, "when directed, we are to provide military assistance to civil authorities," he said.

Several military units are organic to Northcom. There is a joint command at Norfolk, Va.; a unit at Fort Monroe, Va., and a JT-F6 unit, based at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas.

But, Anderson said, Northcom is "a multi-layered team," involving local, state, federal and military units. Northcom operates "in support of, not in lead of," homeland security missions, he said.

"Information sharing and information fusion" with local, state and federal authorities, "will be key to mission success," said Anderson.

Customs Service Fights Terrorism

The U.S. Customs Service "has done great things for our country since 1789, but they are lousy marketers," said William Parrish, who is executive director of the Office of Anti-Terrorism at the service. …

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