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DoD to Use 'Forward-Deployed Active-Layered Defense' to Protect Country

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2004 – DoD's new strategy for helping protect the nation is to have a "forward-deployed active-layered defense," according to the man who helped craft the plan.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale said his agency "firmly believes" the nation's defense begins overseas. And DoD's homeland- defense strategy aims to "shape the battle space far forward from the United States homeland."

McHale was the keynote speaker at the 4th Annual Global Homeland Security Conference and Expo in Arlington, Va. The conference is a two-day meeting to discuss ways to better protect the nation's infrastructure, such as bridges and power plants.

"We must detect the enemy threat long before it approaches the United States. We must track that threat as it approaches the Unites States," he explained. "If we identify an enemy threat only after it has come ashore, only after it has penetrated our defenses, only after that weapon of mass destruction is located within the United States port or facility, it's too late."

To prevent that from happening, he said the department now has forward-deployed mission capabilities that didn't exist three years ago. Those capabilities include the ability to intercept a commercial aircraft that may be converted to a weapons platform.

"We train for that mission every day," McHale explained. "We have F-15s and F- 16s in the air conducting combat air patrols, prepared to intercept any threat in the air domain."

Combat air patrols are also being flown on a random basis over major metropolitan cities and key facilities and power plants, he added. "We were not conducting those missions on Sept. 11. We are effectively conducting them today."

McHale also noted changes in maritime security will focus on being able to "identify, intercept and defeat weapons of mass destruction on the high seas." He pointed out that the most "probable course of action" for terrorists to bring weapons of mass destruction into the United States from overseas would be through the ports system.

"We have to forward deploy our maritime defenses, our surveillance capabilities, our surface combatants with the right kinds of operational capabilities to detect and defeat that weapon of mass destruction on the high seas, ideally hundreds of nautical miles from our coasts."

He said the Proliferation Security Initiative gives U.S. Northern Command, which is headed by a four-star general and has the distinct mission of defending the homeland, an important interdiction requirement that will include the area up to 500 nautical miles from the Pacific coast and 1,700 nautical miles off the Atlantic coast.

He said the Navy and Coast Guard signed a memorandum of agreement to ensure the "complete integration" of maritime forces. "We are in this fight together," he said.

Meanwhile, McHale noted, he is surprised the country has not faced a follow-on attack from al Qaeda since Sept. 11, 2001. But, he added, "it is not because the United States has been lucky."

"Luck had nothing to do with it," he said. "If we rely on luck we would be defeated."

Instead, he said, the United States has been proactive in going after the enemy. "By developing a strategy of forward-deployed and active-layered defense supported by the very best technology that we can commit to that mission, we can be very proactive identifying the enemy threat, whether that threat exists in Afghanistan or off the coast of the United States or within our own cities."

He said that sending the U.S. military into places like Afghanistan and Iraq has disrupted al Qaeda's ability to plan and deliver on follow-on attacks.

By removing the Taliban from power and driving them up into the mountains, "we put them in a very difficult position to plan follow-on attacks," he said.

Contact Author

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale

Related Sites:
Proliferation Security Initiative
U.S. Northern Command

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