New Standing Headquarters Focuses on WMD Elimination
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2013 It’s a nightmare scenario: an adversary has assembled a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction with plans to inflict devastation on the United States, its allies and friends, and the world.
A standing headquarters element established in February 2012 and expected to reach full operational capability within the coming year is part of a coordinated U.S. military effort to identify, counter and secure -- and, when necessary, to eliminate -- WMD threats.
The Standing Joint Force Headquarters for Elimination was stood up to provide geographic combatant commanders the planning, intelligence and operational capability required in the event that they need to eliminate a foreign nation’s WMDs and WMD programs, Army Maj. Gen. Lucas N. Polakowski, the organization’s commander, told American Forces Press Service.
The headquarters works in support of the president’s National Security Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction in the hands of hostile states and terrorists, he explained. Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, calls this the No. 1 threat to U.S. national security.
Kehler established the headquarters to provide expert planning, intelligence and operational capability for combating and eliminating WMDs. The goal, he said when announcing the stand-up, is to provide a full-time, trained joint command-and-control element able to integrate into forward headquarters to help manage the elimination mission.
Leveraging the capabilities of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Stratcom’s Center for Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction, for which Polakowski serves as deputy director, the SJFHQ-E would deploy to augment a combatant commander’s staff in conducting the mission, Polakowski said.
“It is such a specialized area, so [the combatant commands] don’t have the complete depth of [chemical, biological and radiological] and counter-WMD expertise that we have resident in these three organizations,” he said. “These three entities, under the headquarters mantle, would provide that resource and expertise to the combatant commands and any command underneath them.”
Experts assigned to the SJFHQ-E would provide capabilities needed to command and control operations that involve going into a foreign nation to locate, characterize, secure, and disable or dispose of hostile WMDs and WMD programs so they no longer pose a threat, Polakowski said.
Typically, such missions would be conducted in close coordination with allies and partners, he said.
Having a permanent headquarters trained and ready to act, if needed, improves the Defense Department’s ability to plan, train for and execute highly complex WMD elimination operations, Polakowski said.
“This is another tool in our toolkit, so that if the requirement arises, we as a nation are ready,” he said. “We want to have a deliberative and in-place capability that we have trained upon and are ready to execute if our nation calls on us to do it.”
To prepare for such a mission, the SJFHQ-E works closely with the combatant commands, conducting crisis planning and testing response procedures during major exercises.
“We train and prepare in peace in order to be ready when and if the nation needs to call upon this capability,” Polakowski said.
The SJFHQ-E reached initial operating capability in September 2012, after reaching major milestones during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2012 exercise in South Korea.
Polakowski, who assumed command in March, said he hopes to increase the level of support the SJFHQ-E provides to the combatant commands as he continues to build his staff. By design, SJFHQ-E will be a relatively small element that he said probably will top out at fewer than 100 members.
But capabilities -- rather than numbers -- are Polakowski’s priority. He hopes to achieve full operational capability within the next year, which means the SJFHQ-E will have the breadth of capabilities it needs to take on more -- and more demanding -- missions.
The best use of the SJFHQ-E’s capabilities, he said, will be if they are never needed to respond to a real-world crisis.
Ensuring a robust ability to conduct the WMD elimination mission, the standing joint force headquarters and its partner organizations send an important message to potential adversaries who have WMD programs or are working to develop them, he said.
“It puts them on notice,” he said, letting them know that “we, as a standing joint force headquarters, are prepared in case of the need to go in, locate, secure and help with the elimination of a potential foreign adversary’s program.”
“This should serve as a deterrent to those trying to establish their own WMD programs,” he said. “And if they already have one, it should dissuade them from continuing to maintain it.”