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Verga Clarifies DoD's Homeland Defense Role

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2002 – In defending the homeland, DoD has clear and defined responsibilities often very much separate from those of civil organizations, a senior Pentagon official noted here Dec. 10.

Accordingly, the Defense Department recognizes there are differences between the homeland security and homeland defense missions, Peter Verga, director of DoD's Homeland Defense Task Force, reminded a security conference audience here.

DoD supports national homeland security through its military homeland defense missions, Verga explained.

He said President Bush describes the homeland security mission as a concerted effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, to reduce the nation's vulnerability to terrorism, and to minimize damage and to assist in recovery efforts after terrorist attacks.

However, Verga noted that fiscal 2004 Defense Planning Guidance defines homeland defense as the military protection of U.S. territory, the domestic population and critical defense infrastructure against external threats and aggression.

The DPG also calls for DoD to routinely study state activities to deter potential aggressors and to prepare U.S. military forces for action, if needed.

"That's a subtle, but a very, very distinct difference," Verga pointed out, noting that the terms homeland security and homeland defense "are often very incorrectly used interchangeably."

There are three circumstances where DoD would be involved in homeland security activities within the United States, he noted. They are:

  • Traditional military missions performed inside the United States, called "extraordinary circumstances." An example would be the current combat air patrols, during which military aircraft might be ordered to shoot down a terrorist-hijacked airliner that's en route to a target.

  • Emergency circumstances, where the military aids civil authorities or other federal agencies with logistical and other support in, for instance, disaster relief missions after hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

  • Temporary circumstances, such as DoD support to the Olympics.

DoD's foremost mission, Verga pointed out, is to defend the United States and the American population. Any department activities requested in support of homeland defense efforts should be centrally coordinated, he noted, to promote efficiency and prevent confusion.

The mechanisms to coordinate such DoD support are either in place or soon will be, Verga noted, citing the March 2003 start up of the Department of Homeland Security, and the authorization of a new assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.

He also pointed to the Oct. 1 establishment of U.S. Northern Command, the new unified command with responsibility for homeland defense.

Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg, director of command, control, communications and computer systems (J-6) for the Joint Staff, sat on the discussion panel with Verga. He noted Northern Command is the first regional combatant command in the United States.

Northern Command's job, he noted, is to coordinate with other elements and agencies to produce "a seamless battlefield."

"We view the United States of America as a battlefield. If you look at what happened back on the 11th of September a year ago, those attacks occurred within the United States," Kellogg emphasized.

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