March 22, 2013
By Chris Schneidmiller
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON – The Defense Department on Friday reaffirmed its readiness to protect the U.S. homeland against weapons of mass destruction and other threats.
A new document sets the Pentagon’s strategy for homeland defense operations and assistance to civilian emergency agencies through 2020.
“The strategy identifies two priority missions for the department in the homeland: defend U.S. territory from direct attack by state and nonstate actors; and provide assistance to domestic civil authorities in the event of natural or man-made disasters, potentially in response to a very significant or catastrophic event,” the Defense Department said in a press release.
Threats to the homeland include cyber-attacks, an impaired but still dangerous al-Qaida, and potential acquisition of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons by enemy nations or terrorists, according to the Strategy for Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities.
It is assumed that violent extremists will continue to pursue WMD strikes against the United States, the report says. The Pentagon aims to meet this risk and others in a time of tight budgets.
The Defense Department said it remains prepared, upon request by the U.S. attorney general, to assist federal law enforcement organizations in halting a WMD strike on the United States.
The Pentagon “may provide certain logistical, intelligence and operational support upon request,” the strategy states. “The department will continue to work closely with other federal departments and agencies to develop plans … that address the provision of military-specific capabilities and inform expectations for DOD prevention assistance in the future.”
Civil authorities can also continue to look for military assistance in responding to a potential WMD incident, according to the DOD document.
Defense anti-WMD resources were reorganized based on guidance from the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. They now include National Guard WMD Civil Support Teams in 54 states and territories, CBRN Enhanced Response Force Packages that can be deployed regionally from 17 states, and two “brigade-size” Defense CBRN Response Forces.
“DOD must preserve its CBRN response capabilities including specialized agent detection, identification, and dispersion modeling systems as well as casualty extraction and mass decontamination capabilities,” the report says. “The department will also maintain trained and equipped command-and-control capabilities to manage the specialized and general purpose forces that will likely be needed to support civilian agencies after a CBRN incident.”