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DoD Ready to Assist in Event of Homeland Attack

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2004 – The Defense Department stands ready to assist authorities at the federal, state and local levels in the event of another terrorist attack on the homeland, a senior DoD official said here April 8.

In prepared remarks delivered to Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association members, Peter F. Verga said the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense "is responsible for DoD's support to civil authorities for domestic incident management," such as during attacks on the homeland.

Verga, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, noted that another DoD entity, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, "is responsible for DoD's support to the State Department, which has the lead for foreign consequence management."

In the event of a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological attack on the United States, Verga said, the Joint Task Force Civil Support in Norfolk, Va.; the Joint Task Force Consequence Management East at Fort Gillem, Ga.; or the Joint Task Force Consequences Management West at Fort Sam Houston, Texas -- all under U.S. Northern Command -- "would be available to provide command and control of forces in support of civil authorities."

"We are working to strengthen DoD and civilian capabilities and surge capacity to address multiple, simultaneous CBRN attacks in the United States," Verga said.

Another important element defending the homeland involves intelligence and information sharing, Verga pointed out. To this end, he noted DoD is working closely with the FBI, CIA and other members of the intelligence community "to maintain maximum awareness of potential attacks against and emerging threats to the United States."

For example, DoD is "a full partner" in the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, Verga said. The TTIC, he noted, is "a multi-agency joint venture" created in May 2003. It "integrates terrorist-threat related information, minimizing any seams between analysis of terrorism intelligence collected overseas and inside the United States, to form a comprehensive threat picture."

Each day, Verga continued, TTIC "coordinates terrorist threat assessments with partner agencies," including DoD, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and State Department.

In a terrorist attack on America, NORTHCOM - which defends land, air and sea approaches to the United States -- would also provide support to U.S. civil authorities, Verga noted.

This, he explained, would include "military support to civilian law enforcement agencies, military assistance for civil disturbances, and incident management operations in response" to an attack using weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, he noted, monitor sea approaches to America and "patrol international waters and our territorial seas."

DoD's role in border security involves providing support, particularly to the Department of Homeland Security, "when appropriate," Verga said. DoD maintains quick- and rapid-reaction forces for this purpose, he added, and these Army and Marine forces would operate under NORTHCOM's command and control.

Verga said DoD maintains "excellent" working relationships across the Department of Homeland Security. For example, he cited the 64 people assigned within DHS who provide critical intelligence and communications specialties.

DoD also has an around-the-clock presence in DHS's operations center "with direct connectivity back to DoD for rapid response."

This year, Verga said, DoD is enhancing its partnership with DHS by establishing a liaison office within DHS headquarters.

The Defense Department also is developing a "comprehensive" homeland defense strategy for the 21st century, Verga said. That plan, he noted, will "provide the framework for pursuing operational capabilities to prepare for tomorrow's challenges."

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Related Sites:
U.S. Northern Command
Department of Homeland Security
State Department
Joint Task Force Civil Support

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