American Forces Press Service News Article

DoD Examines Joint Task Force Concept for Civil Support


  By Jim Garamone
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department is looking at changing the 
 way it provides support to local and state agencies during 
 terrorist incidents and natural disasters, Deputy Defense 
 Secretary John Hamre said recently.
 "We do need to change some of the way in which we're structured 
 for a large-scale incident where it involves civil support," 
 Hamre said during a Pentagon news conference. 
 DoD would continue to support the FBI and the Federal Emergency 
 Management Agency, the lead federal agencies in cases of 
 domestic terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Currently the 
 director of military support is the DoD liaison with these 
 "That is an organization traditionally suited to responding to 
 natural disasters and things of that nature," Hamre said. "It 
 doesn't have the kind of robust planning capability that we know 
 we're going to need to get ready for larger-scale incidents."
 DoD has proposed setting up Joint Task Force - Civil Support. It 
 would be a permanent office in the Pentagon providing DoD 
 support in case of terrorist attacks using weapons of mass 
 destruction or large-scale natural disasters. It would also 
 produce contingency plans for various scenarios involving the 
 use of weapons of mass destruction. 
 "We have a unique capability to offer the lead agencies if an 
 incident happens," said Charles Cragin, acting assistant 
 secretary of defense for reserve affairs. The department has 
 personnel trained to detect chemical, biological and nuclear 
 hazards and fully trained to operate in such hazardous 
 environments, he said.
 "What DoD is doing is to bring more rigor to command and control 
 structures, using military resources to support civil 
 authorities," Cragin said. Currently, this type of support to 
 civil authorities is an additional duty for some military 
 DoD will only provide support after authorities declare an 
 incident a federal disaster. A large event would quickly 
 overwhelm the current director of military support, Cragin said. 
 Planners looked at the Hurricane Andrew task force and the 
 military support for the Atlanta Olympics as examples to follow, 
 he said. 
 The joint task force would anticipate problems, know where 
 necessary military assets are and be able to get the assets 
 where needed quickly, he said. The task force would be commanded 
 by a flag officer and have full-time personnel who would train 
 and exercise with civil authorities, he added.
 Joint Staff officials believe the task force would go a long way 
 toward organizing DoD to best respond to major incidents. "We 
 need to make sure that our organic and inherent capability is 
 properly postured so that we can operate in a supporting role to 
 the civil institutions that would have the lead in this kind of 
 challenge," said Vice Adm. Vern Clark, director of the Joint 
 Clark said the proposal has gone to Defense Secretary William S. 
 Cohen, and he expects a decision soon.