Accession Number:



Jointness Begins at Home - Responding to Domestic Incidents

Descriptive Note:

Journal article

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Floods in the Midwest, hurricanes in Florida, and oil spills along the coast of Rhode Island are recent catastrophic natural phenomena that have made headline news. Each one has involved responses by the Armed Forces, who are increasingly being asked to operate in domestic contingencies. This involves working alongside governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other private groups. With the Cold War over, there is a growing realization that national security is underpinned by more than military strength and is influenced by factors other than warfare. It can suffer when the economy is disrupted, social fabric is strained, or the international environment is threatened. Absent a superpower threat, the Armed Forces have turned to other roles, and with mixed results have participated in peace operations, drug interdiction, and disaster relief. This has sometimes led to activities within our own borders. Yet little attention has been given to the unique roles the military can play in domestic security threats or the demands confronting joint forces in this arena. This article reviews standard joint staff organization and proposes the use of another standard model for managing domestic events the Incident Command System ICS. Developed during the 1970s to coordinate firefighting in California, ICS has been adapted to a wide range of contingencies. ICS is built in modular fashion so that responders can create large or small organizations, and can flex and reorganize during a crisis. A comparison of domestic incidents illustrates the challenges that confront joint forces and the value of ICS in organizing the response. Both events involved oil spills resulting from vessel groundings off the coast of Rhode Island the tank vessel World Prodigy in June 1989 and the tank barge North Cape in January 1996. A Coast Guard officer led each response, but ICS was only used in response to the second oil spill. These case studies are described and compared.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Civil Defense
  • Command, Control and Communications Systems

Distribution Statement: