National Guard January 2012 : Page 30
Building Response By William Matthews Continued growth of its CBRNE forces means the Guard is now responsible for most of the U.S. military’s WMD response HE THREAT HASN’T gone away: An al Qaeda sympa-thizer is arrested in New York in November, charged with plotting to bomb police cars, post offices and U.S. troops returning home from overseas. Only a few weeks earlier, four men in Georgia, aged 55 to 73, are charged with planning to attack government of-ﬁcials and a half-dozen U.S. cities with T | biological weapons and explosives. Terrorists attacking the country with weapons of mass destruction are the “biggest near-term challenge,” Gen. Charles Jacoby, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, tells the Senate Armed Services Committee. Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig warned last summer that sooner or later persistence will pay off for terrorists trying to use chemical and biological weapons to attack the United States. In October, the WMD Terrorism Research Center reported that the United States is ill-prepared for a biological weapons attack. And Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Se-curity Committee, cautions that “the threat of nuclear terrorism is growing faster than our ability to prevent an attack on our homeland.” So, it’s a relief to talk to Col. George Abbott. “We’re ready,” Abbott says when asked about Washington state’s newly certiﬁed homeland response force. “I’m very conﬁdent that we are ready. We should be ready. The government 30 Na tional Guard
Continued growth of its CBRNE forces means the Guard is now responsible for most of the U.S. military’s WMD response
THE THREAT HASN’T gone away: An al Qaeda sympathizer is arrested in New York in November, charged with plotting to bomb police cars, post offices and U.S. troops returning home from overseas.
Only a few weeks earlier, four men in Georgia, aged 55 to 73, are charged with planning to attack government officials and a half-dozen U.S. cities with biological weapons and explosives.
Terrorists attacking the country with weapons of mass destruction are the “biggest near-term challenge,” Gen. Charles Jacoby, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, tells the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig warned last summer that sooner or later persistence will pay off for terrorists trying to use chemical and biological weapons to attack the United States. In October, the WMD Terrorism Research Center reported that the United States is ill-prepared for a biological weapons attack.
And Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, cautions that “the threat of nuclear terrorism is growing faster than our ability to prevent an attack on our homeland.”
So, it’s a relief to talk to Col. George Abbott.
“We’re ready,” Abbott says when asked about Washington state’s newly certified homeland response force. “I’m very confident that we are ready. We should be ready. The government has resourced us well.”
Abbott commands Washington’s HRF, which is the nation’s newest asset against the unrelenting threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-explosive weapons.
The 566-member unit is made up of specially trained and equipped troops—medics, search-and-extraction teams, decontamination specialists, security forces and a commandand- control element. Their mission is to be ready to respond on very short notice to CBRNE “incidents.”
“The first truck rolls no later than six hours,” the National Guard Bureau’s HRF mission statement says. By hour 12, all 566 troops and all their gear are to be on the road. “HRFs provide necessary life-saving capabilities quickly, when time is of the essence,” NGB says.
When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, it’s hard to overstate the threat.
Consider National Planning Scenario No. 1, which is the basis for many of the Guard’s training exercises for HRFs and other CBRNE response units. It involves the hypothetical detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon in an American city.
The consequences, according to the Homeland Security Council, which wrote the scenario, would be something like this:
People, vehicles and buildings within 650 feet of the bomb are gone, incinerated by a fireball that reaches tens of millions of degrees. A bit further away, “all buildings will be rubble and rubble may be 30-feet deep or more,” making streets impassable and rapid rescues impossible.
Intense radiation makes survival unlikely for any victims not killed by the initial blast. Those underground in parking garages or subway tunnels will have to wait days for radiation to dissipate before rescue teams can safely enter the area. Radiation may also kill half the people within a half mile of the bomb and some as far away as 20 miles.
Out to about a mile from the blast, damage is expected to be “moderate,” meaning many buildings have collapsed, autos are overturned, some utility poles are down, rubble clogs the streets and fires blaze.
Victims as far as two miles away from the fireball will suffer flash burns. The shock wave from the explosion will cause massive, and for many, fatal injuries to lungs and other internal organs.
Hospitals will be overwhelmed. Hundreds of thousands will need medical care, tens of thousands will require decontamination and tens of thousands more will require shelter and food for an indefinite time.
“The National Guard has always been the first military asset called on for natural disasters, but what we’re talking now about is something completely different,” says Maj. Gen. David Harris, NGB’s director for domestic operations and force development.
“I’ve been doing this for 36 years, and I know of no time when we’ve had this level of responsibility,” he says.
The Guard’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to WMD attacks is critical because “no city or state has the assets to respond to a major event on their own.”
Almost certainly, though, the first response to a terrorist attack or other CBRNE incident will be civilian—local police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel, Harris says. And it will be they who call on the Guard, which will first send its WMD civil support teams (CSTs).
There are 57 of these 22-member teams, one in 47 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia and two in California, Florida and New York.
Members are specially equipped and intensively trained full-time Guard troops whose job is to arrive quickly at a CBRNE incident site, enter a hot zone, measure the radiation or collect samples of biological and chemical agents. They identify the dangers, assess the threat and advise civil authorities on what to do next.
An advance team from each CST is supposed to be able to deploy in 90 minutes. The rest of the team follows within three hours.
CSTs arrive with a mobile analytical laboratory that’s equipped with “some of the most advanced equipment that can be purchased,” Harris says. Essential items include two types of spectrometers and a polarized light microscope for identifying chemical agents, and polymerase-chain-reaction test equipment to identify biological agents by their DNA.
A second large vehicle is a mobile communications command post packed with satellite communications gear, computers, radios and phones. Some of the equipment is military, but much of it is commercial so that it’s compatible with the communications gear civil authorities use.
A smaller command vehicle carries computerized weather forecasting and mapping equipment for predicting where radiation or chemical and biological agents will likely drift and from where people must be evacuated.
CSTs do not have the personnel or equipment to offer medical care or decontaminate victims. They serve as advisors to civilian authorities who remain in command of the response.
Because of their sophisticated gear and extensive training, CST units are called frequently by local and state authorities, Harris says. When police discover suspicious substances “or something shows up in the mail and it’s got white powder coming out of it,” CSTs are likely to be called.
Typically, only the largest cities have the equipment and trained personnel to do what the CSTs can do. “We do in hours what it would take days to do otherwise,” he says.
Guard CSTs were summoned 2,400 times in 2010 to identify potential threats, Harris says. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s a false alarm.
“But there been a few cases where we went to check something out and found it was something to be concerned about,” he adds.
The teams have been called to a number of major incidents, including to assist with air sampling and communications after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, to test for hazardous debris from the Columbia space-shuttle disaster in 2003, to assess hazardous spills after hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Ike in 2008, and to assess anthrax contamination in Connecticut in 2007.
When incidents cause casualties that overwhelm local capability, civilian authorities can push the Guard response up a notch by calling for a CERFP, pronounced “serf-P,” a CBRNE enhanced-response force package.
Eight times larger than a CST, a CERFP is designed to aid WMD victims. Its 186 members—the majority of them part-timers— are trained and equipped to find and extract casualties from collapsed buildings and in “hot zones” contaminated by radiation, biological or chemical agents. The package includes a decontamination element, a medical team and a fatality search-and-recovery team.
And the CERFPs are about to get bigger. NGB says it plans to add five full-time Guardsmen to each CERFP starting in 2012, giving each a total of 10 full-timers.
The increase comes after CERFP commanders told the Guard Bureau and the Government Accountability Office that their units, as designed in 2003, do not have enough full-time members to maintain critical equipment, train response forces and coordinate with other response agencies.
Increases are also being considered among the part-time members of CERFPs. During a GAO survey released last month, several adjutants general said their decontamination elements should be doubled in size to 150 so that personnel who operate in protective suits rotate more often to avoid fatigue.
Some commanders have already bulked-up their CERFPs informally, assigning as many as 420 troops to their units to ensure that 186 will be available when called, GAO reported. Upon arrival at a disaster site, the CERFP’s 50-member search-andextraction team scrambles into bulky protective suits to dig through contaminated rubble for blast and burn victims. Typically, search and extraction work is done by engineer units from the Army Guard and Air Guard.
Armed with cranes and jack hammers, pry bars, jacks and thermal imaging cameras, the extraction team breaks through concrete floors and walls, moves rubble and shores up passageways dug into collapsed buildings to retrieve survivors.
The largest CERFP element is its decontamination team, which now includes 75 members, usually from Army Guard chemical companies. While the extraction team suits up to search for victims, the decontamination team erects a series of showerequipped decontamination tents and trailers, creating one line for ambulatory victims, another for nonambulatory.
After decontamination, those with serious injuries get medical care from the CERFP’s 45-member medical team. Typically, Air Guard medical units make up the medical team.
Recently, fatality search and recovery teams were added to CERFPs to recover bodies and body parts from devastated and contaminated sites.
There are 17 CERFPs scattered across the United States and they’re supposed to respond to a CBRNE disaster site within 12 hours. So far, no CERFPs have been called for real disasters, Abbott says.
The GAO audit revealed that many CERFP commanders are worried about training. Collective training opportunities are limited, so skills can get rusty, CERFP officials said.
In part, the problem is caused by other demands on the Guard. “Ten of the 17 adjutants general we surveyed reported most or all of their CERFP elements have had difficulty in managing competing requirements from other domestic or war-fighting missions,” the GAO said.
CERFP officials also told GAO that they could use some better equipment. The protective suits they now use don’t protect against a full range of toxic materials, they said, and some CERFPs still lack communications gear that’s compatible with the equipment used by civilian responders.
Pentagon officials told the GAO they are taking steps to improve training and to address equipment deficiencies.
CSTs were established in 1999 by then-President Bill Clinton in response to a growing terrorist threat marked by the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City.
CERFPs followed in 2004, when it was clear from the 2001 terrorist attacks that more help would be needed as quickly as possible.
In 2005, a third layer was added to the 57 CSTs and 17 CERFPs—three CBRNE consequence management response forces or CCMRFs, pronounced “see-smurfs.”
Comprised of 4,700 troops, they were supposed to arrive at the scene of a disaster within 96 hours. One CCMRF was to be made up mostly of active-component Army soldiers, two others were to be mainly Guardsmen and Reservists.
But a detailed analysis of CCMRFs during the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review convinced an 11-member panel of retired flag officers, former service secretaries and other defense experts that CCMRFs were too big to react quickly enough, and with just three, they were likely to be located too far from many disaster sites.
“Given the potential for surprise attacks within the United States,” the QDR panel said, more responsive forces are needed “to enhance their lifesaving capabilities, maximize their flexibility, and reduce their response times.”
The panel instructed the Pentagon to create 10 HRFs to replace the CCMRFs—one HRF for each Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region.
“The HRFs mission is simple,” says a Guard Bureau mission statement. “Conduct operations to save lives and to reduce human suffering in the event of a CBRNE incident.”
HRFs possess the same life-saving capability as a CERFP plus a security force. But with 150 full-time personnel, its primary capability is command and control. Each HRF will oversee up to five CSTs and three CERFPs and focus on planning, training and exercising within its FEMA region, with a goal of establishing links between local, state and federal authorities.
With 10 HRFs and 17 CERFPs, the Guard Bureau says 98 percent of Americans will be within five hours of a Guard CBRNE response force.
Abbott’s HRF in Washington is the second to be stood up in 2011. The first was in Ohio. Eight other HRFs are to be certified by October in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.
Nine of the 10 HRFs were originally CERFPs, which will be replaced by nine new CERFPs in other states.
With the creation of HRFs, “roughly 70 percent of the Department of Defense’s response to weapons of mass destruction is comprised of National Guard forces,” Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the Guard Bureau chief, told Congress last year.
Federal WMD assets include the Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Team, a 400-member force based at Indian Head, Md., and the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response Force, consisting of 5,200 troops split into two force packages.
With nearly three-quarters of the military WMD-response capability, the Guard has become the key early responder in homeland defense. But it won’t take a terrorist attack for the HRFs to act, Abbott says.
“The most likely event is probably a railroad tanker with a really toxic substance turning over near a city,” he says. “We respond to the effect,” rather than to the cause of a disaster.
Last August, as Hurricane Irene dumped a once-in-a-hundred-years flood on much of the East Coast, the Guard activated another new capability for homeland defense—dual-status commanders. The Guard put four of them in charge of relief efforts.
Dual-status commanders are senior Guard officers who are given authority by the president and a governor to command both state Guard and federal active-component and Reserve troops during domestic incidents. The position was developed to avoid the confusion and conflicts between state and federal authorities that delayed relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Amid complaints over slow Katrina rescue operations, President George W. Bush considered federalizing the Louisiana National Guard. It was a politically-charged idea. The Republican president’s plan would have stripped Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco of her authority over the Louisiana National Guard, and she rejected the plan. Bush also would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which seemed legally dubious even under the chaotic circumstances in flooded New Orleans.
Dual-status commanders receive legal training on restrictions that limit the use of active-duty troops in domestic operations. As commanders of federal troops, they report to the president, and as commanders of state Guard troops, they report to their governors.
As Irene approached, brigadier generals were named as dual-status commanders in New Hampshire, New York and North Carolina and a colonel was put in charge in Rhode Island.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta issued prepare-to-deploy orders to 6,500 federal troops, but ultimately none were called for storm duty.
After 13 years of organizing, training and equipping CSTs, CERFPs, HRFs and dual-status commanders, the Guard is dramatically more able to deal with terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction, Abbott says.
Although his HRF is responsible for dealing with attacks as far north as Alaska and in the neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho, in reality, “we’ll go wherever are told to go. If there’s a large enough event, we’re prepared to go nationwide,” Abbott says.
William Matthews is a Springfield, Va.- based freelance writer who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted via email@example.com.
NGAUS has long supported putting more CBRNE response capability in the National Guard. The association was a driving force behind expanding the civil support teams from the original 10 to at least one in every state and territory. Current resolutions call for continued modernization of response units, full funding for training, upgrading Guard aircraft so they can provide greater situation awareness during incidents and the development of a cross-banding communications system for all emergency responders.
At a Glance
National Guard CBRNE Forces
Civil Support Team
Mission: Identify chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances; assess consequences; advise incident commander on response measures; and assist with requests for follow-on support.
Personnel: 22 (All full-time)
Deployment Speed: Advance team deploys within 90 minutes of incident; main body within three hours
Number of CSTs: 57 (at least one in each state, territory and the District of Columbia with two in California, Florida and New York)
First established: 1999
CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package
Mission: Provide immediate response capability including: casualty search and extraction, medical triage and treatment, ambulatory and nonambulatory decontamination, and fatality search and recovery.
Personnel: 186, including five full-timers, from existing Army and Air National Guard units
Deployment Speed: Advance team deploys within six hours of incident; main body within 12 hours
Number of CERFPs: 17 (at least one in each FEMA region)
First established: 2004
Homeland Response Force
Mission: Provide command and control of CSTs and CERFPs in each FEMA region, incident site security and immediate life-saving response capability.
Personnel: 566, including 150 full-timers. Life-saving and security elements (approximately 370 personnel) are from existing Army and Air National Guard units
Deployment Speed: Advance team deploys within six hours of incident; main body within 12 hours
Number of HRFs: 10 (one in each FEMA region); two validated, the rest are on track for validation by September 2012
First established: 2011
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/Building+Response/932083/94496/article.html.