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Reserve Component Integration-Response to Attacks of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Presenter: Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Walker
March 17, 1998

Colonel Richard M. Bridges: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today we are here for an on-the-record briefing outlining the Department of Defense's plans to integrate the reserve components into the Department's response to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. Joining us to help explain the program announced earlier today by Secretary Cohen will be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Deborah R. Lee, who will be followed by the acting Secretary of the Army, Robert M. Walker. Following their opening remarks, you will receive an outline of the program from Brigadier General Roger C. Schultz, who is the deputy director of military support, deputy chief of staff for operations.

Ms. Lee.

Assistant Secretary Lee: Thank you, Colonel Bridges. And good afternoon one and all.

As the Colonel said, we are here today to unveil what we believe to be a very important initiative regarding our nation's ability to respond to the possibility of terrorists' use of weapons of mass destruction right here on U.S. soil.

As Secretary Cohen said just a few hours ago in a presentation before the National Press Club, these deadly weapons of terror constitute a growing threat worldwide. The end of the Cold War, the break up of the Soviet Union and the increasing global nature of our economy have made it easier for terrorists and criminal networks to possibly acquire such weapons and so that's why we feel we must prepare to deal with the consequences of the possibility of such an attack involving chemical, biological or radiation weapons should that attack occur here at home.

Now, the steps that we are beginning today, specifically the announcement of a new plan to use our Guard and Reserve forces in this fight as well as the establishment of a Guard and Reserve consequence management program integration office will advance our overall capabilities to support local, state and federal civil authorities in the event a WMD, weapons of mass destruction, type of incident should one day occur.

As you know, DoD has been a player in this realm for some time. We have been very heavily involved in implementing what is called the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici city training program, which is working to train local first responders in 120 of our nation's largest cities. We're training local fire, police and emergency medical personnel on how to deal with what could be catastrophic effects of a weapons of mass destruction incident. Now, this program, we think, is getting good results, but we feel that we can do more. So the program that we are unveiling today involving our Guard and Reserve forces is designed to complement these on-going Nunn-Lugar-Domenici efforts.

Secretary Cohen has made it quite clear that he wants the Guard and Reserve forces, our part time military forces, front and center when it comes to DoD's response to terrorist attacks or the possibility of such attacks here at home. Why the Guard and Reserve? Because they live and they work in all of our communities. They know the lay of the land. They have established links to the fire, police and emergency medical personnel who are always the first responders when something occurs here at home.

All Guard and Reserve forces already have significant capabilities to support state governments in all types of disaster response. And indeed, our National Guard in particular has a long history of such service. The goal now is to take that baseline, to take those capabilities and then adapt them to the requirements of consequence management for weapons of mass destruction. Our Guard and Reserve forces, consequently, will soon receive additional training and equipment to prepare for this new mission.

Now, I want to stress that this is not a DoD mission alone and it is certainly not a Guard and Reserve mission alone. But rather, what we're talking about is the use of DoD assets to support local, state and federal civil authorities. During any such incident, DoD, again, would be in a support role, not the lead role. Rather, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would retain its lead federal agency response position under such a scenario.

Now, this is a very, very big and important job. Should the unthinkable occur and should a weapon of mass destruction actually be used, responders, be they local, state or federal, will confront very unique and very daunting challenges. Survivors of an incident will need medical assistance. It will need to be immediate and it will likely need to be massive. Survivors will need information on where and how to get help. Specialists will have to identify the nature of an attack and restrict access to hazardous areas. Others will need to come in and decontaminate those areas. And rescue and medical personnel will need to perform their missions without themselves also becoming casualties. So like I said, it's a very big job.

Here's how we propose to do it. At its core, the plan foresees the initial establishment of ten rapid assessment and detection teams. These teams will be comprised of 22 highly trained, full time National Guard personnel. And each of the teams will be tasked with a rapid response mission. They're designed to arrive quickly on the scene of an incident and they will be able to help local first responders identify the nature of an attack and call in as follow-on forces the right kinds of support. These teams are designed to form the tip of our national military support and response spear. Complementing and supporting these teams will be specially trained and equipped decontamination and reconnaissance units which will be drawn from existing Guard and Reserve force structure currently located across the United States.

Now, we've budgeted almost $50 million dollars in the FY '99 budget to begin this program of training and equipping and standing up these teams around the country. They will report through the Director of Military Support, up to one-half of who's staff will soon be comprised of personnel from the Guard and Reserve world.

This plan, I will tell you, has been a very collaborative effort between our active, Guard, Reserve and civilian leadership. And indeed, under Secretary Cohen's leadership, I just want to note the presence here today of Ambassador Holmes, our Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. He is the keeper of the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici program here in DoD. We also have General Baca, our Chief of the National Guard, General Helmly, Chief of the Army Reserve, we have General Davis, the vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Soriano, the Director of DOMS, and many others. Again, this has been a very, very collaborative effort and all of these individuals participated in the Tiger Team that helped to develop this concept for using the Guard and Reserve for this mission.

And so now, if I may, I'd like to turn the podium over to the chair of this effort, the chair of the Tiger Team, acting Secretary of the Army, Mike Walker.

Secretary Walker: Thank you very much, Debbie.

I keep on my desk a jagged piece of glass which the FBI gave me from the childcare center in the Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I keep it there as a reminder of what can happen in America. One hundred and sixty eight people died that day in Oklahoma City. But 5,000 would have died if that bomb had been a chemical weapon. So that is what we faced with the potential of weapons of mass destruction.

As you know, the Secretary of Defense has named the Army for a number of years to be the executive agent for military support to civil authorities. That has traditionally focused on the assisting the lead federal agency, FEMA, in responding to forest fires and floods and hurricanes and earthquakes and the like. When Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici program, as Debbie mentioned, to train up to 120 cities in responding to domestic terrorism from weapons of mass destruction, the Secretary named the Army to be the executive agent for that program to proceed with the training.

And then last fall, he asked us to look at the potential of improving the ability of the Guard and Reserve to assist in responding to weapons of mass destruction. I established a Tiger Team, as Debbie indicated, under the direction of Brigadier General Roger Schultz, who is the Deputy Adjutant General from Iowa and is currently serving as the Deputy Director of Military Support in the Army Operations Center. General Schultz pulled together elements from all of the services, from all the Reserve components and from OSD. And he also carefully coordinated the preparation of the report with our interagency partners and especially our lead at FEMA. In addition, he carefully consulted and the Tiger Team carefully consulted with state and local officials to find out what they needed most as we put this effort together.

Now I will call on Roger Schultz in just a moment. But let me say that this is a very serious subject. The experts tell us that it's their view that it's not if, but when a weapon of mass destruction will be used in this country. So it is very important that the American people believe that their government's at every level are doing everything possible to prepare for that potential. We believe that the program that Secretary Cohen announced today is a step in that direction.

And General Schultz, if you come and explain to the folks.

General Schultz: Thank you Secretary Walker, members of the press, good afternoon.

Secretary Cohen's announcement earlier today regarding the nation's preparedness for weapons of mass destruction response underscores the Department of Defense interest in improving our ability to respond to these attacks. And I'm going to talk for just a minute about the detail that Ms. Lee and Secretary Walker have already introduced. And as I do, I'll provide, then, the detail that we anticipate the Guard and Reserve becoming a part of in terms of our overall response efforts.

And we're talking about a support role that Ms. Lee has already introduced. And at the center of this chart at the top, you'll notice we use the word "support." And then in the center of the chart down just a little bit, you'll also notice we talk about the Guard and Reserve and our role of supporting our nation's response disasters, to domestic emergencies. And so the theme of our work is integrating the Guard and Reserve, the theme of our work is a support mission that Ms. Lee has already introduced initially here.

The next chart talks about some of the detail regarding our recent history in terms of where the Tiger Team that's already been mentioned has been. This past November, we assembled a group of experts to look at the military requirements to support a response to weapons of mass destruction attack. And so we looked at the military functions, you'll see at the top, and outlined, then, the integration that's already mentioned briefly. And for certain, we talked about the program definition, the tasks that obviously would fall out of that mission statement in terms of the detail that we in the military, the Defense Department, in this case, the Guard and Reserve, might be asked to perform. So we looked at the interagency strategic plans and we looked at the other requirements that the Guard and Reserve could be tasked to accomplish.

Next chart.

I want to get into just a little bit of the detail that Ms. Lee talked about regarding our chain of command. Secretary Walker, of course, is in our chain of command in terms of our day to day responsibility. But I would like to point out that our relationship with Secretary Cohen at the top left of the chart in relationship with the Secretary of the Army, General Soriano has already been introduced, but the program office that we're announcing today, the lower left-hand corner of this chart really is what we're establishing and what we're announcing. And in terms of implementation, the program office detail is found on the right-hand side of this chart. But the implementation, yes, recognizes an interagency response obligation. Interagency to us, our federal partners, the FEMA, FBI, the Public Health Service, the Veterans Administration are the kinds of agencies that we feel we have an interest and an obligation to be a part of in terms of response.

And as you work down the list, as it relates to the Defense Department's ability to respond, we find ourselves today, not prepared. And I'll talk about that in just a little more detail. Not prepared with the likes of the description of the missions that we may be asked to react to. And so, you'll hear today our concept, our plan on how that program comes together.

The more important piece on this chart, I think, really deals with the task, train and equip our Reserve component response elements, and that's found in the right-hand side of the chart where we talk about shaping and focusing the Guard and Reserve training efforts and equipping the Guard and Reserve units to respond to a WMD-like attack. And so, you'll find that to be a significant part or our concept in our overall interest.

One of the things we found in our study is that we need to practice more with our interagency partners. Working with the state government, working with the local government, and also then, the federal partners here. And so, we say it's not just establishing a program where we go out and train the military, it's establishing a program where we exercise with the state responders, the local responders and the federal government. So as we talk here about coordinating the procedures, the office we're announcing today begins to coordinate those activities overall and that's the detail that I'll provide here as we continue with the briefing. So this is the program we're standing up. This is the office that will be in existence here from this day forward relating to overall, coordinating the consequence management program activities.

As we talk about an overall response graphic, what we recognize on this chart is that we possibly could have local responders and state responders and federal responders reacting to the same incident.

Notice in the lower left-hand graphic, the arrow talks about an incident commander. And it's our recognition, in the case of the Defense Department, that we support a local incident commander. So our idea is that a fire chief remains in charge and that's what you see in the bottom part of the graphic there, and that throughout the mission, the fire chief would remain an incident command kind of responsibility.

And recognize that as the state response comes together, this is the governor's authority to bring the National Guard and other state resources to bear, that they too would have a chain of command. And as well, the federal responders would then come in with the other task force that are follow-on force in nature that would also have their own separate chain of command. So our challenge is to bring together these three response activities into a weapon of mass destruction response.

What's this all mean? What we're saying is that a weapon of mass destruction attack is different in the sense that the state forces could be overwhelmed earlier than ever before and as well, we may need to call in the federal assets. So it brings to bear, perhaps, a reaction time that we have never before anticipated in terms of Guard and Reserve reacting to day-to-day mission requirements.

The federal response plan that is outlined on this chart really is an example of how we, for a local incident commander in the top left corner of the chart, then bring the DoD resources to the scene of a local incident. And I want to talk through this just briefly.

The state coordinating officer is the person that responders to the governor of the various states and territories. And so beyond the control of a local commander perhaps being overwhelmed on the scene fairly early, we would have a state response force coming together. And we recognize that the federal activity needs to be coordinated, in this case, by the FEMA or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, through the numbers of agencies and the support functions that you see on the chart here. What we really want to do, though, is make available DoD resources to the local incident commander. And that's what's happening here in terms of this graphic.

So there is a defense coordinating officer in the lower left corner of the chart that coordinates or brings to bear those defense activities and isolates the requirements that the Defense Department may have a requirement for. But what we really do is send the resources to the response task force. And the next chart is going to give us a graphic on what that looks like.

So again, we're responding with a request from a local incident commander and the person says I need these kinds of activities and of course, reinforcing the point that I made earlier, that we, DoD, are not as prepared as we need to be a weapons of mass destruction response. We have limited capabilities, in fact, and this chart shows that from the command and control, where you'll see at the top, we have a commander. Command and control activity exists today. And the 1st Army in Atlanta and the 5th Army in San Antonio, Texas. But what we look at is capability shaded in green and you can see, we have coordinating officers, emergency preparedness liaison officers that exist today.

Lower left corner talks, then, about our current capabilities. Explosive ordnance disposal, laboratories and the tech escort unit. The Marines have the CBIRF model many have talked about for some time. That represents today's DoD capability for response to WMD-like attacks.

So what we have on the rest of the chart, then, shaded in white are those capabilities that we need to shape. We need to focus. We need to equip. And the Guard and Reserve units represent these areas or these functions today. And that's our task. That's the program that we're announcing today is to take these activities and these type support requirements and put them together in terms of a response activity.

Challenge? This chart shows the challenge that we have about us. And I want to talk for just a minute about the three blocks shaded in yellow. Because Ms. Lee pointed out the activities for the fiscal year '99 program and the shaded yellow blocks are what we'll talk about here for just a couple minutes.

So the teams that we are talking about are rapid assessment teams and we've already heard about at least ten teams being fielded in fiscal year '99. The team missions, you can see, and a couple of key words that I need to point out here. One is rapid deployment. One is early-on assessment of a given incident. What kind of agent are we dealing with, where's the cloud or the plume that's perhaps been used on a given incident site and perhaps where are those in danger, where do we need to secure, where do we evacuate from or perhaps, where do we keep people from entering. And so, all of those missions come together here in terms of this assessment element being a part of that overall command and control activity. I say all of this. We still are responding to a local incident commander's request. We, the Department of Defense, are responding to a local incident commander's request. And you can see some of the other activities. This chart breaks down the team in terms of just the response like activities on the right-hand side as it relates to the organization of those response teams. And I'll explain just a little bit of that later.

Next chart.

So we have the assessment elements. Then these are the two remaining elements that we're going to stand up in fiscal year '99, are broken down into reconnaissance and detection. You can see both the missions for the recon and decontamination and also then the units employed. We plan to have 68 of the recon units -- 68 of the decontamination units and 27 of the recon units during the first year of the program.

So we're really talking about a multi-year program here. As you look generally at some of the task activity, it's not going to clearly be accomplished in the first year. And this chart, then, outlines our multi-year approach to the overall concept that we're announcing today as it relates to the commitment that was being presented earlier in the National Press Club.

You can see here the activities, the detailed plan, the program office that we're announcing today will accomplish the items in the top left corner of this chart. And in terms of fielding the assessment teams and the recon teams and the decontamination teams, it takes two years to accomplish those activities.

Long term, we are here to say that we have a commitment to sustaining the skills. You'll see that in our plan in terms of the detail, it terms of the rest of the activity as it isolates task, train and equip responders. And so our program today is perhaps the first step of a journey that begins to use and capitalize on the Guard and Reserve being considered for weapons of mass destruction response.

I do want to take time for questions. And I want to introduce Lt. Col. Jay Steinmetz, who will be with us here for questions and answers. He's the person that's actually going to head up the new program office and so, I've asked him to simply come up and be a part of the questions and answers.


Q: Can you tell us, because I'm sure local communities want to know, where are these ten first teams going to be located?

A: We have outlined on this chart the ten federal emergency management area regions. We'll put a team in each of these regions and we are considering a list of criteria that factors in the likes of the population centers and a number of other factors. The local military training centers of excellence that are available. And so we've worked --

Q: Already FEMA sites?

A: Yes, these are ten FEMA regions that exist today. And we will place one of our assessment teams in each of the regions.

Q: But where in the regions?

A: Well, that's the model we're working through right now. We're working the scenarios that will be finished in April of this year. So, it'll actually be May before we identify the actual communities that will receive these teams.

Q: I was curious how you came up with such a jaw breaking name, Consequence Management Program Integration Office.

A: Consequence Management is a FEMA lead responsibility from a Presidential decision directive. And of course, in a supporting role the Department of Defense has, Consequence Management is the more likely of the task that we will receive here for this mission. And so, that's where the name came from. It came from a Presidential decision directive and that's the office that will be coordinating the activity.

Q: You talk about ten teams, but then you break down your FY program and you've got 65 decon and 28 recon --

A: What we are -- do you have the one that talks about the organization?

When we talk about ten teams, that structure that's new to the force. The rest of the teams that we're organizing are found in the Guard and Reserve today. And so as we talk about these type capabilities, these are elements that are stationed across the Guard and Reserve units that exist today that need some training, need some focus on their task and need some equipment. And so what we're showing here are both an active Guard and Reserve kind of capability ultimately trained and equipped. Explosive ordnance would be Air Force, Army. The laboratories, Army and Navy, for example. Tech escort is an Army capability. But the Guard and Reserve units make up the rest of those blocks in white. They're in our structure today, but not trained and equipped like they need to be.

Q: The problem you have with Guard and Reserve personnel is they have real jobs, most of them, and they do other things which might not make them available for instant mobilization. And yet, these people, you're talking about being able to be on the scene within hours, I would imagine. Isn't that a complication?

A: Yes, it is. And the Guard and Reserve respond today with similar kinds of mission, in particular the Guard where perhaps we have short notice mission requirements. And our reaction yet today is less than four hours as it relates to mission kinds of reactions. So I'm just talking about response time that the Guard is currently experiencing. Now as it relates to how quick is soon enough, the quicker the better are what first responders tell us. And so, you're question is can we get there in time. And the answer is our plan is to start with ten teams and then simply test that model or validate the response concept and develop from there.

Q: Those rapid teams, those are full time people, right? Or no?

A: The teams that are announced today, yes, have a full time staff, a full time contingent and a traditional member contingent. Their 22 members are the full time spaces and there are an additional 22 members for traditional. So it would be a 44 member platoon if you just took the model and applied it to a given mission.

Q: What would the threshold be for sending one of these teams out? We've had a couple of incidents in the last year. We had the one in Las Vegas just recently. I doubt that gets to your threshold because nothing happens. Or we had the thing in Washington where there was sort of a mysterious package that could have been a biological agent. That doesn't ring your bells, I guess, probably.

A: They absolutely do. They ring our bells. In fact, the team that we sent from Dugway, Utah, to Las Vegas was approved through our office. That chain of command that I talked about on an earlier chart that had our relationship with the Secretary of Defense, has Mr. Walker in the approval process. And yes, we have to approve those teams responding to a mission, in this case, the FBI lead. So it absolutely rings our bell. And it turned out that the agent was not what was announced initially.

Q: But that Dugway team is a regular Army team, is it not?

A: Yes, that's a regular Army team as part of the tech escort unit.

Q: I assume that they would still get the first call in most of these cases unless there was an individual case or is that not true?

A: I think in terms of the decision making in terms of who gets the first call is where the teams are located and the response time that simply would be applied to get there, I do believe. And so we've gone through an analysis of just the question you're asking. How quick can I get there? And so the regional teams are a start point for us.

Q: As I understand, you have Dugway people and on the East Coast, you have Fort Deitrich or something. Would this be sort of decentralize it to more places so you can get there faster?

A: The tech escort unit really exists in three locations today, so they've already been decentralized some. What we have potentially in the case of weapons of mass destruction attack is we just simply may not have the forces in the right places. And so the Guard and Reserve begin to sure up that response capability, that potential. And they're stationed across the country today. And so it places a response potential that's closer to the sites, that potentially that could be attacked.

Q: What actual evidence do you have that the threat is increasing?

A: The FBI actually has the lead on the domestic threat. And of course, one of the things that we're preparing for is an item that Secretary Walker talked about. And that is we may, in fact, be attacked. And so if you look at terrorist activity worldwide, we are simply preparing for a mission that may come, may arrive. And so we do, obviously, listen to the FBI on a routine basis, a frequent basis, so that we get an update on the threat assessment as the activities occur. And so we clearly monitor the threat in terms of how much of the threat and the activity really -- the FBI has release authority on that kind of information.

Q: Are you saying that the FBI has concrete evidence of an increasing threat of this type of an attack in the United States?

A: I really don't -- I just simply can't describe the threat in terms of the lead agency because they have to react to that kind of question. We're saying the likelihood is changing, that we may have an attack in the continental United States, the likelihood. And so we're preparing for that question, might there be one. We're preparing for perhaps a mission that most hope never takes place.

Q: What's the additional cost once you get geared up of running this outfit per year?

A: First year cost, as Ms. Lee pointed out, was $49 million dollars. That's the start up, the equipment and the training. And so we anticipate that to be kind of an annual cost as we go into the program.

Q: $49 million a year indefinitely?

A: And I say that, we're developing next year's budgets right now, and so it's obviously a program we have to defend and justify as we go through the budget review process.

Q: But that's an annual amount, not just a start up --

A: Yes.

Q: Let me ask you something to clear something up. These ten teams would Army National Guard teams, right? But draw on other National Guard units?

A: Right. And we talk about this chart. These kinds of elements, these capabilities are found in the Guard and Reserve today, these elements. And so if they're Guard units, they can be called by the governors and are routinely called today.

Q: These would be Army National Guard.

A: Army or Air National Guard. It actually could be both because both the Army and Air National Guard respond to the governors in the states and territories today. And so the immediate force are National Guard. The assessments. These elements, perhaps found in the Guard, could be called by governors. There are Reserve capabilities here that could be authorized for response by the President.

Q: But the ten teams that you're forming will be both Army and National Guard.

A: Army and Air National Guard teams. Which gives us that accessibility. That's where the governors' authority to call their subordinate units to come to bear, which allows for a quicker response.

Q: Back to the budget, what pot of money will this come out of as you get rolling? Would it be out of the Secretary's emergency fund or each service would have to kick in? Or, where is the money going to come from?

A: Secretary of Defense Cohen has announced a commitment of multi- year kinds of dollars to the program. And so what we're realizing in terms of first year costs are a part of that overall commitment. And so, this is all DoD money that he's applied to the mission.

Q: It's OSD money we're talking about, not service money.

A: That's correct.

Q: Thank you very much.