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Reply #128: More from does what...the hieararchy [View All]

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Gloria Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-03-05 10:39 PM
Response to Reply #127
128. More from does what...the hieararchy
Ironically, it was not the prospect of natural disasters that led to the creation of Northern Command in 2002, along with the Homeland Security Department. It was the threat of future terrorist attacks like those of September 11, 2001, or even worse, that prompted the U.S. military to assume a more prominent domestic role than ever before in its modern history. Northern Command is the physical embodiment of that larger military presence on the American scene.

As Hurricane Katrina and the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans illustrate, however, some natural disasters can wreak havoc on a scale that quickly overwhelms local and state authorities. In such civil emergencies, the U.S. military has traditionally been asked to contribute its unique capabilities in terms of command-and-control, communications, air- and sealift, search-and-rescue, emergency medical response, and sheer manpower. Since the establishment of Northern Command, however, the Pentagon no longer offers such assistance ad hoc, or as an afterthought to the military's primary mission of fighting wars. As one of the Pentagon's joint, unified commands headed by a four-star flag officer, Northern Command has meticulously planned for homeland-defense and disaster-relief missions and held exercises. In July 2004, for instance, the command participated in a training exercise that simulated how to respond to a Category 3 hurricane striking New Orleans and producing a storm surge that crested the city's protective levees and killed thousands.

During a crisis, often the first question asked of NorthCom, a relatively new command, is the most fundamental and difficult of them all. "The first question we have to ask and answer, along with all the agencies we work with, is, Who is in charge?" said Navy Capt. Brad Johanson, chief of NorthCom's Joint Operations Center. If it's a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is the lead agency, with Northern Command in support. In a wildfire, the Agriculture Department will typically take the lead, through its National Interagency Fire Center. In the case of a terrorist infiltration where military assets are helping to monitor the situation, the FBI will usually be in charge.

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