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Support to Civil Authorities: Protecting the Homeland

Newsletter 10-52
July 2010

CALL Newsletter 10-52: Support to Civil Authorities: Protecting the Homeland

Table of Contents


The task of protecting borders and ports of entry from transnational and other threats to the security of the United States is a colossal undertaking, requiring the coordination and cooperation of many U.S. government agencies. This newsletter is a collection of articles, some previously published and other specifically written for this publication, that describe the critical nature of the homeland security mission, highlight some of the key agencies and organizations involved, and clarify the Department of Defense (DOD) role in providing support to this important task.

The line separating homeland defense from homeland security can be fine, but it is important to understand the differences between the two functions when examining the roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in detecting and deterring transnational threats. DOD is normally the lead agency for homeland defense, which is the protection of U.S. sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical defense infrastructure against external threats and aggressions and other threats as directed by the President. Homeland security, which is the focus of this newsletter, is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist acts within the United States, reduce America's vulnerabilities to terrorism, minimize the damage from terrorism, and assist the population in recovering from attacks that do occur.1 While homeland security is primarily the responsibility of civilian organizations and the National Guard working for the state governors, the military must be prepared to provide specific capabilities and make up for any shortfalls in extreme circumstances.

The first section of this newsletter provides a review of events since 9/11 that have shaped how the military prepares for and responds to homeland security events. It also discusses authorities and limitations and takes a look at the recently released 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) as it applies to supporting civil authorities at home.

Border protection is a critical pillar of homeland security. It keeps dangerous people and materials out of the country and keeps terrorists from getting into position to attack.2 The United States has approximately 7,612 miles of land boundaries and 19,924 miles of coastline in addition to the many seaports and airports through which international travelers and cargo pass each day. The second section of this newsletter looks at some of the initiatives in which DOD has supported other government agencies while protecting the borders and interdicting suspected transnational threats.

The third section examines the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG's) role in providing maritime security to U.S. shores and seaports. The service's ports, waterways, and coastal security (PWCS) mission plays a key role in homeland security. Articles in this section enlighten readers on the mission and capabilities of the USCG as it protects the U.S. maritime domain and marine transportation system against attack, sabotage, espionage, and other subversive acts.

The nation's newest borders, which are neither land nor sea, may be the most vulnerable to transnational threats. Cyber borders protect our communications systems, financial and banking networks, and critical infrastructure. They also prevent electronic espionage and infiltration of DOD networks. The fourth and final section examines the threat of attack on our cyber borders and describes what is being done to protect them.

Defending our nation, at home and abroad, against foreign and domestic threats, is fundamental to the Army's legacy. When called upon, the roles of the military in protecting our borders may range from competencies that are not law-enforcement related, such as logistics, intelligence, surveillance, and communications, to the nonlethal tasks associated with supporting civil authorities in domestic contingencies. The intent of this newsletter is to stimulate thought, share ideas, understand the roles of the key agencies in protecting the borders, and examine how DOD provides support to the efforts of those agencies.

End Notes

1. Joint Publication 3-28, Civil Support. 14 Sept. 2007.

2. Testimony of Michael O'Hanlon, coauthor of Protecting the Homeland 2006/2007, 28 June 2006.

Download CALL 10-52 Handbook [PDF]

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