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On Realigning The Departments Of Defense And Homeland Security

In United States military doctrine seams of vulnerability are boundaries or gaps between forces which represent weaknesses that can be attacked, directly or indirectly. Enemy seams of vulnerability can be attacked and exploited. Conversely, friendly seams of vulnerability are those weaknesses which must be protected from enemy exploitation in order to maintain freedom of action. Seams of vulnerability may be physical, e.g., the boundaries between tactical units on the ground; or they may be conceptual, e.g., conflicting policies, or unaddressed gaps between policies of different agencies. The Preface to the National Response Plan even refers to the elimination of critical seams in relation to domestic incident management and the "prevention of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from terrorism." Regardless of whether they are physical or conceptual seams are vulnerable to exploitation.

The Problem

In the post-9/11 era a strategic seam of vulnerability exists between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. It is alluded to by the 9/11 Commission Report which asks, "Who is responsible for defending us at home? The answer, according to the 9/11 Commission is that, "Our national defense at home is the responsibility, first, of the Department of Defense and, second, of the Department of Homeland Security. They must have clear delineations of responsibility and authority." However, the 9/11 Commission's further recommendation that the Department of Defense should oversee the adequacy of response from military threats, and the Department of Homeland Security should oversee the adequacy of plans to protect critical infrastructure and to respond to threats, does not adequately define the seam of vulnerability, referred to by the Homeland Security Joint Operating Concept as the national challenge, nor does it provide an adequate recommendation on how to protect it from exploitation.

The Department of Defense has the military resources to protect the nation from military threats in the maritime, land, and air domains using Active, Reserve, and National Guard components. It has been given the responsibility to "take action to secure the United States from direct attack and counter, at a safe distance, those who seek to harm the country." However, under the provisions of the Posse Comitatus Act it is precluded under normal circumstances from using federal Title 10 military forces for the purpose of enforcing civil laws. Those military forces which have the authority to enforce civil laws, the Army and Air National Guard, remain under the control of the various state governors in Title 32 status, unless they are mobilized under Federal Title 10 status, at which time they lose their authority to enforce civil laws.

The Department of Homeland Security has the stated responsibility "to mobilize and organize our Nation to secure the homeland from terrorist attacks." With the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard the Department of Homeland Security has no comparable military forces to the Department of Defense. Using the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security has military force which can operate in the maritime domain and can also enforce civil laws on the water under Federal Title 14 status. It does not have access to Army and Air National Guard forces which can provide comparable military and civil law enforcement capabilities in the ground and air domains.

As a result of the different roles assigned the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, the seam of vulnerability between them is conceptual in nature, but it has the potential for actual hostile exploitation. When the functions of the two Departments are considered together neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Homeland Security are prepared individually, or in concert, to address the full spectrum of symmetrical and asymmetrical threats to the United States, ranging from "war" to "crime." In a word, they are not prepared to meet the national challenge.

The Proposal

Transfer the Army and Air National Guard from the Department of Defense to the Department of Homeland Security. Create a four-star position for the Chief, Ground National Guard, and a four-star position for the Chief, Air National Guard to put them on par with the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Create a Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for Homeland Security under the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security would then have military forces in the maritime, land, and air domains. They would parallel the military services of the Department of Defense, except through Title 14 (Coast Guard on the waterways), and Title 32 (National Guard on land and in the air) they could be used in law enforcement roles as well as for military homeland security missions.

This would require a major realignment of both the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The Army and Air National Guard would have to shed their major combat formations in favor of restructuring for homeland security roles. The Department of Defense would need greater access to its Reserve Component to generate the combat power required beyond that of the Active Component. The Department of Homeland Security would focus entirely on homeland security with the Coast Guard, and the Air and Ground National Guard. The Department of Defense would focus entirely on homeland defense against outside attacks of a military nature, and on foreign military campaigns, using only Federal Title 10 forces.

The political and bureaucratic impediments that would prevent transferring the Army and Air National Guard to the Department of Homeland Security are immense. But they are not insurmountable, and elimination of the seam of vulnerability between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security could be accomplished by visionary leaders.

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