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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Paul McHale and Chief, National Guard Bureau Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum February 01, 2008

DoD News Briefing with Assistant Secretary McHale and Lt. Gen. Blum from the Pentagon

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us. It's my pleasure to reintroduce into the briefing room two individuals that I think most of you are familiar with: Assistant Secretary Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale and Lieutenant General Steve Blum, commander of the National Guard Bureau. They are here today to provide you with some perspectives on the recently released Punaro commission report on the Guard and Reserve. They have a few things they'd like to open it up with and then take some of your questions.

So gentlemen, again, thank you for joining us back in the briefing room once again.

MR. MCHALE: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Our department's catastrophic response capabilities are the best funded, best equipped, best trained in the world. There is no serious argument to the contrary. But no matter how good we are, we must get better.

Prior to the publication of the Punaro commission report, Secretary Gates told Chairman Punaro that the domestic security of the American people is our department's highest priority. In urging Congressional action, the Punaro commission states that the National Guard and Reserves should have the lead role in and form the backbone of DOD operational capabilities in the homeland. We agree with that proposition and note that it comes two-and-a-half years after the publication of our own strategy for homeland defense and civil support initially published in June 2005.

In that report, two-and-a-half years before the Punaro commission, we stated, quote, "There should be a focused reliance upon the Reserve component. The nation needs to focus particular attention on better using the competencies of the National Guard and Reserve component organizations in responding to domestic military missions." The National Guard -- again, quote, "The National Guard is particularly well-suited to civil support missions. Reserve forces currently provide many key homeland defense and civil support capabilities."

In short, on that point, the Punaro commission got it right. And that statement by the Punaro commission is an echo of an earlier position adopted by this department in recognizing that the unique capabilities of the Reserve component, most especially the National Guard, spread throughout the entire nation, with combat service support capabilities, including logistics well-suited to civil support missions, should cause us to conclude, as we did, that the Reserve component and the National Guard should play the lead role among DOD capabilities in responding to domestic disasters.

While there are positive elements of the commission's report, in most cases echoing and validating actions already well underway within the Department of Defense, the core elements of the report are fundamentally flawed. As noted by Senator Leahy and Bond on behalf of the 87-member Senate National Guard Caucus, quoting from their press release now, "Several recommendations in the final report of the National Guard and Reserve Commission released Thursday, if implemented, would undermine the National Guard and hamper the Defense Department's ability to respond to domestic emergencies." Again quoting, "Its Guard recommendations are unjustified, counterproductive, and corrosive to effective decision-making. The commission," said Senator Leahy -- Senator Leahy and Bond, "seems to have become entangled in the old bureaucratic cobwebs," end of quote.

Before I discuss our department's concerns regarding these key issues, let me take a moment to review the unprecedented disaster response capabilities developed by DOD in the past 10 years. Most of these capabilities did not exist prior to 9/11. Nearly all have been developed to address the terrorist threat confronting our nation.

Back in the mid-1990s, I was a member of Congress and worked closely with General Krulak when he initially proposed the creation of the Marine Corps' Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force. That CBIRF capability was designed to provide a consequence management, a response capability in the event that the United States capital came under a WMD attack. CBIRF has been an operational capability for more than a decade.

Again in the mid-1990s, we considered the creation of what we called 12 raid teams -- these were small teams composed of individuals who would initially respond to a domestic attack in order to determine what kind of contaminant -- what kind of WMD contaminant was employed in that attack.

Well, in fact, we've grown well beyond the concept of 12 raid teams. We now have 53 certified civil support teams within the National Guard. Fifty-five had been authorized by law, and in fact, 57 have been funded by the Congress of the United States. These CSTs did not exist a decade ago. They have been created exclusively for a response to a domestic event, most especially a domestic event involving a terrorist attack employing weapons of mass destruction.

After 9/11 we created U.S. Northern Command. The Congress in the Defense Authorization Act of 2002 created my office, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense. General Blum, through force of personal leadership, recognized that having one CBIRF in the Marine Corps for the nation was good but not sufficient and that we could replicate the capabilities of the Marine Corps' active duty CBIRF by creating similar units within the National Guard. Seventeen such units, we call them CERFPs, Emergency Response Force Packages, modeled on the active duty Marine Corps capability, have now been created within the National Guard. And so within the National Guard, consistent with the Punaro commission's recommendations, we have 53 certified CSTs and 17 CERFPs to augment and reinforce the capabilities that exist within the Marine Corps' CBIRF.

And finally, we are at the final stage of defining and identifying resourcing for CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and Explosive) consequence management response forces. We call them CCMRFs, and I apologize for the many acronyms that have been thrown at you during the course of this presentation. These are task forces, which in the aggregate number greater than 15,000 DoD personnel, who will be trained and equipped for a response to a domestic WMD attack. That kind of capability has never existed in such a task organization during the history of the Department of Defense. This is a new integrated, task-organized capability that will allow the Department of Defense, utilizing these task forces, to respond rapidly and effectively in a civil support mission to assist DHS in responding to a domestic attack employing weapons of mass destruction. That is a new capability, and it reflects our department's recognition of the sense of urgency required by the civil support mission and the willingness to back up that mission with identified forces.

When dealing with the catastrophic consequences contained in the 15 national planning scenarios, no level of preparation will ever be enough. The first of those 15 scenarios involves a 10 KT nuclear detonation in a major American city.

Additional scenarios relate to multiple dirty-bomb attacks, chemically dispersed attacks, the aerosol release of anthrax, a major hurricane over a metropolitan area, and a severe earthquake in a city such as San Francisco.

These are challenges of the first magnitude. We can never be adequately prepared, because to be adequately prepared implies a sense of complacency, and we will not be complacent. No matter how good we are, we are committed to the proposition that we must get better.

In addition, HSDP-8, Annex 1, recently approved by the president, and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, Section 1814, requires us to work closely with our interagency partners so that DOD does not stand alone in responding to a catastrophic event; in fact we play a supporting role, ordinarily, to DHS as DHS takes the lead and we assist with our military capabilities in providing a rapid and effective response.

That takes planning. Complex mission sets require detailed advance planning. And the documents I just referenced direct this department, among others, to integrate our plans into a coherent whole so that one year from now we will have a set of plans for each one of these 15 national planning scenarios, enabling us to provide that rapid, effective response. We could do so today, but our planning is getting better and better day by day.

The secretary of Defense has approved 20 of the 23 recommendations of the Punaro commission's second report, which are also repeated in the commission's final report. The secretary has approved, in what is a fundamental change in DOD budgeting -- the secretary has approved separate, distinct funding for our department's civil support missions. He has approved the creation of a Council of Governors to ensure that we are closely coordinating with the governors in the employment -- domestic employment of the National Guard.

The secretary has approved of the statutory requirement, he approved of it in advance of the legislation, raising the rank of the chief of the National Guard Bureau from three stars to four stars. The secretary has approved the increased Reserve participation in billet assignments at NORTHCOM, and the secretary has vigorously endorsed the concept of integrated consequence management planning, working closely with our interagency partners, most especially the Department of Homeland Security.

In its second recommendation, the Punaro commission states, quote, "Congress should codify the Department of Defense's responsibility to provide support for civil authorities. It must be noted that civil support is already a statutory responsibility of DOD and has been for decades, pursuant to the Stafford Act, the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, the Insurrection Act, and many other statutory provisions.

This is an area of assigned responsibility that by law and policy clearly is part of the mission set assigned to the Department of Defense.

And finally there are two core elements of the Punaro Commission report. The first can be found on page 107 of the Punaro Commission's final report. On that page, the following language appears.

Quote, "DOD should shift capabilities useful for state-controlled response to domestic emergencies to the National Guard, and shift capabilities in the National Guard, that are not required for its state missions but are required for its federal missions, either to the federal reserve components or to the active duty military. This rebalancing should be done without compromising the other responsibilities of the reserve components. It would ensure that the civil support capabilities are, to the maximum extent possible, in the National Guard, and that those capabilities mainly useful for the federal missions -- those are the warfighting missions of the Department of Defense -- are located in the Title 10 military."

That is sharply at odds with the position that we have taken in our strategy for homeland defense and civil support. Our strategy is consistent with the 372-year history of the National Guard. We believe that the National Guard has a primary role to play in domestic disaster response, but that that mission assignment should not be to the exclusion of the National Guard's traditional warfighting missions overseas.

Let's be clear. What the Punaro Commission is recommending on page 107 is that the National Guard become a domestic disaster response capability exclusively. We think that's wrong. The Guard has an important role to play in both overseas warfighting and in domestic disaster response. Converting the National Guard into a domestic disaster response force, training on half pay, would be a problematic and counterproductive course of action.

In recommendation 22, the Punaro Commission makes the following proposal. DOD should reduce the number of duty statuses from the current 29 to 2, on active duty or off active duty. All reserve duty should be considered active duty, with appropriate pay and other compensation.

The 48 drills should be replaced with 24 days of active duty. A day's pay should be provided for a day's work without reducing compensation for current servicemembers. The system should be sufficiently flexible to deal with service-specific training requirements.

When read carefully and accurately, what is proposed in Recommendation 22 is a 50-percent cut in Reserve pay. The drilling Reservist will receive, for the same duty, half the pay he is currently receiving if this recommendation is accepted. Or to state it otherwise, to achieve the same level of pay, a Reservist, including a National Guardsman, would have to put in twice as many days of duty during the course of the year.

We believe that's a mistake. We believe that it is precisely the wrong message to be sent to National Guardsmen and Reservists, who at this point in our history are deserving of our appreciation and respect. Their compensation ought not be cut. Moreover, on a practical level, to cut the training compensation of Reservists in half would be counterproductive to our ongoing recruiting efforts, and we believe that this proposal moves in precisely the wrong direction in terms of encouraging Reserve participation and expressing appreciation for the sacrifice that Reservists and their families have made in support of our nation.

Finally, let me call your attention to the Minuteman. The image of the Minuteman is the very symbol of the National Guard. Taking his rifle, leaving only the plow, would be a profound mistake. The commission's proposal, contained in Recommendation 5, is at odds with the National Guard's 372-year history of defending this nation against foreign enemies. We need the Guard at home, but as is demonstrated right now in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, we need the Guard overseas.

Any comments, general?

GEN. BLUM: Well said, sir. I completely am in support of what you just said, and you said it far more eloquently than I could.

MR. MCHALE: We would welcome your questions.


Q General, if you could address -- there's a map, and there's some data in the report, page 230-something or other -- that shows state-by-state the equipping levels of the Army Guard.


Q Are those levels -- and if you look at that, it shows that about half the states have less than 50 percent of what would be considered the equipment that they need, and it also has numbers for the dual-use weaponry that they need. Can you talk to whether or not that chart is accurate? And you have been very explicit in the past about the equipment needs of the Guard. Where does that stand now?

And then, Mr. Secretary, if you could just address the recommendation that the commission made about giving the governors the authority to direct troops --

MR. MCHALE: Title 10 forces.

Q -- right -- yes, Title 10 forces. That was turned down by the secretary earlier.

MR. MCHALE: Right.

GEN. BLUM: Which order do you want to do it?

MR. MCHALE: I'll give you time to think about it.

GEN. BLUM: Go ahead.

MR. MCHALE: All right.

GEN. BLUM: No, I'm ready. It doesn't matter.

MR. MCHALE: Well, then you take a shot--

GEN. BLUM: Okay. The question is: Is it accurate? It's absolutely accurate. But in all fairness to the secretary of the Army, to the secretary of the Air Force and the secretary of Defense, who have made a unprecedented, historic commitment of actually putting resources against that problem, two years ago that map would have showed the National Guard at 40 percent. Last year when I briefed the president of the United States on the equipment condition of the National Guard, that map would have shown 49 percent. Today, or as it appears in the commission's report, that map shows 61 percent. If we were to look at that map with the projected money that is included in the DOD budget that will come down through the Department of Army and Air Force to the National Guard, that should be 69 percent at the end of '09, and it should be 77 percent at the end of the FYDP or the POM in 2013. We are talking $45 billion that the American taxpayer and the Pentagon has put against that problem. We didn't get into that problem overnight, and we're not going to dig out of that hole overnight.

So if you look at it, 40 to 49 in one year, 49 to 61 in one year, 61 to about 69 next year, and then 77 percent by '13 is a reasonable approach. Now that 77 percent at the end of 2013 is better than 77 percent because that will be a fully modernized, fully modularized, mirror-image organizations and equipment to the active force, and that will be for the first time in the nation's history that that has ever occurred. So there's an unprecedented commitment by the president, the department, the Congress, who has put in over $3 billion in AGREA funds, National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account funds, to speed up that progress in the last several years.

So this is a tremendous success story of cooperation between our Congress, the White House, the departments and the end users, the National Guard. That Minuteman would smile if he knew that the leadership of this nation was devoting that kind of resources to him for the first time in history.

Q Well, just so I can make sure I understand your numbers, at the end of '09, 69 percent -- what is --

GEN. BLUM: Let me be very clear what --

Q Is it actually an average or is it a total or what?

GEN. BLUM: I'm glad you asked that question, because there are two things involved here and you need to understand them. First -- let's get this out of the way -- we have a significant percentage of our force deployed overseas; they have over 100 percent of what they need. Thanks to you, frankly, thanks to the Congress, thanks to the Pentagon, our soldiers and airmen have every single piece of equipment they need while they're performing their duty in harm's way.

Back here at home, the units that are back here at home that would have to respond here in your Zip Code only have today 61 percent of the vital equipment that they need to perform their mission if the governor calls them tonight or the president calls them tonight. Two years ago we were 40 percent. Last year we were 49 percent. Next year we'll be about 9 or 10 percent better than we are right now. And by 2013, we will have 77 percent, which will represent more equipment, better-quality equipment, and hence that turns into increased capability to respond. So don't let the 77 percent lead you to a conclusion that you're only 77 percent ready. You're actually far more ready than we are today in equipment.

Now, equipment's only part of the capability. The quality of the force, the training of the force, the experience of the force, the commitment of the force is a big measure of your capability. I'm glad to tell you, I am proud to tell you, that our force is growing every day. It is over strength. Counterintuitive, the harder we use the Guard, the more it grows. We're over 355,000 today in the Army Guard; we're 106,000 in the Air National Guard. Both elements are at full strength. The Army Guard is slightly over strength and scheduled to grow another 8,500 in the next two years.

So we are postured to grow, and that's very good because the nation needs us. We're an essential part of both the overseas warfight and the response here at home.

If we were to follow the commission's recommendation to make the Guard exclusively a homeland defense force or a homeland security response force, we would not be able to defend this nation overseas. The active army would have to grow by over a third immediately, which is impossible. We would not have 28 combat brigades. We would lose 40 percent of the combat power of the entire United States Army, and I'm not sure we could replace that.

And we would unhinge the volunteer force and we would break the total force that has served this nation so well. And we will have walked away from a 372-year history of defending this nation, both here at home and abroad. And we'd break the social contract with the half a million citizen soldiers who signed up to put their lives on the line and their careers on hold and their families on hold to do exactly this.

So I think we have to be very careful when we consider the recommendations of this commission. This commission has made some very significant proposals, many of which have great merit, many of which actually validate some of the policies and the advancements that we made in the Department of Defense in the last four years.

So the president, the governors, the Congress, the adjutants general, Northern Command, the National Guard and the other reserve components and all other stakeholders that have equities in the defense of this homeland, and the Department of Homeland Security are all in a common thought.

Defense of the homeland is job one. It's a tough job. It is a nuanced and very sophisticated job because it must be done in a unique manner that it doesn't have to be done anywhere on earth.

We have to do it within the Constitution of the United States or we lose what we all swore to defend. We are all committed to make that happen. We are making that condition better every day. We will never be totally ready nor will we ever be satisfied with our preparation.

The day we are, you should be all over us because you're right: That would signify complacency, and we will surely be surprised. And if we're surprised, then the response will be less than perfect, no matter how much preparation we put into it.

But there is -- make sure there's no doubt to anybody in this room that the president of the United States, the secretary of Defense and everybody in this building that wears the uniform or a suit and tie or a dress is dedicated to defending the homeland first and dedicated to doing -- making whatever changes are necessary to make the National Guard a more capable force and to strengthen our ability to defend the United States here at home and abroad.

MR. MCHALE: I want to echo Steve's words. While the core elements the Punaro commission report are fundamentally flawed -- most especially the proposal that the National Guard be converted to a domestic disaster response capability, excluding the future combat employment of the Guard and the proposed cut in pay for training of National Guardsmen and other Title 10 Reservists -- while those core elements -- I mean, it's a pretty big change to propose that the National Guard will no longer be involved in war fighting. It is a monumental change in the history of the Guard to propose that the National Guard will be exclusively a domestic disaster response capability. And it is fundamentally wrong -- it is simply unfair to propose a 50 percent cut in the compensation for the training of Reservists.

As Steve mentioned -- as General Blum mentioned, there are many parts of this report that are of value. It wasn't coincidental that when the second interim report of the commission was published, Secretary Gates readily agreed to 20 of the 23 recommendations. Those recommendations appear once again in the final report. We are eager to work with the Punaro commission, to glean from their report those elements that are positive in approach and from which we can benefit in terms of their recommendations.

We are not rejecting this report out of hand. We are recognizing that this report has fundamental flaws, one of them being the proposal to place active duty military officers routinely under the command of the nation's governors. I read that section very carefully. As you know, when the March interim report was published, Secretary Gates, relying on constitutional principle and the heart of our federal system of government in terms of the command authorities of the president of the United States under Article II of the Constitution -- is delegated to the secretary of Defense, not to the governors of the nation -- indicated that he would not support that recommendation. It was one of the few that Secretary Gates respectfully rejected when first proposed.

The language is broadly written in the final report, but if you read it, what it says is the active duty military forces within the United States will be placed under the command and control of the respective governors in which states those active duty forces happen to be deployed.

That means that instead of the president of the United States commanding those forces under Article II of the Constitution, in a delegation of authority, 50 different governors will command our active duty military forces in a patchwork quilt of command and control that would guarantee an inability to achieve unity of command and unity of effort in a crisis.

The proposal of the Punaro commission is simply at odds with the theory of a federal system of government. It is at odds with Article II of the Constitution. There can be only one commander in chief, and that is the president of the United States. To decentralize that command and control to 50 separate state governors invites confusion. Now, having said that, we have a fundamental duty to work closely with the governors who do have command and control over National Guard forces in state status and Title 32 status to ensure that those forces, active duty, under command and control of the president conduct their missions in close cooperation and coordination with the National Guard forces acting under command and control of the governor to achieve not unity of command, but unity of effort.

So the requirement ought not to be to take active duty forces and place them under command of the governor, but rather to ensure that all military forces, be they under command of the governor or the president, have coordinated in advance in detailed planning so they know exactly what each will do when it comes time for the mission execution in a crisis environment.

And as a specific example, I think having General Honore under command and control of the secretary of Defense, responsible to the president of the United States, was an incredibly effective and reassuring approach to the crisis environment during Katrina. When other things were going wrong, Russ Honore was going right. Russ Honore entered the Gulf Coast, and under the command authority of the president and the secretary of Defense, he played an amazingly effective role in bringing order to chaos.

Now Russ has recently retired, and he does so with my profound respect and best wishes, but the next time around we're going to need another Russ Honore.

And the proposal made by the commission would eliminate that billet responsible to the president of the United States and would place all military officers under command and control of the governor. We believe that's a mistake under the Constitution. We believe that's a mistake in terms of federal command and control of Title 10 and Title 32 military forces, and as a matter of policy, we think it's misguided.

Q Sir, yesterday the Pentagon and specifically Northern Command received some pretty harsh criticism during the press conference discussing this report -- overplanning, specifically planning for the WMD response. And I've heard all of your description about what has happened since 2001 and the various units that have been created, but the criticism is that the planning for the response is inadequate and not even comparable to the type of planning that this building's done for overseas operations and a variety of contingencies overseas.

Can you compare the level of planning that's been done for a range of scenarios inside the United States to the type of planning the Pentagon has been doing for decades for overseas operations?

MR. MCHALE: And it varies. There are some plans that are well-developed and comparable to or better than many of the plans that we employ overseas. As an example, planning for catastrophic hurricanes along the Gulf Coast is as good as any planning this department has ever produced. That planning is not only good in terms of the DOD role; it has been carefully integrated into interagency planning so that DHS, DOD, the Department of Justice and others have come together in an integrated interagency plan that is very professional, very detailed, very competent.

Similarly, with regard to pandemic influenza, facing the potential threat of human-to-human transmission of avian flu, we have developed very advanced, very detailed plans for the contingency of a pandemic influenza. In those two areas our planning is, I think, quite good. In other areas related to the 15 national planning scenarios it varies in terms of the quality of interagency planning. Most of it is not yet satisfactory, and there are even more problematic challenges that lie ahead in terms of integrating federal planning with the ongoing related planning at the state and local level down to first responders.

Now, that is a candid recognition, a blunt recognition, that we are not where we need to be in terms of interagency and intergovernmental planning for the full range of 15 national planning scenarios. With that self-inflicted criticism having been brought forward, and we have been candid about that since well before the publication of the Punaro Commission report, there is a sense of urgency and commitment to the development of detailed, deliberate interagency plans for those catastrophic scenarios not yet adequately addressed.

And that goes to the heart of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, Annex 1, recently approved by the president, which says, in the next year, we will develop a series of strategic guidance statements, op plans, con plans -- actually in reverse order, con plans first, then op plans -- at the interagency level so that, in plain English, within a year, and incrementally improving every day, we will develop plans that allow us to work closely with our interagency partners to respond to a nuclear attack in the United States, a series of dirty bombs detonated in the United States, the aerosol release of anthrax spores, dispersed chemical attacks at various locations throughout the United States and natural disasters.

We haven't forgotten that, in the context of the war on terror, we face continuing threats that are natural in origin -- earthquakes potentially in California and elsewhere, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast or the Southeast Atlantic Coast or elsewhere. And so we are developing plans that will bring, to these other areas of catastrophic disaster, the same degree of detail that we have already brought to hurricane planning and pandemic influenza.

And to emphasize the importance of that requirement, in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, which just became law, there's a statutory requirement to develop that interagency planning. That is a daunting task. Hard enough to do it here in Washington among the federal departments and agencies; even tougher to take it down to the level of state, local government and first responders.

And without going into detail here, we in this department have tried to be very proactive in the interagency in urging our partners to develop a system for such integrated planning.

And there are specific proposals generated by this department, now being considered by DHS, to achieve that integrated planning not just here in Washington, but most especially down to the level of the first responder.

Q So you're saying that seven years after 9/11 we still don't have adequate interagency planning for the majority -- the vast majority of the potential homeland disasters we could be facing in the United States, as identified by the U.S. government?

MR. MCHALE: No, sir, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, that if a 10 KT nuclear detonation occurs in a major American city, we will never have adequate planning for the catastrophic response. These are 15 catastrophic scenarios. These are not recurring major disasters of the type that we face 50 to 60 times per year. Our department has a long history of civil support missions, where 50 to 60 times a year on average we provide assistance to our civilian agency partners.

What we're talking about here is the adequacy of planning with regard to nuclear detonations in the United States, multiple radioactive bombs detonated in the United States, an anthrax release that might cover several different states, chemical attacks over a wide region. Our planning will never be adequate. No one should ever stand at this microphone with a sense of complacency to say we have achieved our objective. This is an ongoing process of improvement that will last for the rest of our lives, and it reflects the destructive character of weapons of mass destruction and the need for better planning every day on an ongoing basis to provide a -- an effective response to a daunting mission.

Some of these events have projected casualties that would exceed 100,000 dead, and so as we look the adequacy of our planning, it is fair to look at the magnitude of the task. And we need to measure our response in the context of what's required.

GEN. BLUM: I'd like to put a little context to that since I work very closely with Secretary McHale day to day.

We had plans for a nuclear attack on our homeland when I was a young boy, and I knew what my part of that plan was: close my eyes, put my head in between my knees and crawl under my desk -- or go under a piece of furniture. That's a plan, but it doesn't stand the rigor that he's trying to hold these plans up to. We want realistic plans that take our National Response System, our Incident Command System, that build from the local to the state to the federal in a seamless, coordinated and synchronized effort that can deal with any of those 15 catastrophic planning scenarios.

Once those plans are developed that meets his rigor, which meets your measure, which is a combat war plan overseas, which is far -- don't let me say that they're not sophisticated and that they're not difficult to put together - they are -- but they are far easier to put together because you are not trying to protect the Constitution, lives and property, legal and political boundaries dealing with jurisdictions; you have total military authority in execution of those plans. We don't have that here in the homeland and it's not a DOD mission.

The Department of Defense will be in support of the civil authorities, whoever they are, that are still alive and surviving, and the federal agency and the state agencies that are trying to respond or the regional governmental agencies trying to respond. That is a very nuanced and sophisticated approach.

I am going to leave here in about five minutes and I'm going to be attending a video teleconference with every emergency planning officer in every state in this nation and in four -- three territories and the District of Columbia to make sure that we deliver, as the National Defense Authorization Act requires, a report to Congress by the 15th of February as to where we do stand at the -- starting at the local townships, going to the counties, the states, and ultimately rolling up.

Now, General Renuart -- it's easy to criticize NORTHCOM, but they are totally dependent on the National Guard, frankly, pulling these plans together at the state and local level and feeding them that kind of situational awareness, that kind of information that they don't have and cannot get legally through the Department of Defense.

Q I wonder if I could just follow up and ask you if you could respond to the contention in the commission's report that the training and the supply of forces that would respond to a weapons of mass destruction attack is essentially appalling.

MR. MCHALE: I think the choice of that word was unfortunate and inaccurate. We have forces that would be part of a catastrophic response that are superbly trained. The Marine Corps' Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force falls under that category. I have certified on behalf of the secretary those 53 National Guard Civil Support Teams -- their training and equipment is excellent.

The CERFPs -- 3(00) to 400 personnel in each CERFP, modeled on the Marine Corps' Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force, are extremely well-trained. They have the same equipment as the Marine Corps' active duty CBIRF. They train to the same standards as the Marine Corps' active duty CBIRF. The units that we would integrate into those much larger CCMRFs vary in their training. Their training is generally good to excellent, but because of end strength or other equipment-related issues, sometimes the rating of the unit drops below where we want it to be. But that's an issue primarily of resourcing, not individual training of the mostly soldiers who are in those units. Having said that, the training of the units usually down at a fairly small level, platoon company level, is good, and the equipment is generally satisfactory.

Let me be very candid as to where the deficiencies are and where we might learn from the criticism of the Punaro commission. We have not task organized those capabilities very well yet. We're in the process of doing that with the CCMRFs. We know what we need to achieve in terms of capability, but we have not yet finished the task of gluing together, bringing together individual units that may be well-trained but in the composite have not yet been integrated into the full task force. We have not deployed those task forces.

Our nation's most successful catastrophic response capability, best trained, best equipped is JTF Civil Support. I personally believe that we need to improve the training of JTF Civil Support, not at the small unit level but at the level of the task organization, so that the entire unit can be taken to the field in a challenging training environment.

And then, most especially, consistent with the criticism raised by the commission, but a criticism that we have long since recognized as being valid well before the creation of the Punaro commission, there is a continuing need for better planning, most especially at the state and local level, to integrate ongoing planning efforts at the state and local level with the related capabilities at the federal level.

We have not yet come together into an integrated approach to many of the 15 national planning scenarios. So we have the personnel in DOD. We have the smaller units that need to be brought together into the task organization. We have not yet successfully brought them into those task organizations, trained them and equipped them to operate at the level of -- in excess of 15,000 personnel dedicated to these missions.

And what they do in response to a catastrophic event has not yet been effectively coordinated with the ongoing efforts at the state and local level, related to the same kind of catastrophic disaster.

And so we have parts of the solution. We need to bring them together into a coherent whole. And then we need to achieve not unity of command -- our federal system of government doesn't provide for that -- but unity of effort, a commonality of purpose and a shared understanding of who can do what, so that in a crisis environment, right down at the level of the local police officer, up to the level of the four-star general, we are all pulling in the same direction.

And I have to tell you, we could do that today but we would do it without an adequate plan having been created in advance. The whole purpose of HSPD-8, Annex 1, is to achieve that planning with a sense of urgency during the next year.

MODERATOR: We need to bring this to a close, I'm afraid. Perhaps one last one.

Q Can I ask just one quick question of you both?

The headlines out of this report this morning, and even late yesterday afternoon, were that this report says the Pentagon is not prepared to respond to an attack on the homeland. It doesn't sound like you're really denying that here. You're talking about a catastrophic attack and 100,000 dead. But just that basic charge, that if there is an attack on the homeland, the U.S. military, NORTHCOM, National Guard, cannot respond.

Can you just --

MR. MCHALE: That's false. We are prepared to respond. We are not prepared to respond with the speed, the efficiency and the effectiveness that we intend to achieve.

This -- again I think it's important, in the presentation of this news story, that we emphasize the kinds of events that are, for which we are preparing. We are prepared to respond. We want to communicate to the American people, we are prepared.

And just as importantly we want to communicate to our adversaries that we have superb capabilities, the best in the world. And they will respond heroically and effectively in the event of such a catastrophic event, but not as fast, not as close to perfection as we, human beings, would like to achieve.

And that sense of urgency, that continuing sense of the ability and the duty to improve will be the ethic of this department long after we're all gone. No one will ever stand at this microphone and responsibly tell you we are fully prepared, we are completely confident, we can deal with any situation and there won't be a problem. The reality of a nuclear detonation in an American city would reduce that statement to a falsehood.

And so I want to assure you, the American people and our adversaries we have superb capabilities. They are well-trained. They are prepared to respond. But for the fact that we're in an unclassified setting, I could give you a detailed description of this past week and what we did to ensure the safety of the U.S. Capitol Building. I can tell you we had 2,500 military personnel dedicated to various missions in support of security at the Capitol during the State of the Union address. Many of those capabilities related to the kinds of units that I've been describing throughout the course of this press conference. Our adversaries need to know that we are not complacent. If anything, we accept and embrace the criticism so that we can get better, but we are quite good.

Q Thank you.

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