the United States, the nature of warfare changed drastically on
September 11, 2001, when the homeland became a major theater of
war. America's defense posture must evolve quickly to prepare for
this new reality, and this evolution must include a rethinking of
the role of the National Guard--a role President Bush's recently
released Homeland Security Strategy treats as important.
role, however, will require further definition. Given the reality
that the homeland is a theater of war, as well as the imminent
threat of terrorism and the increasing likelihood that U.S.
civilians may be targeted at home in future conflicts, the role of
the National Guard in homeland security must become part of war
planning for any future war contingency. This means ensuring that
adequate resources are available for forces abroad and for Guard
units at home.
Taking the Lead
in Homeland Security
The National Guard is the logical element of the U.S.
armed forces to act as the lead military agency for homeland
security. By law and tradition, the Guard connects local
communities to the government. Units located in every American
community have the capabilities, legal authority, and structure to
respond quickly to attacks on the homeland. The Army National
Guard, for example, maintains over 3,000 armories around the
country, while the Air National Guard has 140 units throughout the
United States and its territories. The close relationship between
the National Guard and their locales must be leveraged to ensure
that local Guard units are prepared to respond to attacks and that
they help to train other first responders in their communities.
Local health authorities simply are not
adequately prepared to address the mass casualties that would
result from such events. The Guard could help state and local
authorities prepare for operations in a chemical or biologically
contaminated environment and plan for medical treatment after an
attack (combat triage). It also could help the authorities assess a
community's level of response preparedness, identify
interoperability and communications problems, provide alternative
and complementary communications, and develop response plans to
rebuild quickly any damaged "mitigating infrastructure," such as
roads, bridges, and water supplies. While the Guard is already
doing some of these things to some extent, they should constitute a
critical Guard mission in today's new warfighting environment.
The Administration has introduced a new military command
structure to better address the threats facing the nation. Part of
this effort includes development of the Northern Command to oversee
the U.S. military's contribution to homeland defense. To ensure
that the National Guard's role evolves in a way that best supports
the homeland security mission, the Administration should:
- Refocus the
National Guard on homeland security. The National Guard,
the Department of Defense, and the states have in place much of the
administrative and command infrastructure needed to enable the
Guard to take on a greater homeland security role. But its
focus--as defined in Title 32, Section 102 of the U.S.
Code--remains one of supporting the active forces. The Guard's
legislative focus should be on both homeland security and support
of active forces. However, the Administration must be clear that
the Guard's contribution to homeland security is to support state
and local authorities, not to assume control.
- Give homeland
service the same respect as service abroad. Because the
government's primary purpose is to protect the people of America,
the homeland is the most important theater of war. Active service
in defense of the homeland should be given the same weight and
respect as service abroad. Those serving in the homeland should
receive appropriate benefits, and adequate resources should be
dedicated to the homeland mission. Changing the culture of the
Guard in this way would increase both the morale of those serving
in this important component and the numbers of recruits who want to
protect the homeland.
- Provide adequate
funding to support the Guard in its homeland security
mission. The United States must prepare for terrorist
attacks on the homeland as a theater of war precisely because of
its vulnerability. The war on terrorism has blurred the lines
between national service (Title 10), national service under the
command and control of the state governor (Title 32, Section
502[f]), and state service (Title 32). The federal government may
provide funding for some Title 32 missions, but most are funded by
the states. While this should remain the case for traditional Title
32 missions, missions that support homeland security efforts should
be funded under Title 32, Section 502(f).
- Use State Area
Commands (STARCs) to administer the new homeland mission.
Each STARC is the peacetime headquarters of the National Guard for
the governor and adjutant general, with its own integral
administration, logistics, and command and control facilities. A
STARC controls all of the state's Guard units, armories, and bases,
and can mobilize the Guard for state service. In a localized attack
or major incident, a governor likely would use the STARC to direct
the Guard to assist or supplement local first responders.
STARCs should have activation rosters for
units and personnel that identify those who are also first
responders with critical skills (such as fire department chiefs) so
that these key people are not called up for duty but remain
available for local emergencies; so that decisionmakers know the
training, equipment readiness, and personnel strength status of all
units; and so that they can establish a command and control center
with redundant communications.
- Use National
Guard resources wisely
The Guard's resources should be focused on homeland
security, not on missions better handled by the private sector or
other government agencies. For example, Guard units should not be
guarding airports or the nation's borders. Guard members'
specialized training and legal standing give them a unique role in
homeland security that should not be squandered.
The American homeland is now a theater of war. The
National Guard is well-suited to serving as the lead military
agency for homeland security because its members live and work in
communities. They are likely to be the first federal agents to
assist local first responders in the event of an attack, and may
well be the first responders. The United States must assure that
active forces are adequately staffed and equipped to carry out
their missions abroad even if the National Guard is called up for
homeland security missions.
Spencer is Policy Analyst for Defense and National Security in
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies at The Heritage Foundation.