While some law enforcement commanders and officers welcome federal assistance during emergencies, others are less enthusiastic about having military personnel involved in operations within their jurisdictions. They believe President Barack Obama and others in government wish to blur the line between policing and warfighting, several experts said following a congressional hearing on Wednesday, March 20.
U.S. Northern Command claims it is working with its partners to improve its ability to support civil authorities during disaster responses, and is now better postured to do so through a new construct that improves coordination among the forces involved, the Northcom commander told Congress during Wednesday’s hearing.
Pointing to the command’s role when Hurricane Sandy dealt a devastating blow to the Atlantic coast in October, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby told the House Armed Services Committee that NORTHCOM gained valuable insights and experience that will pay off in the future, according to Donna Mills of the American Forces Press Service.
In a report released to the US Congress recently, analysts assessed what they termed “preparedness tests” between the US military and government agencies at the federal, state and local levels.
U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) exercises to test preparedness to perform its homeland defense and civil support missions. The Government Accountability Office was asked to assess the extent to which NORTHCOM is consistent with Department of Defense guidelines for training and exercise requirement involving interagency partners and states in its exercises.
NORTHCOM’s exercise program is generally consistent with the requirements of DOD’s Joint Training System, but its exercise reporting is inconsistent. Since the command was established in 2002, NORTHCOM has conducted 13 large-scale exercises and generally completed exercise summary reports within the required time frame.
However, those reports did not consistently include certain information, such as areas needing improvement, because NORTHCOM lacks guidance that specifies exercise reports’ content and format, potentially impacting its ability to meet internal standards for planning and execution of joint exercises, and to compare and share exercise results over time with interagency partners and states.
“While the rationale for using the US military domestically had been debated for years, President Barack Obama appears intent on using our military at least until he can create his promised ‘Civilian Security Force’ which he said would be as big and powerful as the military,” said political strategist Mike Baker.
“The fact that the military — in this instance NORTHCOM — is being trained to operate with our borders should be setting off alarms throughout this nation. But it’s being ignored even by those who profess to be conservatives,” he said.
Nineteen federal agencies and organizations and 17 states and the District of Columbia have participated in one or more of the seven large-scale exercises that NORTHCOM has conducted since September 2005. However, NORTHCOM faces challenges in involving states in the planning, conduct, and assessment of its exercises, such as adapting its exercise system and practices to involve other federal, state, local, and tribal agencies that do not have the same practices or level of planning resources.
Pointing to the command’s role when Hurricane Sandy dealt a devastating blow to the Atlantic coast in October, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby told the House Armed Services Committee that Northcom gained valuable insights and experience that will pay off in the future.