WASHINGTON — Americans were surprised during the past week to learn
the National Guard and the U.S. Army are making plans to provide
“assistance” to civilian authorities in the event of a systemic meltdown of
basic services as a result of Y2K-induced problems.

Many may be equally surprised to learn that the U.S. Naval Reserve will also be expected to provide assistance in the event of a domestic national emergency.

Those provisions, which provide for military assistance to civilian authorities during national emergencies, are outlined in USC Title 42, Chapter 68 (Public Health and Welfare) and apply universally to the armed forces at the president’s discretion. Like the National Guard and elements of the Army, however, the Naval Reserve will have key designated liaison officers working in conjunction with various Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel in affected regions of the country.

Specifically they are called “Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers”
(NEPLO), and they were developed under a “Naval Reserve program designed to provide active duty commanders who serve as Regional Planning Agents (RPA) with trained personnel to assist the RPA in providing support to civilian authorities,” according to Navy literature.

“Each NEPLO is required to receive specialized training conducted by the
United States Forces Command (FORSCOM) at the FEMA Special Facility in
Berryville, VA,” according to a Naval Reserve Internet site. “This
training provides the NEPLO with a working knowledge of the various federal legal provisions dealing with the circumstances under which a military commander may provide assistance to civilian authorities as well as an understanding of the federal civilian and military organizations that would be involved in the event of a disaster or civil disturbance.”

NEPLO officers are assigned to effected state adjutants general offices —
the head offices of each state’s National Guard — during times of crisis
and are also responsible for maintaining and updating databases of
available military equipment and resources that could be used during disaster relief operations.

The databases are supposed to be “updated regularly” and they “contain
information on types of equipment located at every Navy installation which
may be useful in the event of a civil disaster or disturbance.”

Emphasizing their importance, regulations stipulate that Naval Reserve
officers assigned to the NEPLO program be available for immediate recall
to active duty should the need arise to deal with civil unrest or disaster.

The Navy — as well as all other military branches associated with providing
disaster assistance to civilian authority — has been granted its liaison
powers under the Robert T. Stafford Act. That act stipulates, in subsection
5221 of Title 42, Chapter 68, that “it is the intent of the Congress, by
this chapter, to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by
the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their
responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which result
from “disasters.”

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