USA — Ohio, Washington to Start Homeland Response Forces

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2010 — Ohio and Wash­ing­ton have been cho­sen as the first states to host new Nation­al Guard home­land response forces for respond­ing to chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal attacks, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials announced today.

The response forces, called for in the 2010 Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review, are designed to work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency to pro­vide rapid response to chem­i­cal, bio­log­i­cal, radi­o­log­i­cal, nuclear and high-explo­sive attacks.

The Defense Depart­ment plans to estab­lish 10 home­land response forces, one in each of the 10 FEMA regions, offi­cials said. The Ohio and Wash­ing­ton forces are to be estab­lished by the end of Sep­tem­ber 2011, with the remain­ing eight estab­lished one year lat­er.

Navy Adm. James A. Win­nefeld Jr., the new com­man­der of U.S. North­ern Com­mand and the North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand, said in an inter­view with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice last week that he wel­comes sup­port­ing the Guard with the new response forces.

“The thing we all wor­ry about is a ter­ror­ist with a weapon of mass destruc­tion,” Win­nefeld said. “And, increas­ing­ly, we wor­ry about ter­ror­ists who are real­iz­ing that they don’t need a big boom to make a dif­fer­ence.”

Although “we don’t believe we are in immi­nent dan­ger at this very moment,” Win­nefeld said, the knowl­edge that some nations and ter­ror­ist groups have an inter­est in obtain­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion under­scores the impor­tance of the response forces.

“We are work­ing very hard to ensure that we are as ready as we can be with as much life­sav­ing capa­bil­i­ty as we can have on as short notice as we can,” Win­nefeld said.

The response forces are each to have about 570 Nation­al Guard sol­diers and air­men com­prised of chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal weapons spe­cial­ists, com­mand and con­trol, and secu­ri­ty forces. The forces are to self-deploy by ground with­in six to 12 hours of an event, bring­ing life-sav­ing med­ical, search and extrac­tion, decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion, secu­ri­ty and com­mand and con­trol capa­bil­i­ties.

Win­nefeld explained the Nation­al Guard’s response orga­ni­za­tion. It begins with 54 weapons of mass destruc­tion civ­il sup­port teams, one in each state and ter­ri­to­ry, con­sist­ing of about 50 mem­bers each. In the event of a CBRNE inci­dent, these units would pro­vide an ini­tial assess­ment and lim­it­ed life-sav­ing capa­bil­i­ty.

The next lay­er in the hier­ar­chy is 17 CBRNE Enhanced Response Force units, locat­ed around the coun­try. Each con­sists of 200 to 300 spe­cial­ly trained peo­ple, Win­nefeld said.

At the next lev­el, CBRNE Con­se­quence Man­age­ment Reac­tion Force units, con­sist­ing of sev­er­al thou­sand mem­bers, would deploy in the event of a larg­er event at the direc­tion of the appro­pri­ate state gov­er­nor, he said. This force oper­ates under Title 10 author­i­ty, with fed­er­al fund­ing.

The Ohio and Wash­ing­ton units will evolve from two of the 17 CBRNEs and will be replaced, offi­cials said.

North­com has a “good, coop­er­a­tive effort [with] the Nation­al Guard Bureau,” Win­nefeld said. “That coop­er­a­tion is grow­ing tighter every day in terms of mak­ing sure we know the roles are stan­dard­ized, and that the com­mand and con­trol is clean.

“I am opti­mistic about that,” he con­tin­ued. “We are going through some evo­lu­tion­ary changes in that response capa­bil­i­ty and will be doing so over the next sev­er­al years.”

(Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice writer Don­na Miles con­tributed to this report.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)