The Department of Defense expects that the National Guard will provide the preponderance of its support to homeland security. Lessons learned from the opening phase of the war on global terrorism also leave no question but that the National Guard needs to be a large, capable, flexible force, prepared to serve at home and overseas. Consensus ends there. The defense establishment continues to debate the scope of the changes required to make the National Guard better prepared to respond to 21st century realities. A strategic assessment of this challenge concludes that more robust homeland security forces are necessary to respond to emerging threats, while finding that so far current initiatives have not provided the types of capabilities needed to prevail in a new kind of protracted war.
Greater capacity to defend against homeland security threats is needed in areas which include: countering maritime and low-air attacks; combating anti-access strategies; protecting against civilian infrastructure attacks; and responding to catastrophic terrorism that could kill tens of thousands. Civilian response and counterterrorism assets will not be adequate to respond to these dangers. A more robust National Guard homeland security capability is required.
Several ongoing National Guard programs such as reorganizing commands as joint headquarters; restructuring units; expanding the number of civil support teams; upgrading GuardNet, a nationwide communications, information and training system; and fielding missile defenses will provide important niche capabilities for supporting homeland security tasks. They are, however, individual initiatives that alone won’t ensure that the Guard has the right set of core competencies to support homeland security.
While the Defense Department has identified the key post-Cold War challenges it faces in transforming the Guard, it still requires a more holistic and comprehensive approach to domestic security. U.S. homeland security strategy needs to provide more specific guidance. In addition, the National Guard requires units specifically organized to accomplish domestic missions, including forces better prepared to respond to catastrophic terrorism, protect critical infrastructure and provide maritime defense. A common training and information architecture with the Department of Homeland Security should also be created. Finally, the Defense Department should establish new acquisition programs specifically geared to domestic missions.
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