|Story & Photos by Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford,
88th Regional Support Command
Emergencies resulting from disasters are varied in nature and culminate
in a number of destructive natural events disrupting the lives of
Recently, a symposium held at Fort McCoy addressed the issues and means
of the Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) process. More than
100 representatives from the National Guard, Army Reserve, Air Force
Reserve, Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve attended.
Attendees at the Defense Support of Civil Authorities symposium
listen to a presentation explaining the process for federal
forces support for state and regional emergencies. The 2011
National Defense Authorization Act allows for the Army Reserve,
Naval Reserve and Marine Reserve to be mobilized, on the order
of the secretary of defense, in response to a request by local
authorities to support disaster relief activities.
In 2011, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense
Authorization Act (NDAA) that provided for federal forces to be used to
support state emergencies. Throughout the 34 years of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) existence it has struggled to
define its abilities, and every president has worked to use the
organization for the nation’s best interest.
Before passage of the NDAA, federal laws prevented the full
implementation of Reserve forces to assist with state or regional
Col. Julie M. Gerety, the director for domestic operations with the
Wisconsin National Guard said, “While both the U.S. armed forces and the
National Guard have a long history of conducting domestic operations,
the scale, scope, and complexity of these operations have expanded
significantly since September 11, 2001. Prior to then, military
involvement in domestic operations was almost exclusively in the area of
civil-support operations: generally limited to providing support to
civil authorities in response to natural disasters or accidents.
Post-9/11, the National Guard’s role has expanded to include additional
Homeland Defense and Homeland Security missions.”
Redefining the role of the Army Reserve in a domestic posture
necessitates a look at the current laws and requires state governors to
clearly state and define the need for the use of assets from the
secretary of defense.
Maj. Gen. Glenn J. Lesniak, the deputy commanding general for
support of the U.S. Army Reserve, explains the Army Reserve
capability to act in situations of immediate response to save
lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property
damage. Lesniak spoke at the Defense Support of Civil
Authorities symposium at Fort McCoy Jan. 16.
Maj. Gen. Glenn J. Lesniak, the deputy commanding general for support of
the U.S. Army Reserve, said, “The Army Reserve has the capability to act
in situations of immediate response authority to save lives, prevent
human suffering, or mitigate great property damage. Under NDAA the Army
Reserve may be mobilized, on the order of the secretary of defense, in
response to a request by local authorities to support disaster relief
The Army Reserve is posturing itself to support requests for disasters
in a number of ways. The use of units requires them to be ready within
their training cycle. This involves the structured training cycle of
units and deals with their progression in a cycle of operational
deployments. Units will be used based on where they are in their
training cycle and the skill set they attain.
Lesniak said that the program was activated in response to Hurricane
Sandy in October 2012.
“The plan for future use depends upon the ability of the local agencies
to manage a crisis situation. The Army Reserve is working with local
National Guard commands and local authorities to develop contingency
plans that can be used to support,” said Lesniak.
There are some inherent difficulties in enabling the DSCA to use the
capabilities and personnel of America’s defense forces.
“The National Guard has gained experience over the past few years
synchronizing not only the efforts of the Army and Air National Guard
units within the United States, but also those of our interagency
partners to include local law enforcement, the first responder network,
FEMA, and state, local, and tribal government. Incorporating additional
service components with robust and unique capabilities is the next
logical progression in the DSCA evolution,” said Gerety.
“Naturally the complexity of any response increases as the number of
responding agencies increases. However, the command-and-control network
has been established, through the use of a dual status-commander within
each state, to ensure unity of effort during any response,” she added.
Lesniak added, “The role of a dual-status commander mitigates the risk
of involving multiple services. Military units normally function in task
force organizations so the concept and function of a dual-status
commander is not unusual. Also, engaging with National Guard and local
authorities for planning of and participating in emergency-management
exercises reduces the risk of confusion and complexity in the event of
an actual disaster.”
Annually, the military embarks on training that involves natural
disasters, chemical, nuclear, biological, radioactive and other types of
training. The use of this training often involves multiple services. The
employment of federal forces in reference to the DSCA was a way to tie
this training together.
The Department of Defense (DoD) defines civil support as “Department of
Defense support to civil authorities for domestic emergencies, and for
designated law enforcement and other activities.”
Civilian authorities retain primary responsibility during civil-support
operations with DoD supporting mission requirements. When federally
activated, National Guard troops conduct civil-support missions as
members of the Army or Air National Guard of the United States.
Finally, Army Reserve Soldiers and units may respond to local
governments under the Immediate Response Authority to save lives and
prevent human suffering. Several requirements must be met, and the
authority is limited to 72 hours.
Enabling the DSCA promises the use of personnel and equipment to thwart
suffering from the population — the goal is to minimize agony from