Balancing the DOD's Approach to Immediate Domestic Disaster Response
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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Historically, the military has been used as a primary resource to provide assistance and support in the aftermath of domestic disasters. Over the years, initiatives to improve the federal governments preparedness to respond to domestic incidents have resulted in varying initiatives of varying levels of success. However, many still believe the federal government and the U.S. military is still not adequately prepared to respond effectively and immediately to an out-of-the-ordinary catastrophic disaster. Today, the U.S. militarys preparedness for catastrophic incidents has been hampered by several issues. First, civil support has traditionally been considered a secondary mission set of the Department of Defense DoD. Secondly, the primary attention and stress caused by combat operations over the past decade have limited investment and attention to domestic missions. Lastly, the DoD has focused more on preparing the National Guard for domestic contingencies than its federal forces. As a result, the DoD has still not organized, trained, or equipped its federal forces sufficiently to mitigate the effects of catastrophic disasters in a rapid and integrated manner. This paper examines enduring problems faced by the federal government and the DoD in dealing with large-scale disasters and highlights several flaws in DoDs current priorities and mechanisms for ensuring immediate disaster relief specifically, the initial hours and days following a catastrophic disaster that immediately overwhelms local and state responders and resources. One of the principle mechanisms for providing rapid federal assistance, the DoDs Immediate Response Authority IRA, requires improved guidance, oversight, and other initiatives discussed in this paper to better balance the DoDs total force approach to saving lives and mitigating the effects of domestic disasters.