Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams

What is it? The Weapons of Mass Destruction - Civil Support Team (WMD-CST) is a high-priority, rapid response unit supporting civil authorities and specifically the local incident commander in responding to a WMD event/incident. This unit is the lead element of the Department of Defense (DoD) response to a WMD attack. It consists of six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical, and survey. The WMD CST mission is to support civil authorities at a domestic CBRNE incident site by identifying CBRNE agents/substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with appropriate requests for state support to facilitate additional resources.

This unit is made up of 22 highly-skilled Army and Air National Guard Active Guard Reserve (AGR) personnel in 14 military occupational skills (57 AF Specialty codes). The unit is Federally resourced, trained, equipped, and sustained. The WMD CST is normally under state control and may be employed as a state asset without DoD authorization. The Adjutant General either employs the CST to support the State response under the direction of the Governor or to support another State's response under a supported Governor. CSTs are equipped with a mobile analytical laboratory capable of providing identification of chemical or biological materials and also a sophisticated communications suite which provides reachback communications with local, state, and Federal agencies. The WMD-CST is designed to support local Incident Commanders and local emergency responders not to replace either the Incident Command System (ICS) or functions normally performed by the emergency first responder community.

What has the Army done? In 2005, the final 11 CSTs were established bringing the total to 55 units nationwide (California has two). Upon completion of a rigorous 24 month certification program, these units along with the other 44 operational CSTs will provide every state and territory the capability of rapidly assisting civil authorities responding to an actual or suspected WMD incident.

CSTs have been used to support operations such as recovery at the World Trade Center after
9-11, Space Shuttle Columbia recovery operations, and numerous National Special Security Events (i.e., RNC, DNC, G8 Summit, Winter Olympics, and other major sporting venues). Most recently, CSTs were employed as part of the National Guard response to Hurricane Katrina in both Louisiana and Mississippi. Although Katrina did not involve a WMD event, the devastation presented an opportunity to utilize the unique CST skills and operational capabilities to assist in the reestablishment of the local incident command network and to save and protect the lives of local residents.

What efforts does the Army plan to continue in the future? The CST program is on a continuous assessment cycle to evaluate and upgrade equipment, personnel, training, tactics, techniques, and doctrine. The unit must sustain leading edge technology and skill sets in order to maintain superiority over potential enemy threats. In the future, with the support of Congress, CSTs may deploy outside of the U.S. in support of first responder missions as well as COCOM Commander Theater requirements. They must be able to mitigate the consequences of any catastrophic event, whether natural or man-made, and be experts in potential CBRNE effects and countermeasures.

Why is this important to the Army? CSTs are the lead element of the National Guard response force and a key element of the Department of Defense's overall CBRNE program strategy to support civil authorities, with follow-on forces, in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction or the effects of natural disasters in the United States.