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DOD supports nationwide crisis management exercise

Released: 22 May 2000


by Staff Sgt. Jason Tudor
Joint Task Force Civil Support

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. (AFPN) -- The Department of Defense continues supporting Exercise Top Off 2000 here, which has aligned several government agencies in a simulation testing nearly ev ery aspect of their emergency management skills.

DOD representation comes in several forms, but may be most visible through its use of Joint Task Force Civil Support. The command, located in Norfolk, Va., is a newly established unit assigned to U.S. Joint Forces Command. JTF-CS provides command and control over DOD forces in support of a lead federal agency for managing the consequences of weapons of mass destruction incidents in the United States and its territories.

Top Off -- an acronym for "Top Officials," which unites the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FBI, DOD and other agencies -- is a 10-day, multi-agency crisis management and consequence management exercise. The goal of the exercise is to assess the nation's capability through federal, state and local responses to a challenging series of no-notice, integrated, geographically dispersed terrorist threats and acts.

The importance of these things can't be underestimated. While the military's first job is to fight and win wars, it has an important secondary mission, said Army Brig. Gen. Bruce Lawlor, JTF-CS commander.

"We have an important role assisting our citizens domestically when other relief agencies are overwhelmed," Lawlor said. This includes areas like fighting fires, providing a post office during a strike, disaster relief, hurricane and other national incidents.

Lawlor said there are several guiding principles to the agency's philosophy, and many of those apply during Exercise Top Off, including:
-- Requested by civilian authorities
-- Authority from the president of the United States
-- Being in support of a civilian agency

"We have many strengths, including our organization, size and logistics structure. Our inherent strengths lie within our transportation, medical and food services skills," Lawlor said.

The unit's main authority stems from the Stafford Act (there are several other legal precedents including the Constitution). Passed in 1988, the act allows the president -- in response to a state governor's request -- to declare an emergency or major disaster in order to provide federal assistance. This includes providing military personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities and managerial, technical and advisory services.

JTF-CS works closely, Lawlor said, with government agencies to ensure continuity through the consequence management process and ensure all the goals of its employment are met.

"Our mission is to save lives, prevent injury and restore life critical infrastructure," Lawlor said. "We're also trained and ready for situations like these."

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