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Joint Task Force Civil Support

Joint Task Force Civil Support, headquartered in Ft. Monroe, Va., is a newly-established joint task force assigned to U.S. Joint Forces Command that provides command and control over Department of Defense forces in support of a lead federal agency.

Joint Task Force Civil Support's mission is part of the Department of Defense's overall effort to support a presidential directive regarding combatting terrorism. Joint Task Force Civil Support ensures that Department of Defense assets are prepared to respond to requests from a lead federal agency in a time of national crisis following a weapon of mass destruction incident. JTF-CS's specified tasks are to save lives, prevent injury and provide temporary critical life support. Implied tasks run a gamut from command and control, to nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological response, to providing medical requirements, transportation, and other logistics tasks. Within this general construct, three factors help define JTF-CS's operational focus.

First is the definition of a WMD event. Definitions are important in setting boundaries as well as defining duties. The interagency has yet to reach complete agreement on the definition. However, within the context of what JTF-CS has been tasked to do, a weapons of mass destruction incident is defined as "a deliberate or unintentional event involving a nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological weapon or device, or large conventional explosive, that produces catastrophic loss of life or property." It is important to note that this definition permits JTF-CS to respond to accidental, as well as, intentional weapons of mass destruction detonations and/or releases. Equally important is its incorporation of high yield conventional explosives allowing response to such incidents as the Oklahoma City bombing and World Trade Center bombing.

Second, are JTF-CS's specified tasks, namely to save lives, prevent injury and provide temporary critical life support. These tasks allow JTF-CS to perform such functions as helping to bring back on line local water and power systems, emergency medical care, and temporary transportation fixes such as short term bridging that promote the efficient distribution of life saving supplies and services. Just as important, these tasks also limit the kinds of assistance JTF-CS can provide. Such things as civil administration and long term reconstruction or rehabilitation are outside the scope of the unit's charter.

The final factor influencing the JTF-CS's operational focus is DoD's core competencies. These are grouped into two general categories.

DoD knowledge and experience with nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons. The ability to survive and operate on a contaminated battlefield is a training requirement for all uniformed services. The military has developed expertise and capabilities to deal with these kinds of threats, as well as, work in environments contaminated by these kinds of weapons. Exploiting that expertise and experience to provide assistance to civil authorities was necessary in times of need and is part of JTF-CS's purpose.

Therefore, JTF-CS's operational focus is restricted by the definition of a WMD event, its specified tasks to save lives, prevent injury and provide temporary life support, and DoD's own WMD core competencies. When viewed together, JTF-CS's operational focus emerges. If requested and ordered to do so, JTF-CS will respond to an accidental or deliberate release or detonation of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or conventional high yield explosive device. It will bring DoD's WMD expertise and logistics capabilities to save lives, prevent injury, and provide temporary life support.

A full time joint task force is a natural step in the progression in DoD's method for handling large-scale requests for civil support. In the past, whenever a command and control headquarters was needed, DoD formed an ad hoc joint task force and designated an available officer -- without regard to prior experience -- to lead the response effort. This solution was less than optimal. Frequently the designated joint task force commander and his staff had little or no experience in providing military support to civil authorities and were unfamiliar with the procedures and process for doing so. The result was at times frustrating for both civilian leaders, who resented the military "I'm in charge" mindset, and military officers, who just wanted the civilians to get out of the way and let them get on with it.

A change in this approach first emerged during planning for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The level of desired military support led the 1st U. S. Army, located in Atlanta, to form a headquarters, or response task force, designed specifically to work with civilian officials involved in hosting the games. To staff the response task force, people were temporarily assigned from other 1st Army staff positions. However, once the games were over, these people returned to their primary duties. A lesson learned form this experience showed that standing up the response task force in advance of the actual event enabled its personnel to train on civilian response methods and military support procedures. DoD leadership recognized the value such a headquarters brings in the event of a WMD incident. Consequently, 5th U.S. Army located in San Antonio, soon followed 1st Army's lead in forming a second response task force to cover WMD response requirements west of the Mississippi River.

The response task force concept was a substantial improvement over the previous method of using ad hoc joint task forces to oversee military support. Their part-time crisis-driven nature, however, presents them with unique challenges in maintaining situational awareness with the agencies they are required to support and in developing expertise within the headquarters itself. Moreover, they are service specific - Army - working in areas where the advantages of joint operations are needed.

The formation of a standing joint task force represents the next logical step in addressing some of these issues. JTF-CS is also developing joint operational concepts that will capitalize on the strengths of all services and all U.S. Joint Forces Command components. Under FEMA's sponsorship, JTF-CS is reaching out to civilian federal agencies charged with carrying out the Federal Response Plan to learn their needed support requirements and operational procedures. JTF-CS is also working, in partnership with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, to call upon WMD expertise both within the Defense Department and other federal agencies. The result is an improved capability to bring federal military support quickly and efficiently in times of crisis. JTF-CS's consequence management responsibilities are performed under existing federal law which provides for specified and limited military involvement in states as well as U.S. territories. Throughout any crisis or consequence management scenario, civilian disaster relief or law enforcement officials will remain in charge. In general, federal military involvement must be in accordance with U.S. law, at the request of the governor of the state or U.S. territory, or authorized by the President or Congress. The Posse Comitatus Act and implementing DoD policies prohibit the use of military personnel in law enforcement functions such as search, seizure, and arrest, except when expressly authorized to do so by the Constitution or statute. Development and execution of all JTF-CS's operational plans and orders reflect JTF-CS's commitment to providing response in support of a Lead Federal Agency during a time of national crisis. JTF-CS reports to the Secretary of Defense through the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Joint Forces Command. An Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Civil Support also provides enhanced civilian oversight. JTF-CS is commanded by a two-star general officer and, when fully manned, will have 160 full and part-time personnel. The command began operations on Oct 1, 1999.

JTF-CS will ensure that DoD assets are prepared to respond to requests for support from the LFA. Through day-to-day operations, JTF-CS will increase its knowledge level and expertise enabling it to execute a consequence management mission, if requested.

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