New federal legislation shows the Bush administration has begun systematically putting in place authorization for the president to federalize the National Guard and use the U.S. military in domestic emergency situations.
A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (H.R. 1585) requires the secretary of defense to prepare and submit to Congress by March 1, 2008, and each subsequent March 1 a plan to coordinate the use of the National Guard and members of the Armed Forces on active duty when responding to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.
Section 1806 of H.R. 1585 requires the secretary of defense to prepare two versions of the plan, one using only members of the National Guard, and one using both members of the National Guard and members of the regular components of the armed services.
The section also requires the secretary of defense’s plan to specify “Protocols for the Department of Defense, the National Guard Bureau, and the governors of the several states to carry out operations in coordination with each other and to ensure that governors and local communities are properly informed and remain in control in their respective states and communities.”
WND currently is running a six-part series on NORAD-USNORTHCOM, reporting on exercise Vigilant Shield 2008 and observations WND made on site at Peterson Air Force base during the Joint Interagency Coordination Group command center operations during a real-time national training exercise.
In that series, WND reported that USNORTHCOM was created following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to be a military combatant command charged with protecting the homeland security of the mainland United States.
WND observed that the governors in Arizona and Oregon remained in control of the military responses during game-playing when “Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDDs)” were detonated at Sky Harbor in Phoenix and on the Steel Bridge in Portland as part of the Vigilant Shield 08 exercise scenario.
USNORTHCOM also worked under civilian direction when assisting California in the response to the recent outbreak of wildfires in Southern California.
According to a report posted on the USNORTHCOM website, “USNORTHCOM coordinated the use of three military aircraft to gather still images and infrared and full-motion video that fire ground commanders used to plan firefighting operations.”
The USNORTHCOM report noted “California officials called directly to the aircraft crews and told them exactly what areas to map and what imagery to send to planners on the ground.”
The report further stressed that USNORTHCOM was able to respond to requests from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection within hours, compared to the week a civilian contractor required to provide the needed aerial photography.
USNORTHCOM also hosted an emergency database warehouse for the state of California, where all the gathered imagery was stored so it could be easily available to the participants in the firefighting operation.
The newly prepared National Response Framework currently posted on the Department of Homeland Security website states the states are sovereign entities such that “the Governor has the primary responsibility for the public safety and welfare of residents.”
The National Response Framework also specifies, “If a state anticipates that its resources may become overwhelmed, each governor can request assistance from the Federal Government or from other states through mutual aid and assistance agreements such as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.”
The National Response Framework says the federal government’s involvement is anticipated only when an incident exceeds state or local resources.
Under that outline, the federal government is a first responder only when incidents involve primary federal jurisdiction or authorities, for instance, on a military base or other federal facility.
Still, WND has reported National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (HSPD-20), signed in May, allow the president to declare a national emergency and take over the management of all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments and agencies.
WND also has reported Section 1076 of the John Warner Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007 grants the president the right to commandeer federal troops or state National Guard to use them domestically.
The language of Section 1076 appears to nullify the Posse Comitatus Act, in that the language allows the president to federalize the National Guard or use the U.S. military in a wide range of emergencies, including natural disasters, epidemics, or other public health emergencies, terrorist attacks, insurrections, or domestic violence, including conspiracies to commit domestic violence.
Critics are concerned that when legal infrastructure for the president to involve the military in a domestic emergency situation, or to federalize the National Guard, is in place, a president intent on a power grab could declare a national emergency under NSPD-51 or HSPD-20, and impose federal martial law, by-passing civilian control.
In an exclusive interview with NORAD-USNORTHCOM commander, Gen. Gene Renuart, separately published in WND today, WND posed these questions.
Renuart responded by emphasizing the importance of respecting the U.S. Constitution, including civilian control of the military.
He expressed caution that the military and USNORTHCOM in particular should be careful not to engage in legal or political questions involving presidential directives such as NSPD-51 and HSPD-20.
Renuart was also clear to affirm that, “Our involvement at USNORTHCOM would be at the specific direction of the secretary of defense, on orders from the president.”
The answer implied that USNORTHCOM would respond to a direct order from the secretary of defense, on orders from the president, to become involved in a domestic emergency situation, without attempting to resolve thorny questions of civilian control that a president in a power grab might attempt to obviate.
WND observed nothing in the operation of NORAD-USNORTHCOM in Vigilant Shield 08 which would substantiate a charge that the Bush administration is preparing to utilize the military in domestic situations to supersede civilian control in a domestic emergency.
Yet, provisions such as Section 1806 of H.R. 1585 emphasize again the Bush administration determination to establish new ground in articulating a primary role for a federalized National Guard or the U.S. military in domestic emergency situations.
As was the case with NSPD-51 and HSPD-20, emergency situations are given a very inclusive definition in Section 1806 of H.R. 1585.
That language defines emergency national planning scenarios to include: “Nuclear detonation, biological attack, biological disease outbreak/pandemic flu, the plague, chemical attack-blister agent, chemical attack-toxic industrial chemicals, chemical attack-nerve agent, chemical attack-chlorine tank explosion, major hurricane, major earthquake, radiological attack – radiological dispersal device, explosives attack – bombing using improvised explosive device, biological attack-food contamination, biological attack – foreign animal disease and cyber attack,” or “any other hazards identified in a national planning scenario developed by the Homeland Security Council.”
On May 17, H.R. 1585 was passed in the House by 397-27, and it passed the Senate 92-5 on Oct. 1, 2007. The conference bill has not yet gone to President Bush for signature.
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