Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Pentagon Could Expand WMD Response Command Roles
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Defense Department is considering means for expanding leadership responsibilities for military officers responding to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction, the head of U.S. Northern Command said on Wednesday (see GSN, Sept. 16, 2010).
The Pentagon since 2009 has sought to prepare select officers to serve in "dual-status" capacities -- commanding both active-duty military personnel and state National Guard troops -- in responding to crises in the United States. Four officers linked to a hurricane relief effort received the first such roles last August, Gen. Charles Jacoby said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"[At] the very first opportunity that we had to employ dual-status commanders, we did," he said. "Now we're going to continue to grow that and look at ways to employ dual-status commanders in both the regional and CBRNE -- chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear event; so big progress."
The military as of April will have prepared "at least two dual-status commanders for every state," according to the general, whose command leads homeland defense efforts for the Pentagon.
Dual-status commanders are intended to promote close cooperation between federal and state military personnel in responding to a major emergency and to reduce unnecessary overlaps in operations, the Air Force said last August in the face of Hurricane Irene.
In the last year and a half, the Pentagon "has taken significant steps to improve its ability to support civil authorities in responding to catastrophic incidents in major metropolitan areas, particularly weapons of mass destruction attacks and major industrial accidents," Jacoby last week told the House Armed Services Committee in prepared testimony.
The military's "response enterprise" for handling chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents "will reach full operational capability" on Oct. 1, with more than 18,000 active-duty federal, reserve and National Guard forces, he said.
"These forces are focused on lifesaving and are trained and equipped to provide critical search and rescue, decontamination, emergency medical care and medical evacuation in support of the primary federal agency, the affected regions and stddates and local incident commanders," Jacoby stated. "These forces maintain a graduated response posture and are prepared to deploy within hours after an incident in order to save lives and minimize human suffering within the critical first 72 hours."
The U.S. armed services have "lost a small amount in [their] chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response capability" due to a 6 percent spending reduction for operations and maintenance, he said.
The Pentagon cut two National Guard Civil Support Teams, which would provide support to civilian authorities in the aftermath of a WMD incident, Jacoby said (see GSN, Dec. 21, 2007). Each state receives one team; Jacoby did not specify where the cuts were made, but indicated that no state had been left without a unit. "We kept teams in every state. We just reduced two that were additional ones that states had fielded."
Meanwhile, a yearly summit is set this week to examine coordination between government offices in addressing potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear crises.
“We’re going to look at whether we are addressing the missions and requirements,” Lt. Col. Pete Lofy, deputy CBRN operations head for the Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said in a statement. “Do we have the right units conducting these missions? Are the logistical functions set up to support the CBRN Response Enterprise? And are we satisfying [interagency] requirements for consequence management in the homeland?"
Nov. 27, 2012
In this issue brief, senior experts at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies examine eight nonproliferation decisions that the second Obama administration cannot avoid.
This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.