Defense Support to Civil Authorities (or, how to apply the National Guard)

The recent militia activity in Oregon has spurred many to demand a swift response to the groups’ armed holding of a federal wildlife refuge office.  Included in the discussion has been several instances of chatter on Twitter and other social media, demanding/suggesting/requesting that the National Guard be deployed to address the situation.  Those who have mentioned this don’t appear to have any background in public safety or the military, so I’ve politely explained that the incident is occurring on federal property and that the National Guard is a state asset, which is generally not authorized to act on federal property.  Seeing how I can’t fit much more of an explanation into 140 characters, I’ve decided it is probably a good topic to blog about.

In case you aren’t familiar, I first offer an explanation of the differences between National Guard forces and United States military forces.  Broadly, here are the differences… National Guard forces are created by Title 32 of the United States Code, whereas our US Armed Forces are created by Title 10 of the United States Code.  Very often, when military and emergency management folks talk about military forces active during a domestic emergency, they will mention that they are either ‘Title 10’ or ‘Title 32’.  The primary distinction is that Title 32 National Guard forces are under the control of the Governor of that state, whereas Title 10 military forces are under control of the President.  There is also a distinction of State Active Duty, which puts the forces under command of the Governor but with limited protections and paid by the state (which is often times lower and does not contribute to their federal retirement).  Title 32 does afford some federal law provisions and protections of the Guard forces, including federal pay.

Federal military resources (Title 10) are restricted from using force domestically by way of the  Posse Comitatus Act, unless specifically authorized within a very specific set of guidelines.  While the Posse Comitatus Act does not include Title 32 forces, it is with rare occasion that National Guard forces are used in such capacity, with an emphasis often being placed on the difference between ‘security’ and ‘law enforcement’.

As with any resources which are under the direction of the state (i.e. the Governor) or a local authority (such as a sheriff or mayor), these resources are not permitted to operate on Federal property unless specifically requested.  Federal property is just that – federal property.  A great number of federal agencies have their own law enforcement in some form, typically for enforcement related to their own mission and regulations.  Federal facilities with no organic law enforcement (or those choosing or not able to use their own law enforcement capabilities for such) utilize the Federal Protective Service (FPS) for security of federal facilities, which is a component of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission of the National Guard is vitally important to our nation’s ability to respond effectively to major emergencies.  Deployed domestically under the authority of each state’s governor and under the direction of each state’s adjutant general, National Guard forces are able to accomplish a variety of missions in support of local domestic operations.  They are effective not only as a force multiplier to augment local resources, but also bring very specific skill sets and resources in engineering, hazardous materials operations, medical operations, and other mission areas.  The key for public safety officials who are considering submitting a request for National Guard assistance to the state emergency management agency is knowing what problem you need solved and how you want to apply National Guard assets.


Exercise operations of the 19th CBRNE Enhance Response Force Package (CERF-P), Indiana National Guard

A great training resource, especially for emergency management and public safety personnel who aren’t familiar with all the ins and outs of military resources that can be applied during a disaster, is IS-75 Military Resources in Emergency Management, provided free of charge by FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute.  I’m proud to have been an early contributor to this much-needed training course.

Interested in training in DSCA operations or in integrating them into your plans?  We are happy to help!

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

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