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NORTHCOM Planning Will Be Challenge, Model, DoD Official Says

By Chief Petty Officer Susan Hammond, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Oct. 5, 2006 – U.S. Northern Command’s planning for catastrophic scenarios eventually may be used by other commands and agencies, a senior Defense Department official said here earlier this week.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Peter F. Verga, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, talks on interagency “jointness” at the 2006 Homeland Defense Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct, 3. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shane Wallenda, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Peter F. Verga, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, spoke during the 2006 Homeland Defense Symposium Oct. 3.

“While in execution, the (Hurricane) Katrina operations and all of the missions that have been done by U.S. Northern Command have been done magnificently,” Verga said in an interview following his address. “We’ve identified shortcomings and are pre-planning for those 15 national planning scenarios.”

Organizations at all levels of government use the national planning scenarios to help identify critical tasks and capabilities that would be required in a coordinated effort to manage major events. The scenarios include responses to terrorist attacks and natural disasters. The scenarios were developed to implement Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, which establishes policies to strengthen preparedness to both prevent and respond to significant incidents at the federal, state and local levels.

Verga said the burden of DoD planning for the scenarios will fall on NORTHCOM because the scenarios are domestic-based. U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Southern Command will have similar planning responsibilities for Hawaii and U.S. territories in their areas of responsibility, but Verga said they will probably be able to build on NORTHCOM’s work, instead of doing the fundamental work.

“The strategic guidance statement that is about to come out specifically requires a detailed level of planning for those 15 national planning scenarios,” he said.

Verga said the intent is for DoD to plan what capabilities it can bring to bear on those situations. Other agencies are taking a similar look at what capabilities they can bring.

“It’s that synergy of all the departments coming together, having thought about the scenarios and the problems in the same structured manner, that should give us that coherent detailed planning that the national response plan actually calls for,” Verga said. He cited the implementation plan for the strategy for pandemic influenza and the national implementation plan for the global war on terrorism as two examples of that synergy.

In Verga’s address to the symposium attendees, he praised DoD’s emphasis on a “culture of planning.”

“It really is getting other people in the departments and agencies to think about planning,” he said. “I see that as the challenge ahead.”

(Navy Chief Petty Officer Susan Hammond is assigned to U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs.)

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