National Guard, Reserves Fully Integrated Into Force, Leaders Say
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2006 The National Guard and reserve components are key players in America's ability to fight the war on terror abroad, and respond to security threats and national disasters in the homeland, Defense Department leaders said here yesterday.
These components are vital to America's total force strength, and integrated planning is the key to success in the future, Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, said at the second hearing of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.
The National Guard and reserves make up almost half of America's total military strength and are involved in every aspect of homeland defense and civil support, McHale said.
Air National Guardsmen and reservists fly almost 71 percent of the nation's air-defense sorties, and the Navy Reserve augments the active-duty Navy in the maritime homeland defense mission, McHale said. In the land domain, reserve forces are capable of serving in homeland defense reaction-force roles and will be able to do so, if authorized by the secretary of defense, under the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, he added.
The reserve components also play a key role in hazards consequence management, McHale said. The National Guard provides emergency preparedness liaison officers in every state and in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency regional offices, he said. The National Guard also has a joint force headquarters in each state to provide communication between all Guard forces, he said.
Keating also recognized the contributions of the National Guard and reserves, specifically to Northern Command. Reserve forces are key players in that command's development of homeland defense and civil support plans, he said, and are a critical component of the more than 35 exercises Northern Command conducts each year.
Acting on lessons learned from the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Northern Command has already taken steps to improve its collaboration with the National Guard and its ability to respond to natural disasters, Keating said.
In February, NORTHCOM held a hurricane preparation conference, where 10 adjutants general from the Gulf Coast region and Northern Command senior leaders had the opportunity to prepare for the 2006 hurricane season, Keating said. The command is also integrating active-duty colonels as defense coordinating officers into each of the 10 FEMA regions, he said.
To solidify the partnership between the active duty and reserve forces, Northern Command participated in the meetings of the National Governors Association and the Adjutants General Association of the United States in February, Keating said.
"These face-to-face meetings provided a forum for U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard to discuss challenges and responsibilities and enhance our domestic coalitions," he said.
NORTHCOM also has worked with the National Guard Bureau on ways to improve communications and situational awareness, Keating said. One important initiative they've undertaken is creating a common data set to allow everyone to speak the same language when referring to events or requesting assistance, he said.
Integrated planning like that between Northern Command and the National Guard is important in anticipating homeland defense incidents or natural disasters and knowing what is needed to respond to them, McHale said.
DoD is considering measures to improve integration between federal and state military forces, as well as between military forces and federal, state and local civilian responders, McHale said. This integration of planning needs to be conducted before a crisis occurs, so the response can be as effective as possible when a crisis happens, he said.
"We don't want to engage in crisis action planning when we can anticipate those requirements through deliberate staff planning in a pre-crisis environment," he said.
The most important thing in dealing with future crises is a unity of effort, not necessarily a unity of command, both leaders said. The traditional chain of reaction should still be followed, with the local and state officials being the first responders, and then requesting federal assistance if the situation is beyond their control, McHale said.
The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves was created by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. The commission is charged by Congress to recommend any needed changes in law and policy to ensure that the Guard and Reserve are organized, trained, equipped, compensated and supported to best meet the national security requirements of the U.S.