'Mission One' at NORTHCOM: Defending the Homeland
(October 31, 2010)
|WASHINGTON (AFNS - 10/28/2010) -- Developing regional
response capabilities, stepping up preparations for a
no-notice catastrophe and maturing partnerships are among
priorities at U.S. Northern Command, the new deputy
commander said here Oct. 26.
Senior Army and Air
National Guard officers join officers from other components at a Joint
Task Force Commander Training Course at U.S. Northern Command at
Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs on Jan. 28, 2009.
"We're working very closely with the National Guard and (the Office of the
Secretary of Defense) and the Joint Staff, taking our contingency plans for the
homeland, especially in the (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or
high-yield explosive, or CBRNE) world, and working very closely with the Guard
to develop a regional response capability," said Army Lt. Gen. Frank Grass,
NORTHCOM's deputy commander.
"The success of that regional response in support of (the Federal Emergency
Management Agency) will help drive how we respond ... at the federal level,"
said General Grass, who also is vice commander of the U.S. element of NORTHCOM's
sister command, North American Aerospace Defense Command.
"The National Guard has been a key player in the NORAD mission for air
sovereignty alert with tankers and fighters and continues to be a large portion
of that force," General Grass said. "Today, the Guard is also very active in the
missile defense world.
"They provide the bulk of our 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Ground-based
Midcourse Defense) based out of Colorado and the 49th Missile Defense Battalion
(GMD) ... out of Fort Greely, Alaska," he said.
The National Guard's 263rd Army Air & Missile Defense Artillery Brigade out of
South Carolina also provides last-resort protection for the National Capitol
Region centered here on Washington.
NORTHCOM was stood up in 2002, in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11 a year
earlier. Its key homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities
missions match key National Guard missions.
"We had a good base of knowledge from NORAD to build on with the Guard," General
Grass said. "We have partnered extremely well. Keeping that close relationship
is extremely important."
The National Guard is among each state's team of first responders to natural or
"The Guard is the governor's first military response and as you have a disaster
occur and more forces are needed, you see the governor calling in his Guard
whenever a disaster exceeds the capability of the (local) first responders,"
General Grass said.
"(NORTHCOM is) there to help back up whenever a governor calls, through the
National Response Framework, through FEMA, through the interagency, and we want
to not be a minute too early or a minute too late.
"We want to be able to partner with the Guard ... to have visibility of what's
happening on the ground early so that if the governor needs assistance and
requests it through the National Response Framework we can provide Title 10
assets," General Grass said.
NORTHCOM, the Guard and other agencies are drawing ever closer, particularly in
the area of no-notice catastrophic events.
"We are working very closely with FEMA and the Guard to look at how we would
respond in a no-notice catastrophic event," General Grass said. "We feel that's
the one area right now we need to expand upon."
NORTHCOM and the Guard have co-hosted annual hurricane preparedness conferences
attended by both the combatant commander and the chief of the National Guard
General Grass said that teamwork now will expand to include more Department of
Homeland Security and FEMA involvement.
"It's a team," he said. "We really focus a lot on unity of effort in support of
In 2011 and 2012, that boosting of preparedness for no-notice catastrophic
events will include a focus on CBRNE response, General Grass said.
"We're going through the process of changing the way we do business in the
homeland," he said.
The states have established response forces in the form of the National Guard's
Civil Support Teams and CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages.
Meanwhile, at the federal level, CBRNE capabilities include servicemembers who
are Title 10 assets that governors can call upon in a catastrophic event, plus
command and control units.
In 2011, a regional layer that is already being stood up will come on line. Two
new regional Homeland Response Forces are in training.
HRFs are battalion-level National Guard units with lifesaving and
decontamination capabilities and security and command and control elements.
General Grass said the first two HRFs will have their training confirmation
completed in 2011 and eight more will stand up in 2012.
"(HRFs) will be a regional capability, which works very closely with the FEMA
regions, but they'll be owned by the governors," General Grass explained. "We're
now pushing down capability to the regional level."
Where the traditional CST and CERFP response is inside a state, the HRFs will be
regional, with one stationed in each of the nation's 10 FEMA regions.
"The new Homeland Response Forces came out of the (Quadrennial Defense Review)
and (a) resource management decision, and the intent was to push more lifesaving
capability early in the response to a CBRNE disaster," he said.
Training also will be standardized for active, Guard and Reserve elements of all
the nation's CBRNE response capabilities, he said.
NORTHCOM includes liaison officers from about 60 government agencies. Six of the
command's general officers, including General Grass, are drawn from the reserve
"From a reserve component perspective, NORTHCOM is the one place where you can
bring senior leaders together and give them an opportunity to work the
interagency process, the whole-of-government and the whole-of-U.S.-military and
grow as a team," General Grass said.
"That coupled with our active counterparts from all services, including the U.S.
Coast Guard, really creates a great mix and a place to grow leaders that
understand how to do business for the homeland in the future, not only from (the
Defense Department), but also the interagency.
"We'll grow leaders that understand Mission One, which is defending the
homeland," the general said.
Article and photo by Army SSgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
Air Force News
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