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Chapter 7


In the event of a terrorist attack or act of nature on American soil resulting in the release of nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological agents, the local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel who are first to respond may become rapidly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the attack. The Department of Defense has many unique warfighting support capabilities, both technical and operational, which could be used in support of state and local authorities, if requested by the lead federal agency, to mitigate and manage the consequences of such an event. By Presidential direction, DoD and other federal agencies have undertaken a review to examine the federal response to a domestic weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incident.



Due to the increasing volatility of the threat and time sensitivities associated with providing effective support to the lead federal agency charged with WMD consequence management, the Secretary of Defense recently appointed an Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Civil Support (ATSD–CS) to serve as the Department’s focal point for the coordination of DoD efforts in preparation for requests from civilian agencies. To manage the Department’s efforts, the ATSD–CS chairs the WMD Preparedness Group, a coordinating body comprised of the Assistant Secretaries for Health Affairs; Reserve Affairs; Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict; Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence; and Legislative Affairs; the General Counsel; the Deputy Under Secretaries for Comptroller and for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics; and senior representatives from the Joint Staff, the Department of the Army, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The DoD WMD Preparedness Group ensures that DoD efficiently marshals its consequence management resources and its many capabilities in support of the lead federal agency in accordance with the Federal Response Plan. The ATSD–CS also represents DoD in the interagency consequence management policymaking body led by the President’s National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter–terrorism.

Domestic Terrorist Threat

The terrorist threat of today is far more complex than that of the past. Violent, religiously and ethnically motivated terrorist organizations now share the stage with the more traditional, politically motivated movements. State sponsors, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba, continue to provide vital support to a disparate mix of terrorist groups. As recent history shows, homegrown organizations and disaffected individuals have also demonstrated an increasing willingness to act on U.S. soil. Not only is the threat more diverse, but the increasing sophistication of organizations and their weaponry also make them far more dangerous. The Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings demonstrate the devastating effects of conventional explosives in the hands of terrorists. Experts predict that it will not be long before the United States enters a more unconventional era where WMD are used.

A WMD incident in the United States will likely begin as a local event, but may rapidly develop into a national one requiring the support of many federal agencies. Consequence management refers to emergency assistance to protect public health and safety, restore essential government services, and provide emergency relief to governments, businesses, and individuals affected by the consequences of a terrorist incident involving WMD. (See Chapter 2, The Military Requirements of the Defense Strategy, for more information about DoD’s overall combatting terrorism program.)

DoD Principles for Consequence Management

In accordance with Presidential Decision Directives 39 and 62 and the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, the federal government has taken comprehensive steps to enhance and support state and local authorities in responding to WMD incidents and to minimize their consequences. When requested, the Department of Defense will provide its unique and extensive resources in accordance with several key principles.

First, DoD will ensure an unequivocal chain of responsibility, authority, and accountability for its actions to assure the American people that the military will follow the basic constructs of lawful action when an emergency occurs. To this end, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Civil Support will provide full–time civilian oversight for the domestic use of DoD’s WMD consequence management assets in support of other federal agencies.

Second, in the event of a catastrophic WMD event, DoD will always play a supporting role to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in accordance with the Federal Response Plan and will ensure complete compliance with the Constitution, the Posse Comitatus Act, and other applicable laws. The Department routinely provides support and assistance to civilian authorities and has considerable experience balancing the requirement to protect civil liberties with the need to ensure national security.

Third, DoD will purchase equipment and provide support in areas that are largely related to its warfighting mission. However, many capabilities can be dual–use. Units specializing in decontamination, medical support, logistics, and communications, for example, could assist in the domestic arena as well.

Fourth, whereas active duty forces are the United States’ forward–deployed assets overseas, reserve and National Guard units are the forward–deployed units for domestic consequence management. In the event of a domestic WMD event, certain units would be able to respond rapidly due to their geographic dispersion and proximity to major American cities. Moreover, many of the applicable capabilities such as decontamination, medical support, transportation, and communications are contained in reserve and National Guard units.


As noted above, DoD assets are tailored primarily for the larger warfighting mission overseas. But in recognition of the unique nature and challenges of responding to a domestic WMD event, the Department recently established a Joint Task Force for Civil Support, headquartered at the United States Joint Forces Command, to plan for and integrate DoD’s support to the lead federal agency for events in the continental United States (CONUS). This support will involve capabilities drawn from throughout the Department, including detection, decontamination, medical, and logistical assets. The United States Pacific Command and the United States Southern Command have parallel responsibilities for providing military assistance to civil authorities for states, territories, and possessions outside CONUS. The United States Joint Forces Command provides technical advice and assistance to geographic commanders in chief conducting consequence management operations in response to WMD incidents outside CONUS.

Additionally, DoD has established ten WMD Civil Support Teams (formerly called Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection Teams), composed of 22 well–trained and equipped full–time National Guard personnel. Upon completion of training and certification in 2000, one WMD Civil Support Team will be stationed in each of the ten FEMA regions around the country, ready to provide support when directed by their respective governors. Their mission will be to deploy rapidly, assist local first responders in determining the precise nature of an attack, provide expert medical and technical advice, and help pave the way for the identification and arrival of follow–on military assets. By congressional direction, DoD has also established 17 WMD Civil Support Teams to support the U.S. population. (See Chapter 9, Total Force Integration, for more information.)


Domestic Preparedness Program

The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 (also known as the Nunn–Lugar–Domenici Act) required DoD to enhance the capability of federal, state, and local (FSL) emergency responders regarding terrorist incidents involving WMD. The Domestic Preparedness Program (DPP) consists of four elements: the City Train–the–Trainer Program, the Exercise Program, the Expert Assistance Program, and the Chemical Biological Rapid Response Team. The 120 city training element provides for the training of senior local officials as well as those who will train emergency first responders; it also includes training equipment loans from DoD. The Exercise Program element, in addition to conducting exercises during the city training program, consists of an annual FSL exercise and execution of the Improved Response Programs. The annual FSL exercise works to improve interaction among federal agencies and departments and further exercises that interaction among federal, state, and local agencies in response to a threat and/or actual WMD incident. The biological FSL exercise scheduled for New York City in September 1999 was postponed due to an outbreak of encephalitis which strained exercise participants. The exercise is being rescheduled for a time in 2000.

The Improved Response Programs effort is a set of individual technical investigations and exercises geared toward gathering information to improve procedures and tactics for responding to WMD incidents. It is focused on enhancing responses to chemical or biological incidents and systematically addresses the response at the federal, state, and local levels. The Expert Assistance Program is composed of the following elements: Helpline, Hotline, Web page, chemical–biological database, and equipment testing program. The final element, the Chemical Biological Rapid Response Team, leverages the capabilities of all the Services in providing the chemical/biological response capability dictated by the Act. DoD will transfer portions of the DPP to the Department of Justice on October 1, 2000.

International Cooperation

DoD has begun providing limited consequence management advice to U.S. allies and coalition partners to ensure that they are not crippled by a WMD delivered by terrorists or by a neighboring adversary. Consequence management is particularly important in the Northeast Asian and Persian Gulf regions where U.S. military personnel rely upon the ability of the host nation to help mitigate the effects of WMD attacks in order to complete their wartime missions. DoD has also taken a number of steps to improve the protection of its military personnel stationed overseas including measures to safeguard military installations and the anthrax vaccination program, which are described in detail respectively in the chapters on Military Requirements of the Defense Strategy and Readiness in this report.


Consequence management brings together the skills and assets of many government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. By enhancing America’s preparedness, the likelihood that an event will occur, or the consequences if it does occur, will be reduced. The Department of Defense is committed to providing preparatory assistance and stands ready to contribute its unique capabilities when called upon.

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