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Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook

Handbook 06-08
May 2006

CALL Handbook No. 06-08: Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook Cover

The Department of Defense (DOD) Role in Incident Response

Chapter 3

The use of DOD resources in disaster response efforts is always the last resort because the commitment of military resources detracts from national defense and the Constitution and federal legislation limit operations of federal armed forces on domestic soil.

Even so, federal incident management response to a state’s request for assistance can include participation of DOD resources. DOD participation in incident management is called military support to civil authorities (MSCA). In civilian circles, DOD support is called defense support to civil authorities (DSCA). Both mean the same thing. Ultimately, all DOD support to disaster response is temporary with the end state being transfer of all emergency functions back to civilian authorities.

In addition to the legislation cited in Chapter 1, DOD directives also govern the use of DOD assets in supporting civil authorities. DOD assistance should be requested by a lead federal agency (LFA) only when other local, state, and federal capabilities have been exhausted or when a military-unique capability is required.

Military Assistance to Civil Authorities (MACA)

Employment of military forces in support of civil authorities within the United States, its territories, and its possessions typically falls under the broad mission of MACA. MACA missions consist of three mission subsets: military support to civil authorities (MSCA); military support to civilian law enforcement agencies (MSCLEA), and military assistance for civil disturbances (MACDIS).

  • MSCA: MSCA is the most widely recognized form of DOD civil support because it usually consists of support for natural or manmade disasters that often invoke Presidential or state emergency/disaster declarations and support for special events, such as the Olympic Games or the Pan American Games.
  • MSCLEA: MSCLEA is a sensitive topic and restrictions apply to its use. Military forces performing in this role may work under several LFAs, including Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Department of Justice (DOJ)/Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and, depending on the circumstances, may be armed. The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) will decide whether or not units will be armed. Military support to civilian LFAs may include, but is not limited to, national special security events; counterterrorism operations; counterdrug operations; maritime security; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities; and general support (training support to law enforcement agencies/loan of equipment/personnel and expert advice).
  • MACDIS: The President is authorized by the Constitution and statutory laws to employ the armed forces of the United States to suppress insurrections, rebellions, and riots, and provide federal supplemental assistance to the states to maintain law and order. Responsibility for the management of federal response for civil disturbances rests with the Attorney General. However, any DOD forces employed in MACDIS operations shall remain under military command and control at all times.

Graphic depicting military support to civil authorities is one of three types of DOD assistance available to civil authorities.
Figure 3-1: Military support to civil authorities is one of three types of DOD assistance available to civil authorities.

Executive Authorities

  • SECDEF: As discussed in Chapter 2, the SECDEF authorizes MSCA for domestic incidents as directed by the President or when consistent with military readiness operations and appropriate under the circumstances and the law. In accordance with HSPD-5 the SECDEF retains command of military forces under MSCA. Only the SECDEF can authorize the deployment of forces for MACA missions. SECDEF will decide whether or not units will be armed when performing MSCLEA missions. In addition, SECDEF is the approval authority for any requests from LFAs for potentially lethal support (i.e., lethal to the public, a member of law enforcement, or a service member).
  • Joint Director of Military Support (JDOMS). The JDOMS is the action agent for the SECDEF. He and his staff are responsible for issuing operational MSCA orders to the supporting combatant commander.

DOD Coordinating Officers (DCOs) and Entities

  • DCOs are military officers in the grade of O-6 (or their Civil Service equivalents) who represent DOD at the joint field office (JFO) discussed in Chapter 2. The DCO is the single DOD point of contact at the JFO. The DCO will be operational control (OPCON) to the designated supported combatant commander or designated joint task force (JTF) commander.

    The DCO assists in planning and coordinating the delivering all DOD disaster response assets and resources provided to a state through the federal coordinating officer (FCO). Requests for MSCA originating at the JFO are coordinated with and processed through the DCO to the SECDEF for approval, and then on to the JDOMs for transmission to one of the unified combatant commands. DCOs are designated by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region and are assigned one per state disaster. All DCOs and their associated defense coordinating elements (DCEs) undergo periodic, externally evaluated readiness exercises to ensure they are trained and ready to perform MSCA missions.

Graphic depicting role of DCO in coordinating requests for assistance
Figure 3-2
  • Defense coordinating element (DCE). The DCE is the DCO’s staff. It consists of staff and military liaison officers responsible for facilitating DOD coordination and support. The DCE processes requirements for military support; forwards mission assignments through DOD channel; tracks expenditures; assists with reception, staging, on-ward movement, and integration (RSOI) of DOD resources; and assigns military liaisons to activated emergency support functions (ESFs).
  • Emergency preparedness liaison officer (EPLO). EPLOs are reserve component officers in the pay grade of O6 (Army, Air Force, and Marine colonels and Navy captains) who represent their respective service component at the state EOCs and the JFO. They serve as the military liaison at the FEMA region level. They identify potential DOD support requirements and function as service representatives and advisors to the DCO as part of the DCE staff.

Joint entities

  • Unified combatant commands. Joint Pub 3-26, Homeland Security states, “The combatant commanders responsible for homeland defense and civil support incorporate plans for civil support by task organizing their commands to accomplish civil support missions as well as other assigned missions.”
  • U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is responsible for providing resources for domestic disaster relief to the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii, is responsible for providing resources for Hawaii, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the Freely Associated States of Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
  • Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS). JTF-CS is a standing military headquarters without assigned forces, located at Fort Monroe, Virginia, that studies city and state emergency plans to evaluate the potential needs of these cities in order to support a LFA managing the consequences of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) attack. JTF-CS plans and integrates DOD’s support to FEMA for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) events in the continental United States (CONUS) and draws on DOD capabilities including detection, decontamination, medical, and logistical assets. Once the SECDEF authorizes MSCA, JTF-CS deploys to the incident site to serve as the command and control headquarters for responding DOD units.
  • Joint task force (JTF): A joint force that is constituted and so designated by the SECDEF, and consists of a combatant commander, a sub-unified commander, or an existing joint task force commander.

Army entities

    Numbered armies. The U.S. Army is organized into six numbered armies. Two of these, 1st U.S. Army and 5th U.S. Army, have domestic disaster response command and control responsibilities.

    • 1st U.S. Army, headquartered at Forest Park, Georgia, is responsible for command and control of military support to domestic disaster response efforts east of the Mississippi River.
    • 5th U.S. Army, headquartered at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, is responsible for command and control of military support to domestic disaster response efforts west of the Mississippi River. By 2007, 5th U.S. Army is to assume responsibility for command and control of MSCA efforts throughout the entire continental United States. The JTF headquarters for JTF Katrina was organized from 1st U.S. Army headquarters.

Federal-to-federal support

DOD response can be in the form of federal-to-federal support assistance or direct assistance. federal-to-federal support refers to the circumstance in which a federal department or agency requests federal resource support under the National Response Plan (NRP) that is not addressed by the Stafford Act or other mechanisms (e.g., executive orders, memorandums of understanding, memorandums of agreement, etc.).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

The USACE is an Army major command assigned mission responsibilities in major construction and other engineering support to the Army and the Air Force, in nationwide water resource management, in engineering research and development, and in real estate services for the Army and DOD. USACE employs approximately 34,600 civilian and has approximately 650 military members assigned. The Corps is organized geographically into 8 divisions in the United States and 41 subordinate districts throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe. Divisions and districts are defined by watershed boundaries, not by states. In addition, a 9th provisional division with four districts was activated January 25, 2004, to oversee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

USACE’s mission is to provide quality, responsive engineering services to the nation including:

  • Planning, designing, building and operating water resources and other civil works projects (navigation, flood control, environmental protection, disaster response, etc.)
  • Designing and managing the construction of military facilities for the Army and Air Force. (military construction)
  • Providing design and construction management support for other defense and federal agencies. (interagency and international services)

In addition to the long-standing programs noted above, beginning in the 1990s, USACE has been called upon with increasing frequency to take part in contingency operations at home and abroad. These contingency operations include natural and manmade disasters, as well as military/foreign policy operations in support of the U.S. national interest. Such operations became more common during the 1990s, with the frequency, the duration, and the scope of these contingency efforts increasing greatly since the events of September 11, 2001.

USACE and domestic incident response

USACE conducts its emergency response activities under two basic authorities: the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (P.L. 84-99, as amended) and the Stafford Disaster and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended). Under the Stafford Act, the Corps supports FEMA in carrying out the NRP, which calls on 26 federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated disaster relief and recovery operations. Under this plan, the Army has the lead responsibility for public works and engineering missions (emergency services function #3, public works. and engineering).

Primary activities

  • Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (P.L. 84-99, as amended). Readiness teams in Corps districts nationwide are trained, equipped, and prepared to participate in flood control activities. Activities include:
    • Disaster preparedness
      • Participate in state and local emergency seminars and exercises.
      • Inspect flood control works constructed or repaired by the Corps, and maintenance recommendations.
      • Upon request, inspect non-federal dams and flood control projects.
    • Flood fighting
      • Assist in search and rescue operations.
      • Technical assistance and advice.
      • Emergency repairs to levees and other flood control projects.
      • Furnishing materials such as sandbags, polyethylene sheeting, lumber, pumps, or rocks when the Corps is actively participating in a flood fight.
    • Post-Flood Response
      • Clear drainage channels, bridge openings, or structures blocked by event-generated debris.
      • Clear blockages to critical water supply intakes and sewer outfalls.
      • Debris removal necessary to reopen vital transportation routes.
      • Temporary restoration of critical public services or facilities.
      • Identify hazard mitigation opportunities.
    • Rehabilitation
      • Repair or restoration of a flood control structure.
      • Repair or restoration of hurricane or shore protection structures damaged or destroyed by wind, wave, or water action not of an ordinary nature..
  • Public Works and Engineering, National Response Plan (NRP), (ESF #3). The Corps is committed to ensuring that its emergency management teams are well-prepared, well-equipped, and ready to respond instantly. When disaster strikes, response teams can be onsite within hours to provide immediate relief and support. Under the NRP, the Corps is designated as the lead agency for public works and engineering. DOD can authorize the Corps to provide the following assistance on a temporary basis:
    • Emergency services including supplying potable water, removing debris, conducting urban search and rescue, and providing emergency electrical power and ice.
      • Technical advice and evaluations including structural analysis.
      • Construction management and inspection.
      • Emergency contracting.
      • Emergency repair of public infrastructure and facilities such as water supply sources.
      • Real estate support

Planning and response teams (PRTs)

The Corps maintains 44 PRTs stationed around the country to facilitate a rapid response to disasters. Teams include:

  • 7 ice teams
  • 7 water teams
  • 8 emergency power teams
  • 7 debris removal teams
  • 5 temporary housing teams
  • 1 emergency access team
  • 5 temporary roofing teams
  • 4 structural safety assessment teams

Deployable Tactical Operations System (DTOS)

In addition, the Corps also manages a DTOS, which includes a national fleet of rapid response vehicles that are designed to deploy within 18 hours as field offices for the PRTs. The DTOS includes:

  • 3 deployable tactical operations centers
  • 6 rapid response vehicles
  • 2 containerized tactical operations centers (CTOCs) comprised of laptop computers, global positioning equipment, two high-frequency radios, a satellite telephone, and digital camera.

Requests for Military Support

Initial requests for military support are made to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Executive Secretariat. If approved by the SECDEF, DOD designates a supported combatant commander for the response, either USNORTHCOM or USPACOM. The supported combatant commander determines the appropriate level of command and control for each response and usually directs a senior military officer to deploy to the incident site. Under most circumstances, the senior military officer at the incident site is the DCO. The DCO serves as DOD’s single point of contact in the JFO.

Requests for MSCA originating at the JFO will be coordinated and processed through the DCO with the exception of requests for USACE support, National Guard forces operating in state active duty (SAD) or Title 32 status (i.e., not in federal service), or, in some circumstances, DOD forces in support of the FBI. These exceptions are detailed later in this section. Specific responsibilities of the DCO are subject to modification by the supported combatant commander based on the situation. In general, the DCO will:

  • Collocate with the PFO/FCO/FRC/SFLEO in the JFO
  • Coordinate and process applicable requests for assistance from the PFO/FCO/FRC/SFLEO or designated representative
  • Orchestrate the accomplishment of approved mission assignments utilizing available resources
  • Assign military liaison officers as appropriate to ESF agencies at the JFO to provide technical assistance or facilitate timely coordination
  • Refer problematic or contentious issues through the appropriate military chain of command to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense.

Based on the magnitude, type of disaster, and anticipated level of resource involvement, the supported combatant commander may utilize a joint task force (JTF) to consolidate and manage supporting military activities. A JTF commander exercises OPCON of all allocated DOD resources (excluding USACE resources; National Guard forces operating in SAD or Title 32 status; and, in some circumstances, DOD forces in support of the FBI). In the event that a JTF is utilized, the DCO may continue to perform all duties set forth above.

As stated earlier, most requests for MSCA originating at the JFO will be coordinated and processed through the DCO; however, requests for DOD/USACE support; National Guard forces operating in SAD or Title 32 status; and, in some cases, DOD forces in support of the FBI are processed differently, as discussed below.

USACE is a public engineering organization within DOD providing engineering support and services to DOD activities around the globe, as well as to the nation’s civil works flood protection and navigation infrastructure. USACE provides support as a primary agency and coordinating agency for ESF #3 and as a support agency to other ESFs as specified in the annexes. USACE performs emergency support activities under separate authorities, to include Public Law 84-99.

Army and Air National Guard forces employed under SAD or Title 32 status are providing support to the governor of their state and are not part of federal military response efforts.

Support to the Federal Bureau of Investigation: Support for law enforcement and domestic counterterrorism activities is provided in limited circumstances consistent with applicable laws and, in some circumstances, independent of the DCO.

Depicts the process for requesting DOD assistance when DOD is not the lead federal agency
Figure 3-3: The process for requesting DOD assistance when DOD is not the lead federal agency

“Immediate Response” Situations

Imminently serious conditions resulting from any civil emergency may require immediate action to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate property damage. When such conditions exist and time does not permit approval from higher headquarters, local military commanders and responsible officials from DOD components and agencies are authorized by DOD directive and pre-approval by the SECDEF, subject to any supplemental direction that may be provided by their DOD component, to take necessary action to respond to requests of civil authorities consistent with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385). All such necessary action is referred to as “Immediate Response.”

In addition to direct support for incident response, DOD possesses specialized capabilities employed in support of federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies, to include their first responder communities. Included among these specialized capabilities are test and evaluation facilities and capabilities; education and exercise expertise; explosive detection; technical escort; medical services; the transfer of applicable technologies, including those developed through DOD science and technology programs; and the expertise of DOD personnel. The DOD Homeland Defense Coordination Office established at DHS headquarters facilitates interdepartmental cooperation and transfer of these capabilities to the emergency responder community.

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