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March 14, 2011

Improving the Security of the District of Columbia with a D.C. Defense Force Bill 18-403, “DC Official Code Title 49 Enactment Act of 2009”

By

Testimony before the
Council of the District of Columbia

Delivered March 14, 2011

My name is James Jay Carafano. I am the Deputy Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and the Director of Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

Mr. Chairman, I am honored to testify before the Council of the District of Columbia today. In my testimony, I would like to (1) provide the Council with necessary information about state militias, commonly referred to as State Defense Forces; (2) explain the constitutional authority that provides for State Defense Forces; and (3) demonstrate that such a unit would greatly enhance the security of our nation’s capital at practically no cost to the District Government.

State militias have helped to defend the United States since the Revolutionary War. Bolstered by the Founding Fathers’ concerns about maintaining a large standing army and preserved within the Constitution, the concept of the citizen-soldier has become ingrained in American culture and government.

Twenty-three states and territories currently have Defense Forces, which are distinct from the Reserves and the National Guard in that they serve no federal function. In times of both war and peace, State Defense Forces remain solely under the control of their governors, or in the case of the District of Columbia, the mayor, allowing for rapid deployment in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. Ultimately, State Defense Forces provide a cost-effective, vital force multiplier, especially if state National Guard units are deployed.

Despite its recognition in federal statute, creation of a State Defense Force remains at the discretion of each state governor, or in D.C., the council and mayor. State Defense Forces are entirely volunteer organizations. Members are not paid for training, and only some states compensate them for active duty. State Defense Forces generally require little equipment, posing minimal cost to the state or to the District. In fact, in 2002 alone, the Georgia State Guard reportedly saved the state of Georgia $1.5 million by providing 1,797 days of operational service to the state.

State Defense Forces have two important advantages. First, State Defense Forces are continually stationed within their respective states and can be called upon quickly and easily in times of need. Such a capability is particularly important when catastrophic disasters overwhelm local first responders and federal forces can take up to 72 hours to respond. State Defense forces also generally know the area and the resources at hand better than federal forces, giving them a vital advantage during emergency response. Second, State Defense Forces are exempt from the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits federal military forces from engaging in domestic law enforcement activities within the United States. While the Posse Comitatus Act has never proved a major obstacle to deploying federal forces for domestic emergency response, State Defense Forces permit a state military response unhampered by legal obstacles, allowing the D.C. Government to provide for its own interests without having to wait on the federal government to respond.

With the exception of the D.C. National Guard, every other National Guard unit in the country can be called upon by its respective state governor in the event of an emergency. High levels of National Guard deployment since 2001 have left some governors with only state police units to maintain security and facilitate emergency response. In the District of Columbia, only the President of the United States can call out the National Guard, leaving the D.C. government with little means of response in the case of an emergency regardless of National Guard deployment. The establishment of a D.C. Defense Force would fill this gap.

The District of Columbia cannot afford to sideline this national security asset. State Defense Forces are a proven force in homeland security and emergency response efforts. After 9/11, the New York Guard, New York Naval Militia, and New Jersey Naval Militia were activated. Additionally, after Hurricane Katrina, an estimated 2,274 State Defense Force personnel from at least eight states responded to support recovery efforts. Their state-apportioned status, organizational structure, and low-cost burden make these modern militias a vital and practical resource for the states and the District of Columbia.

In summation, a D.C. defense force will unquestionably improve the security of the District, particularly in an emergency situation, and will do so at minimal cost to taxpayers. Thank you again for the opportunity to address this issue before the Council.

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