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Homeland Defense is DoD Job No. 1, White Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2001 – DoD must make significant changes in the structure of the department to refocus on the homeland defense mission, Army Secretary Thomas White said before the Senate Armed Forces Committee Oct. 25.

White is DoD's interim executive agent for homeland security as well as the acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

He told the senators that the recently published Quadrennial Defense Review restores the defense of the United States as DoD's primary mission. "Put another way, homeland security is the No. 1 job for the United States military," he said. "It has our full attention."

The Sept. 11 attacks were threshold events with profound implications for the military, he said. They've left no doubt that terrorism "is a permanent part of our future."

In the past, DoD responded to acts of terror on two levels: crisis management and consequence management. The department must change this mindset, he said. For one thing, the apportionment of forces in the future must be balanced between warfighting requirements abroad and defending America at home, he said.

White suggested that homeland security includes two simultaneous and mutually supporting functions. "First is homeland defense, a DoD-led task involving protection of the United States in areas where we in the Department of Defense have unique military capabilities such as air defense," he said. The combat air patrols now flying over the United States under control of the North American Aerospace Defense Command are a prime example of this homeland defense function.

The second function contains civil support. This is where DoD provides assistance to a lead federal agency. White said this can range from the FBI for domestic counterterrorism tasks to Health and Human Services for biological attacks.

"The key to this civil support effort is a layered approach beginning with local and state first responders and progressing through state-controlled National Guard units and then finally to application of federal assets including unique DoD capabilities on an exception basis," he said.

White said these functions demand comprehensive approaches to accommodate evolving threats and finite resources. "Properly focusing on this complex mission and providing the coordination necessary for joint and interagency action requires a reorganization of DoD efforts," he said.

  • The department must consolidate its homeland defense efforts into a single staff organization. This would dramatically improve the quality of policy coordination, planning, resource allocation and responsiveness, he said.

  • DoD must develop operational arrangements for the future. "Currently, the military responsibilities for homeland defense are assigned to several commanders on an interim basis pending revision of the Unified Command Plan," he said. The commands involved are NORAD for air defense, U.S. Space Command for cyber and information infrastructure protection and U.S. Joint Forces Command for land and maritime protection.

  • The interagency coordination process must be improved to guarantee timely and efficient cooperation among the many federal, state and local organizations that have or share homeland security responsibilities, he said.

White said the department is working on this plan with Tom Ridge, director of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

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Related Sites:
Prepared Statement: Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White, Oct. 25, 2001
Prepared Statement: General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oct. 25, 2001
Prepared Statement: General William F. Kernan, Commander in Chief, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Oct. 25, 2001
Prepared Statement: General Ralph E. Eberhart, Commander in Chief, U.S. Space Command/NORAD, Oct. 25, 2001

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