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06 July 2005

U.S. Military Will Expand Homeland Security Support

Pentagon announces a layered defense strategy for United States

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. armed forces will expand their ability to protect the homeland through a strategy of an active and layered defense that is designed to defeat the most dangerous challenges quickly and at a distance, according to a recently approved Defense Department plan.

The plan -- titled "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support" -- marks a significant shift in Pentagon thinking on how best to protect U.S. territory, says acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

"While our current missions abroad continue to play a vital role for the security of our nation, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, emphasized that we are confronting fundamentally different challenges from those faced during the Cold War," England says in the plan's introduction.

The 40-page strategy was signed by England June 24 and released June 30 without formal notice at the Pentagon.  It is the basis for organizing troops, developing weapons and assigning missions.

Protecting the United States always has been the core mission of the Defense Department, but that role will expand greatly in different ways, according to the plan.  Previously, the U.S. military provided protection at sea and through an integrated air defense system developed during the Cold War. The plan now calls for an expanded role in defense on land and through intelligence sharing with civilian law enforcement.

U.S. forces must be capable of responding to "multiple, simultaneous" attacks that might involve mass casualties instead of the previously envisioned single terrorist strike, the plan says.

The strategy envisions a 10-year time frame that requires a seamless integration of U.S. military capabilities in the forward regions of the world, through space and cyberspace, in the geographic approaches to U.S. territory, and within the United States.

"It is a defense in depth," the plan says.

The plan accepts that over the next 10 years there is considerable risk of substantial, diverse and asymmetric challenges to the United States, its allies and interests.

"In this context, we are faced with great uncertainty regarding the specific character, timing and sources of potential attacks," the plan says.

The strategy calls for the intelligence community, civil authorities and the Defense Department to obtain and use all actionable information needed to protect the country.

"Timely and actionable intelligence, together with early warning, is the most critical enabler to protecting the United States at a safe distance," the plan says.

The military will attempt to deter potential attackers with the knowledge that to do so will risk an unacceptable U.S. counterattack.  "Should deterrence fail, we will seek to intercept and defeat threats at a safe distance from the United States," the plan says.

When directed by the president and the secretary of defense, "we will also defeat direct threats within U.S. airspace and on U.S. territory," the plan says.

In addition, the plan calls for the U.S. National Guard, through its "civil support teams," to provide emergency assistance after a domestic chemical, biological, nuclear or high-explosive attack that causes mass casualties.  The National Guard will provide 55 response teams of 22 persons each by the end of 2007 -- one team for each state and U.S. territory.

One aspect of the new strategic approach was the creation in 2002 of the U.S. Northern Command, which has the protection of the United States as its primary mission.  The strategy also calls for close cooperation and coordination with Canadian and Mexican authorities in identifying threats.

Northern Command, which includes Canada and Mexico in its area of responsibility, was created to provide planning, organizing and executing homeland defense and civil support missions within the continental United States, Alaska and U.S. territorial waters.

The strategy says that, even though the Defense Department is concerned with homeland defense, the primary mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, and that the attorney general and Justice Department lead the nation's law enforcement effort to detect, prevent and investigate terrorist activity within the United States.

The full text of the strategy is available on the Defense Department Web site (PDF, 46 pages).