(This article was adapted from a paper, titled, “Mobilization
for Homeland Security: Preparedness, Response and Recovery,”
written by members of the 2002 class of the Industrial College of
the Armed Forces, National Defense University)
A combined, interagency effort between military, government, non-government
and business emergency-response resources is necessary for the United
States to be able to react to and recover from a terrorist attack
with weapons of mass destruction.
These agencies should work together to identify vulnerabilities,
develop robust emergency-management plans based on an all-hazards
approach, conduct training and exercises, educate first-responders
and public officials, facilitate intelligence sharing between agencies,
improve public health monitoring and surveillance systems, expand
medical surge capacity, evaluate available stocks of pharmaceuticals,
improve communication systems, mandate interoperable communications
and develop or fortify mutual aid agreements within metropolitan
regions and with neighboring states.
The use of weapons of mass destruction is not a new trend, by any
means. In 429 B.C., the Spartans ignited pitch and sulfur to create
toxic fumes in the Peloponnesian War. In 1456, the city of Belgrade
defeated invading Turks by igniting rags dipped in poison to create
a toxic cloud. In 1710, Russian troops used plague-infected corpses
against Swedes. Several countries used WMD during World Wars I and
From the 1940s to the early 1990s, “duck and cover”
exercises and fallout shelters represented our domestic preparation
for a possible Soviet nuclear attack. The WMD of the Cold War were
considered weapons of last resort.
During the past decade, globalization, the explosion of knowledge,
exponential expansion of technology and ever-growing distance between
the “have” and “have-nots” provide rogue
states and terrorists with ways, means and reasons to employ WMD
Our seemingly uncivilized foreign and domestic opponents have proven
themselves quite resourceful and knowledgeable. They understand
our vulnerabilities and strengths, the relationship between psychological
and physical aspects of war and the art of indirect and direct targeting.
Our most evasive, irrational, and dangerous adversaries are very
likely transnational terrorists.
Although WMD terrorism, per se, has not been prevalent in the United
States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the possible
use of biological toxins and industrial chemicals as most threatening.
The mobilization role of the federal government, essentially, is
to assist and support state governments, coordinate and communicate
with foreign governments and support public will.
The bulk of federal plans regarding continuity of government are
classified. Yet framework documents laying out key strategies have
long been in the public domain. That those plans are being put to
use in the post-September 11 environment should have come as no
surprise. What remains unclear is how classified continuity-of-government
plans have been modified from their original Cold War purpose of
surviving a Soviet nuclear strike and mobilizing for retaliation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the executive
agent for continuity-of-government activities, and within FEMA,
this task is the responsibility of the Office of National Security
Affairs. FEMA’s Federal Preparedness Circular 65 of July 26,
1999, establishes three phases: activation and relocation (0-12
hours), alternative facility operations (12 hours-termination) and
reconstitution (termination and return to normal operations).
Many state and local jurisdictions, some of which have constitutions,
have detailed continuity-of-government plans. But evidence suggests
they have not fully considered the potential assistance that U.S.
armed forces can provide, especially during the early phases.
Much can be learned from the Federal Reserve Bank’s brilliant
management of post-September 11 financial stabilization efforts.
The association between the speed of U.S. financial stabilization
and our ability to create new international coalitions should not
be underestimated. We could well have a number of “fair weather
friends” abroad whose loyalty might shift if the U.S. economy
was severely disrupted by a well-coordinated WMD attack.
The success of post-attack stabilization depends on redundancy
of data systems and sufficient market decentralization to limit
the effects of WMD attacks on the financial system. The financial
community has done much to reduce vulnerability, but shortcomings
remain. For example, the location of the New York Stock Exchange—not
only is it a large and centralized physical target, it is an even
larger psychological one.
Many non-WMD related preparedness, response, and recovery themes
apply to possible terrorist WMD scenarios. We don’t have to
“re-invent the wheel” in many respects.
Concept of Operations Plan
The January 2001 U.S. government interagency domestic terrorism
concept of operations plan (CONPLAN) provides the overall guidance
to federal, state and local agencies concerning how the federal
government responds to potential or actual terrorist threats or
incidents. This CONPLAN establishes the FBI as the lead agency for
crisis management and FEMA for consequence management.
The CONPLAN charges the FBI with identifying, acquiring and planning
the use of resources, and with anticipating, preventing, and/or
resolving a threat or act of terrorism through law enforcement means.
FEMA’s role is intended to protect public health and safety,
restore essential government services and provide emergency relief
to government, businesses and individuals affected by the consequences
of terrorism, using structures and resources of the Federal Response
Plan. In April 1999, the FBI and FEMA reinforced this relationship
by adding a Terrorism Incident Annex to the FRP to ensure that adequate
domestic WMD terrorism response plans are available.
U.S. laws assign primary WMD incident-response authority to the
state and local governments while the federal government provides
assistance. Our research suggests that the U.S. government has instituted
effective ways and means to ensure “horizontal” synchronization
of federal response actions for WMD terrorist attacks on the U.S.
homeland. However, the effectiveness of “vertical” synchronization
of operations among the federal, state and local departments and
agencies remains questionable.
Two initiatives have, however, provided critical first steps in
overcoming this obstacle—the creation of the Office of National
Preparedness (ONP) and the 2003 Presidential Budget proposal.
In May 2001, President Bush asked the FEMA director to create the
ONP. He recognized that numerous federal departments and agencies
had programs to deal with consequences of WMD use in the U.S. and
several planned and provided various forms of training and assistance
to state and local governments.
However, funding constraints postponed the planned summer 2001
creation of the ONP. A few months later, the 11 September attacks
provided the stimulus for finally establishing this office, in January
The second initiative, the president’s 2003 budget proposal,
highlights the increased need for additional synchronization of
federal, state and local first responder actions. It also requests
an increase to FEMA funding, for more effective FEMA coordination
with the White House Office of Homeland Security to ensure the CONPLAN
and other agency plans are synchronized and integrated to equip,
train and exercise for possible WMD terrorism acts.
The creation of the ONP and increased funding for national-level
integration and synchronization provide a strong foundation for
effective and efficient national mobilization to meet national disaster
However, we recommend that Congress provide earmarked funding to
conduct vertically synchronized semi-annual preparedness validation
exercises. Money requested by the president’s budget uses
the word “may” to denote funding for such exercise preparedness.
We believe Congress should allocate funding for FEMA and state governments
to participate in multi-level, governor-initiated WMD terrorist
attack exercises. These exercises should stress all aspects of response
and recovery plans, and provide the means to validate and improve
plans using current intelligence information.
When a WMD incident occurs, first responders—who include
police officers, firefighters, emergency service personnel, and
medical specialists—are responsible for saving lives, limiting
casualties, protecting property and securing possible evidence for
the FBI. The on-scene commander, typically a sheriff, police chief
or fire department captain, provides initial direction of the overall
effort. Generally, he assesses the situation and requests support
through the county executive, who in turn contacts the state governor.
The governor informs the FEMA regional director of the incident,
declares the disaster and requests assistance from the president.
If necessary, the state governor can direct the activation of the
A limiting factor among first responders has been a lack of resources,
namely funding for equipment, training and exercises. President
Bush’s proposed increasing the homeland security annual budget
(for 2003) by 93 percent and the first-responder budget by 1,000
percent. But in addition to sufficient funding, collaboration and
synchronization at the federal, state and local levels are necessary.
A domestic WMD incident can reasonably be expected to exceed state
and local capabilities and require a Defense Department response.
Under the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program, the
Pentagon has provided training, equipment and assistance in developing
local emergency action plans to 150 of our larger cities. The Army
National Guard’s homeland security units are the WMD Civil
Support Teams. They are required to assess suspected WMD events
in support of the on-scene commander, advise civilian responders
and facilitate, and expedite arrival of additional military personnel.
These teams, based in 27 states, are equipped with high-end detection,
analytical, and protective equipment. They possess satellite, secure
and cellular telephone communications to provide connectivity with
both civil and military forces.
Nonetheless, in a multiple-location, simultaneous attack scenario,
the United States has insufficient capability to deter or detect
biological attacks. Substantially more than 44 Civil Support Teams
may be required. Capabilities for timely identification, effective
treatment protocols, mass casualty care and containment and decontamination
procedures are known shortfalls.
The Defense Department also needs to produce a concise doctrine
for WMD CSTs and coordinate this with the Joint Staff. Doctrine
needs to clearly define the roles, missions, employment concepts
and expected capabilities for these teams. For example, National
Guard units could be supported with unmanned aerial vehicles capable
of detecting and possibly neutralizing WMD agents and assessing
The equipment used by WMD incident responders needs to be standardized
or interoperable throughout the response community. It should be
interchangeable and meet both military and civilian regulation standards
unilaterally. All agencies, federal through local, need to standardize
training to minimize difficulty when operating in concert when faced
with a common emergency.
A timely response to a domestic WMD event and the limitations on
U.S. personnel and equipment drive the need to foster collaborative
WMD response capabilities with other nations—especially our
neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Several organizations are postured
to render disaster relief, specifically the United Nations Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and non-governmental
organizations, but most prominently, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
NATO coordinates planning in several areas of civil activity, most
notably medical matters and civil protection. NATO’s focus
point for the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Capability is the
Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC). The
main function of the EADRCC is to coordinate the response to a disaster
occurring within the Euro-Atlantic geographical area.
NATO does not wish to duplicate actions of other international
organizations. Rather, NATO’s role is to act when requested
as a medium for information sharing and cooperation among NATO member
countries and to provide disaster assistance where NATO resources
are available. For the process to work as envisioned, bilateral
support arrangements need to be updated and improved in cooperation
between civil and military authorities including host-nation support
and reinforcement planning.
The stricken country remains the responsible party for disaster
management and the UN retains the primary role in the coordination
of international disaster-relief operations. In the case of a disaster
requiring international assistance, individual nations must decide
whether to provide assistance and, if so, whether to do so through
the Euro-Atlantic disaster response agency or by providing assistance
directly to the stricken country.
Historically, the United States has been apt to assist other countries
while insisting on self-sufficiency when faced with similar dilemmas—appearing
to be too proud to accept assistance. Existing UN and NATO agreements,
virtually untapped by the United States for its own mobilization
benefit, can be a cost-effective means of generating international
assistance to prepare for, respond to and recover from WMD incidents.
During World Wars I and II, U.S. mobilization was the deciding
factor in the outcome of both wars. Why shouldn’t the United
States realistically approach the WMD terrorism issue by humbling
itself to the benefits of collaboration? Currently, the State Department’s
Office of Counterterrorism is providing training to “have
not” nations—those without existing WMD response capabilities.
The Political-Military Bureau is working at developing a web of
regional responders from the “have” nations already
possessing WMD response assets. Why can’t this same philosophy
be shared among “have” nations? It would be prudent
for the U.S. government to review and determine how it can benefit
from existing arrangements. Where there are voids to effective mobilization
efforts, we should strive for bilateral agreements, especially with
The authors of the paper are U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Arnold W.
Holcomb, U.S. Army Lt. Col. William E. Perkins, Alec Mally, FS-1,
Department of State, Latvian Army Col. Juris Kiukucans and U.S.
Navy Cmdr. Mark Boettcher.
The paper received the 2002 NDIA award for “excellence in
defense mobilization research.” It was selected by the faculty
of ICAF’s Grand Strategy Mobilization Department. The complete,
unedited version of the paper can be found on www.ndia.org.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and
do not reflect the official position of the National Defense University,
the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.