Quadrennial Defense Reviews Homeland Defense Realignment Leaves

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					No. 2865
April 15, 2010
                                                            Published by The Heritage Foundation

Quadrennial Defense Review’s Homeland Defense
    Realignment Leaves U.S. Less Prepared
                                          Jena Baker McNeill

    The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is              with responding to an attack on U.S. soil. Specifi-
intended to be a delineation of long-term defense        cally, NORTHCOM oversees three brigade-sized
strategy and force structure for the U.S. military. In   CBRNE CCMRFs that remain equipped and ready
this year’s review, the Pentagon recommended cut-        to respond when disaster strikes.
ting the number of military forces prepared to               Certainly, there are some “smaller” missions in
respond to a weapon of mass destruction (WMD)            which the support of these NORTHCOM forces
attack by downsizing U.S. Northern Command               may be necessary. In the case of a catastrophic disas-
(NORTHCOM) forces and shifting remaining per-            ter, however, the need for such military response
sonnel to the 10 regions of the Federal Emergency        forces—performing such functions as assisting in
Management Agency (FEMA). This recommenda-               search and rescue efforts and providing air and
tion, however, would leave the U.S. shortchanged in      sealift support, communications, and emergency
the event of a high-impact disaster. Given current       response—is critical, particularly where a disaster
threat realities—including a high-risk of a cata-        has overwhelmed state and local authorities. Conse-
strophic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear,    quently, NORTHCOM must have an assigned force
or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) attack on U.S.           structure that can easily and efficiently carry out
soil—leaving the U.S. unprepared for such an             such a mission.
attack is unacceptable.
                                                             The Pentagon, however, in its 2010 QDR, has
    An appropriate long-term strategy for homeland       pushed forward with plans to realign forces by
defense would focus on maintaining three fully           decreasing the number of CCMRF teams from three to
resourced CBRNE Consequence Management                   one and moving personnel from the other two
Response Forces (CCMRFs) under U.S. Northern             CCMRF teams to 10 smaller Homeland Response
Command trained for emergency response to cata-          Forces in each of the FEMA districts. This may seem
strophic attacks. These personnel investments            like a slight structural realignment, but such an orga-
would leave a sufficient force in place to reach the     nizational change and personnel decrease would have
site of a small- or large-scale attack in a flexible     a major impact on the ability of the U.S. to respond to
fashion while maintaining troop levels sufficient to
respond to a catastrophic disaster.
    Not a Minor Policy Shift. NORTHCOM is
tasked with providing homeland defense and sup-                        This paper, in its entirety, can be found at:
porting civilian authorities inside the United States                 Produced by the Douglas and Sarah Allison
in the event of a catastrophic disaster. If mobilized                      Center for Foreign Policy Studies
by the President, NORTHCOM would be tasked                               Published by The Heritage Foundation
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                                                              Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting
                                                                the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt to
                                                                  aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.
No. 2865                                  WebMemo                                                 April 15, 2010

such a large-scale disaster by reducing the sheer num-       role similar to that of NORTHCOM in search and
ber of dedicated forces to such a response.                  rescue missions, as well as other efforts in the
   The likelihood of such an attack on U.S. soil             event of a major disaster. However, for too long,
should not be minimized. In fact, the possibility of         Congress and the Administration have under-
such a CBRNE attack was characterized as “extraor-           funded the Coast Guard despite its increased
dinarily likely” by current Assistant Secretary of           responsibilities. Making the right investments in
Defense for Homeland Defense Paul Stockton.                  the Coast Guard would help to ensure the secu-
Without proper capabilities within NORTHCOM,                 rity of the homeland.
significantly more lives could be lost in the after-     • Examine the utility of State Defense Forces. State
math of such an attack.                                      Defense Forces, authorized under the Constitu-
   Responding to the Catastrophic. A regional                tion and under the command of state governors,
approach to homeland defense, whether catastrophic           can play a vital role in supplementing the
or otherwise, is not a bad idea. In fact, decentraliz-       National Guard during catastrophic disasters.
ing homeland security/homeland defense response can          These volunteer forces can provide immediate
yield increased response times. However, shrinking the       aid and security in the initial hours after an
number of personnel dedicated to CBRNE response              attack. Congress and the Administration should
equates to an overall decrease in resources—result-          encourage states to organize, train and, equip
ing in forces being more easily overwhelmed in sit-          these volunteers as a means of complementing
uations that require intensive manpower. Contrast            NORTHCOM missions.
this approach to the original plan for NORTHCOM,         • Improve the QDR. For too long, the QDR has
which was to increase troops from 13,000 to 16,000           been driven by budget decisions and short-term
in order to make NORTHCOM ready to respond to                political priorities. Congress should review the
a homeland security crisis.                                  QDR to ensure that it continues to plan for cur-
   Simply put, three full-size CCMRFs are neces-             rent threat realities, current commitments, and
sary for NORTHCOM to fulfill the missions it is              tomorrow’s capabilities.
tasked to accomplish. A long-term strategy for               Threat Realities. Effective recommendations for
defense should be about finding the right mix of         homeland defense in the QDR should take into
resources and personnel to accomplish all of the         account the long-term threat realities facing the
missions under the Pentagon’s purview. In order          United States. Warping that account for the sake of
to effectively respond to both catastrophic attacks      budget issues or other political priorities will not
on U.S. soil and smaller disasters where appropri-       make Americans safer, nor will it help when they are
ate, the Pentagon should pursue a long-term plan         most in need. The Pentagon should support fully
that would:                                              resourced NORTHCOM forces.
• Maintain the three CCMRFs. Three brigade-size              —Jena Baker McNeill is Policy Analyst for Home-
   forces are needed to have enough personnel            land Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center
   available to handle truly catastrophic disasters.     for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and
• Invest in the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has a       Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies,
   significant role in homeland defense—playing a        at The Heritage Foundation.

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