The National Guard continues to expand its missions in support
of homeland defense, even as it contends with frequent overseas
deployments, equipment shortages and low recruiting levels.
response to the war on terror, the Guard has been forming special
units trained for security missions in the homeland, with capabilities
ranging from responding to attacks using weapons of mass destruction
to gathering intelligence.
“Where the National Guard sees itself going in this whole
thing is becoming a full-spectrum force with enhanced joint capabilities
to do homeland defense and also support homeland security,”
said Col. Thomas Hook, chief of the National Guard Bureau’s
future operations division.
Guard units comprise more than half of the deployed forces in Iraq,
with eight brigades on the ground.
“Any additional workload is tough … when the Guard
itself is being overused,” said Michael O’Hanlon, senior
fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. “But
frankly, when I look around at what the Guard’s role is in
homeland security, it’s totally doable,” because the
required number of soldiers for such missions is modest.
One key challenge for the Guard is balancing homeland mission expansions
with the needs of the states and the military.
During the National Governors Association annual meeting in Iowa
in July, governors met behind closed doors with the National Guard
Bureau’s chief, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, and several other
federal officials. The governors questioned authorities about the
Guard’s structure and role, length of deployments and the
availability of troops for state missions.
“There’s a great deal of concern amongst a number of
governors, out in the western states especially, that when they
have a natural disaster, such as a fire, [the state] could have
major requirements for the Guard being called up,” said Governor
Mark R. Warner, D-Va., who chaired the NGA annual meeting.
“General Blum has made a commitment to the governors that
they will have, as much as possible, at least 50 percent of their
Guard forces available at any given time within their state,”
But having 50 percent of the Guard forces available in each state
is not always possible, he conceded. “Right now, some units
are being mobilized on a more frequent basis primarily because of
demands of missions overseas,” he explained, which leaves
some states short of their 50 percent. But, he says, one remedy
is to facilitate the movement of Guard forces from one state to
another under the emergency management assistance compact, a national
disaster-relief agreement that was signed into law in 1996.
“I think states are more than happy to respond to other states
in times of need,” said Warner. “But if that’s
going to be the expected procedure, then that ought to be fully
At a recent military transformation conference in Washington, D.C.,
Blum displayed another solution: a force generation model for the
Guard, based upon a six-year cycle, that ensures each state would
have 50 percent of its force at any time.
“There would be a time period, between overseas deployments,
where a unit could focus a little bit more on homeland defense missions.
So their training would be on skills that would be more suited for
homeland defense missions but still support their wartime missions,”
Under the model, units would rotate into one-to-two-year deployments,
with approximately one year to train and prepare for mobilization.
During the other three or four years, they would be available to
the states and the Defense Department to perform homeland defense
missions as necessary. The Guard currently is not on a six-year
cycle, said Hook, but is in the process of implementing the system.
As the country’s oldest military force, the National Guard
has a unique dual mission, with service to the state and to the
Consisting of volunteers, often called “citizen-soldiers”
or “weekend-warriors,” who train two days a month, plus
15 annual days, the Guard traditionally has been called upon by
governors to provide emergency relief following natural disasters
and to maintain public safety during riots. That’s in addition
to maintaining readiness for activation by the president during
times of war and national emergencies.
The Guard has 332,000 members, but it is authorized 350,000, said
In a prepared statement, Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of
defense for reserve affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee
in July that the Guard is at 77 percent of its recruiting goal for
fiscal year 2005.
Blum said he was not worried about the recruiting problems in the
Guard. “We have fewer people, but more deployable soldiers,”
he said. “We are going to be all right.”
After the September 11 attacks, the Guard took on additional homeland
security missions, providing security for airports and other critical
infrastructures and expanding its role in protecting U.S. borders
through its counterdrug programs. It also flew combat air patrols
over U.S. cities. While it no longer has a presence in airports,
the Guard has been activated by governors to support local law enforcement,
such as providing security for mass-transit facilities in the U.S.
following the July bombings in London.
“Clearly the primary focus before 9/11 was on the traditional
mission in support of the overseas war fight. So a lot of our efforts
are—and continue to be—on training to do that,”
said Hook. He added that the Guard has not veered from that focus,
but instead is using some of those same skills and training for
potential domestic missions.
But one of the Guard’s new homeland security efforts has
already run into trouble. An intelligence unit in the California
National Guard is under a state senate investigation for allegedly
monitoring a Mother’s Day anti-war protest at the state capitol.
California State Sen. Joe Dunn, a Democrat who chairs the subcommittee
that allocates funds for the Guard, has called for hearings to determine
whether the Guard used funds improperly to establish the unit, and
whether it is part of a larger network for domestic spying.
“There was never any intent or capability to do any domestic
surveillance. Nor did we do any domestic surveillance because that’s
prohibited by law,” said Col. Dave Baldwin, a California Guard
spokesperson. “The Mercury News picked up on an e-mail circulated
at headquarters that, to an outsider, would give the perception
that the director was directing that we monitor a peaceful protest.
So they took that perception and turned it into allegations that
we’re conducting domestic spying.”
The state’s adjutant general formulated the anti-terrorism
unit, called Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and
Intelligence Fusion Center, in June 2004, as part of a new Civil
Support Division. Its purpose, according to Baldwin, was to facilitate
information sharing amongst state and local law enforcement agencies.
“The goal of the entire civil support division was to help
transform the National Guard headquarters … to better respond
to homeland security missions and homeland defense missions and
to better integrate with homeland issues that were appearing on
the civilian sector,” said Baldwin.
The intelligence unit, he said, was never implemented. However,
the California Guard does have a traditional J-2 section that will
handle very similar information-sharing issues, including “a
big mission in conducting intelligence oversight.”
Meanwhile, “we’re going to continue to cooperate with
Sen. Dunn’s investigations and hearings,” said Baldwin.
“And we look forward to the opportunity to show that we did
nothing wrong, that we intended to do nothing wrong. And we look
forward to clearing up any misunderstandings that might be out there.”
Such an investigation raises questions about the Guard’s
capabilities to handle homeland missions that fall outside its traditional
purview, but some argue that the Guard is well suited for these
“I do not see a reason to believe that intelligence activities
are beyond the talents of the National Guard,” said O’Hanlon,
of the Brookings Institution. “I would actually tend to think
the Guard is going to be on balance,” as long as leaders ensure
that the unit commanders are competent. “Intelligence requires
the small units doing their specialized tasks well, and that’s
what plays to the Guard’s strengths.”
In its new “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,”
released June 30, the Defense Department recommends utilizing the
Guard in five specific areas: air and missile defense, maritime
security, land defense, weapons of mass destruction response and
critical infrastructure protection.
“It lays out what we’ve been prepared to do anyway,”
said Hook. “It’s a recognition that the National Guard
is in a unique position. First of all, because we are dispersed
throughout the communities across the country, it makes it much
easier for the Guard to respond quickly. It’s also a recognition
that the Guard, in state status or state active duty, or what we
refer to as Title 32 status, can provide assistance to the law enforcement
agencies and do that without violating the Posse Comitatus restrictions
that the Title 10 forces may run into.”
“I think the new strategy is right on,” said Jack Spencer,
senior policy analyst for defense and national security at the Heritage
Foundation, a Washington-based, public policy research institute.
The nation had been lacking organization for its homeland defense,
he said, most crucially in delegating responsibilities to specific
forces. The strategy provides that first step, he said. However,
it still lacks clarity in a number of areas pertaining to the military,
Still, the Guard is moving forward, fielding teams to deal with
its evolving homeland security and defense missions.
Among the newer organizations are CERFPs (Chemical, Biological,
Radiological, Nuclear or High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response
Force Packages), which have been assembled to assist first responders
in the event of a mass casualty terrorist attack. Guardsmen on these
teams can locate and extract civilians from wreckage and provide
medical triage and mass decontamination.
During the past year, the Guard has created 12 such teams, each
to be manned by 100 to 120 Guardsmen. The CERFPs are stationed across
the country in 12 states—California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii,
Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas,
Washington and West Virginia—that cover the 10 Federal Emergency
Management Agency regions.
In Florida, the state’s adjutant general certified the CERFP
team’s medical and decontamination components last year.
“This year, we’re attempting to get the certification
on the search and extraction so we’ll have a full 100-percent
capable team,” said Col. Jack Paschal, commander of the 202nd
Red Horse Squadron. Twenty-five Guardsmen from his engineering squadron
comprise the search and extraction unit of Florida’s CERFP.
“Since we’re engineers, we’re more uniquely set
up to do that kind of a mission,” he said. Those engineering
skills particularly are applicable to performing search and extraction
missions in a CERFP, he said.
The CERFPs will complement the Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil
Support Teams, or WMD-CSTs, that began forming in 1998. There are
32 operational CST teams in place. The Defense Department in November
announced activation of 11 additional teams that will train for
certification during the next 18 months. There will be a total of
55 teams, one in each of the country’s states and territories,
with two stationed in California.
Each CST team consists of 22 full-time Guard members trained to
identify the agents used in a WMD attack and to facilitate interactions
between first responders and the CERFP teams.
By contrast, the CERFP teams are manned by a combination of part-time
and full-time Guardsmen. In Florida, however, the CERFP team is
totally manned by part-time personnel, said Paschal.
“That is one of the bigger challenges, taking on a new mission
with no additional time, other than people being able to take off
from their civilian employers to devote to the planned training
time,” he said. So far, he noted, it seems to be working out.
Another challenge is balancing the CERFP mission with other responsibilities.
“We have members on several teams at one time, so if we have
to do too many missions at once, we say, ‘Hey, we’re
out of folks. De-obligate us from one of these missions so we can
do this other mission, if that’s your priority,’ ”
Last year, Congress created a commission to assess the roles and
missions of the National Guard and Reserves. At press time, eight
of the 13 members had been appointed.
The Guard remains confident that its mission expansions, in light
of the Defense Department’s strategy, are headed in the right
direction, officials said.
“As long as we recognize that it’s going to be kind
of a dual mission for the Guard, that we’re prepared to fight
overseas in support of the rest of the Department of Defense, but
we’re also prepared, equipped and trained to use those same
capabilities domestically, absolutely, that’s the right thing
to do,” said Hook.