Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Governors Object to Pentagon Disaster Proposal

Aug. 10, 2009 – 1:37 p.m.

The National Governors Association opposes a Defense Department proposal to expand the military’s authority to respond to domestic disasters.

In a letter Friday to Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs, the governors said the proposal could lead to confusion over who’s in charge during domestic emergencies and unnecessarily duplicate response efforts.

“We are concerned that the legislative proposal you discuss in your letter would invite confusion on critical command and control issues, complicate interagency planning, establish stove-piped response efforts, and interfere with governors’ constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of their citizens,” Govs. Jim Douglas , R-Vt., and Joe Manchin III , D-W.Va., wrote on behalf of the group.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment on the letter.

In their letter, the governors elaborate on their concerns over expanding the Pentagon’s independent authority to operate military forces in domestic incidents.

To carry out homeland defense and homeland security responsibilities, governors have to retain control over the domestic use of their National Guard and active and reserve military operating in their states, the letter said.

One of the key lessons of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita was the need for clear chains of command, the governors wrote.

“Without assigning a governor tactical control of [military] forces assisting in a response, and without the use of a dual-hatted National Guard commander to ensure coordination between [National Guard] and [federal] forces, strong potential exists for confusion in mission, execution and the dilution of governors’ control over situations with which they are more familiar and better capable of handing than a federal military commander,” they wrote.

A similar proposal was contained in the House’s version of the fiscal 2009 Defense authorization legislation but was removed in conference because of governors’ concerns, the letter said.

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