Date Posted:Tuesday, October 11, 10:24:31am Author: BJ Subject: Re: Brassman, this may be of interest to you... In reply to:
's message, "sheeple" on Wednesday, September 28, 07:06:39am
and the last thing I want to see is bush's troopers marching down our streets.
Military May Propose an Active-Duty Force for Relief Efforts
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 - The military's Northern Command is developing a proposal to organize a specially trained and equipped active-duty force that could respond quickly to assist relief efforts in the event of overwhelming natural disasters, like major hurricanes, floods or earthquakes.
The proposal, one of the first results from the military's study of shortcomings in the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina, could resolve significant stumbling blocks to the deployment of active-duty forces into a disaster area on American soil.
President Bush has urged Congress to consider laws allowing a greater role for the active-duty armed forces in disaster relief.
The force under consideration would keep hundreds of soldiers standing by on short notice to assist National Guard soldiers. The new unit could include military communications technicians, logistics specialists, doctors and nurses, engineers and even infantry.
The active-duty forces could rapidly fill the gap if state and local police officers, firefighters and local medical personnel were overwhelmed and unable to serve as the first line of relief, as happened during Hurricane Katrina.
The idea has not yet been presented to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld or to the military's Joint Staff. It was described in an interview by Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the head of the Northern Command, which is in charge of the military's response to threats on American soil.
The force would be designed to move in quickly alongside National Guard forces, with whom it would train, rather than taking over the mission. The virtue of such an active-duty unit is that it could swiftly bring important capabilities to bear in a natural disaster on American soil. With all of the operating rules agreed upon in advance, the command of the mission would remain with the National Guard, answering to state governors, putting off any need to debate whether to federalize the operation.
In the first days after Hurricane Katrina passed and the levees broke in New Orleans, flooding the city, the Democratic governor of Louisiana and White House officials squabbled over whether the federal government should take command of the faltering relief effort.
Active-duty troops may conduct relief operations without the federal government being in charge, but the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits active-duty forces from conducting law enforcement missions on American soil.
Pentagon and military officials say that federal troops could not have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans without breaking the Posse Comitatus law.
That would not be a problem with the standby force as long as it was kept to logistical and relief operations and the mission, in particular law-enforcement duties, remained with the National Guard reporting to the state governors.
The federal, state and local authorities would first agree, in advance, on what kind of event would lead to the sending of active-duty forces into a state. The criteria might include predictions of hurricane severity, the level of damage from an earthquake or casualty figures. Admiral Keating said that could help eliminate politics from the calculation.
"The success or failure of our effort won't depend on the political dealings between the governors and the president," he said. "We'll just get a mission and we'll execute it."
Had such a plan been in place when Hurricane Katrina barreled through the Gulf Coast region, a potent active-duty force could have flowed in faster to join National Guard troops, which already have the legal authority to carry out law enforcement duties under state control.
But, while some in Congress have urged the Bush administration to reconsider the limits of the Posse Comitatus Act, Admiral Keating said he was wary of the military's role in law enforcement.
"I'm not at all convinced that we need to go back and revise Posse Comitatus," he said. "I don't think the American people writ large are anxious to have active-duty forces in a law enforcement role."
It is not yet clear how much such a plan would cost or whether the military could spare the money or the troops at a time when it is stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Admiral Keating said a contingency force would be loosely modeled on existing rapid-response forces like the ready brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., which can deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours, and others that stand ready to deal with domestic terrorist attacks.
But he said the new force could be drawn as required from existing units that would still train for and carry out their current combat duties. It would not require the military to create and finance a separate domestic defense force, he said.
Although Mr. Rumsfeld has acknowledged the inadequacies of the Hurricane Katrina relief mission and has said the active-duty military has a sweeping array of capabilities that could be brought to bear, he has taken no public stance on the way ahead.