THE MAGAZINE

Looking Ahead: Disaster Response

By Matthew Harwood

Lieutenant General Guy C. Swan III, CPP, assumed command of U.S. Army North (ARNORTH) (Fifth Army) in December 2009, following his assignment as chief of staff and director of operations for Multi-National Force—Iraq. Swan was commissioned as an armor officer from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1976. He commanded units at various levels at home and abroad, including the joint military task force in the National Capital Region. He was responsible for supporting civil agencies in disaster response, security operations, and emergency management. Later, he was the director of operations for U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Swan holds masters degrees from Georgetown University and the School of Advanced Military Studies and was a National Security Fellow at Harvard University. He is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a member of ASIS International.


What is ARNORTH’s homeland security mission?

We have two parts. The first is called Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), which is a broad term that covers military support provided to law enforcement in connection with disaster response, border security, and a host of other homeland security tasks. The second mission is what we call “theater security cooperation” with the armies of Mexico and Canada. 

Within the civil support piece, our tasks run the gamut from supporting border enforcement agencies to chemical,
biological, radiological, and nuclear response anywhere in the homeland as well as providing general military support capabilities to other federal agencies, which can be leveraged by states and localities. In disaster response, we work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We’re preparing for this year’s hurricane season right alongside our FEMA partners with whom we are completely embedded. When called, ARNORTH provides a wide range of military support that may not be available through other agencies or jurisdictions, either at the state or local level or through a contractor.

What is an example of the kinds of support ARNORTH has provided in the past or is currently providing?

There is a lot of work that can be done in aerial assessment after a disaster with Predator or other manned or unmanned air platforms that the Department of Defense (DoD) owns that can help find stranded victims and assess the extent of the damage. In the border enforcement mission, there are not enough border patrol agents to cover our northern and southern borders. We help them cover the areas with our military units, often in a training mode. That way, agents can be freed up to conduct arrests or do investigations.

So members of the armed forces simply observe and report during these surveillance missions?

Yes, and in all cases the troops are accompanied by a border patrol agent or some other law enforcement official. This way they can train for their “go to war” mission by tracking smugglers or other criminals. Then they hand off targets to the border patrol for the actual arrest. Inside law enforcement command centers, military intelligence analysts assist in reviewing information that comes through law enforcement channels. They analyze it, then hand it off for further investigation to a law enforcement official in a process that has been thoroughly vetted through the Justice Department [to avoid any legal conflicts when the military can be used domestically]. While military personnel are doing this, border patrol agents or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can be out doing their primary jobs. And our troops get great training out of it, so it’s a win-win.

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