May 14, 2012
Seven hundred National Guard members from the Northeast and Caribbean will be in central New York this week for disaster preparedness training. They will train for certification as a regional disaster response force capable of assisting responders following a chemical, biological, nuclear or high-explosive incident, according to the Associated Press.
They are part of the National Guard Homeland Response Force (HRF) controlled by the Department of Defense. There are currently ten HRF units hosted by one state in each FEMA region, according to the Pentagon.
In February, it was reported that FEMA plans to move National Guard troops from one FEMA district to another during natural disasters and other emergencies. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate made the announcement after Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 8 on March 30, 2011.
“PPD-8 reflects the Obama Administration’s belief that the whole community – including all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens – plays a key role in preparedness efforts,” the National Guard website reported.
PPD-8 allows FEMA to “facilitate an integrated, all-of-nation/whole community, capabilities-based approach to preparedness” that involves “federal partners, state, local and tribal leaders, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, faith based and community organizations ─ and most importantly the general public” in the effort, according to the FEMA website.
“HRFs will increase the focus of DoD Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High explosive (CBRNE) Consequence Management Response forces on life-saving objectives and increase operational flexibility while recognizing the primary role that the governors play in controlling the response to CBRNE incidents that occur in their states,” a DoD PDF explains.
In 2008, it was announced that Northcom 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry, at the time recently home from deployment in Iraq, would be assigned within the United States to “deal with catastrophes in the U.S., including terrorist attacks and natural disasters,” CNN reported on October 3, 2008.
Based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, the Army said the combat unit would concentrate “primarily on logistics and support for local police and rescue personnel,” which is a direct violation of the Posse Comtatus Act forbidding collaboration between the U.S. military and domestic law enforcement.
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 strictly forbids federal troops from being deployed on American soil for the purpose of law enforcement. The one exception is provided by the Insurrection Act of 1807, which lets the president use the military only for the purpose of preventing rebellions.
CNN reported that the plan drew criticism after it was reported that the combat unit had trained with equipment “generally used in law enforcement, including beanbag bullets, Tasers, spike strips and roadblocks… That kind of training seems a bit out of line for the unit’s designated role as Northern Command’s CCMRF (Sea Smurf), or CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force.”
On September 18, 2008, the Army Times reported that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team had trained how to use “nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them” in the United States and also how to set-up “hasty” roadblocks with “spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic.”
In 2010, Wikileaks released nearly 400,000 U.S. Army documents on the Iraq War. A number of the documents describe how U.S. troops killed approximately 700 civilians for coming too close to checkpoints, including pregnant women and the mentally ill. At least a half-dozen incidents involved Iraqi men transporting pregnant family members to hospitals.
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team spent 35 months in a combat role in Iraq.
The National Guard training in New York represents a further blurring of important lines of distinction between the federal government, the Pentagon, state and local government, corporate entities, “and most importantly the general public.”
Since the National Defense Act (or Militia Act) of 1903, the federal government has worked tirelessly to absorb the National Guard and take control of it away from the states. In 2007, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act moved to remove state governors as sole commanders in chief of their state’s National Guard during emergencies within the state, a move that angered a number of state governors.