Information Papers

Defense Support to Civil Authorities

What is it?
The Army provides support to civil authorities as directed by the Secretary of Defense. Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) is formally defined in the National Response Framework published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DSCA includes activities of all Department of Defense (DoD) components that provide military support to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories and possessions. It does not apply to foreign disasters covered by DoD Directive 5100.46. The focus of DoD support and response is assignment and allocation of DoD resources to support Civilian authorities during civil emergencies arising during peace, war, or transition to war. Federal law restricts use of Title 10 forces to support civil law enforcement. DoD provides federal military forces, DoD Civilians, contract personnel, and DoD agencies and components in response to requests for assistance during domestic incidents. These incidents include terrorist threats or attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

What has the Army done?
Owing to unprecedented requirements for DoD support in the last three years, an order from the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, was published governing routine provisions of DSCA to the DHS. In preparation for the 2008 Hurricane season, Jun. 1–Nov. 30, the Department of the Army continued coordination with Army commands, Army service component commands, and direct reporting units to ensure appropriate response readiness in the event of a federal response to a DSCA mission. Department of the Army Headquarters, in coordination with the Forces Command, Army Materiel Command, Army National Guard (ARNG), U.S. Army Reserve Command, and U.S. Army Pacific Command, developed an equipping plan that supports the Army’s response to a specified DSCA mission and provides assistance during ARNG response to a governor’s request for support.

On Oct. 16, 2006, the Secretary of the Army designated U.S. Army North (USARNORTH) as the Army service component command to the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). USARNORTH exercises administrative control authority and responsibility on behalf of the Secretary of the Army and exercises operational control over Army forces as delegated by the commander, USNORTHCOM, throughout the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility. The Army Campaign Plan addresses capability issues that will allow USARNORTH to rapidly provide robust support to USNORTHCOM with necessary theater enabler organizations.

Defense Coordinating Officers and Defense Coordinating Elements (DCO/Es) serve as DoD first responders to a natural or man-made disaster. The Army maintains a permanently assigned DCO/E in each FEMA region to plan, coordinate, and integrate DSCA with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies. During 2008, a DCO/E representative deployed to the National Interagency Fire Center during wild-land firefighting operations. DCO/E teams deployed to areas throughout the United States to support disaster response and recovery efforts, to include severe weather (including tornados) in Indiana, and Oklahoma; flooding in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas; Wildland Fire Fighting in California, Colorado and North Carolina. Additionally, a DOC/E deployed to New York City to provide command and control of DoD forces in support of the U.N. General Assembly.

Each year, the Army provides military support for various events to enhance security and showcase Army capabilities as a part of DSCA. In 2008, the Army provided support to National Security Special Events and public recognition events, to include the President’s State of the Union Address (Jan.), Super Bowl XLII (Feb. 3), Public Service Recognition Week (May 4-7), the Joint Service Open House (May 16-18), and the United Nations General Assembly (Sept. –Oct.).

The President authorized the Secretary of Defense to provide DoD capabilities, primarily state National Guard, to support the DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Under Operation Jump Start, approximately 1,884 Army National Guardsmen currently assist the U.S. Border Patrol in this crucial homeland defense mission across four Southwest border states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). As of Jun 6, 2008, operational successes supported by the National Guard include aid in more than 176,600 alien apprehensions, the seizure of 316,397 pounds of marijuana and 5,224 pounds of cocaine. Additionally, the National Guard assisted in the rescue of 100 aliens and the seizure of more than $80,698 in currency.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army will continue providing support to civil authorities when requested. Army agencies will continue providing displays and personnel at special events. In the future, the Army will identify ways to streamline support provided to civil authorities under standing rules and regulations established by the DoD. One initiative is producing a yearly standing DSCA execute order, which will cover natural and man-made disasters. The Army has identified organizations to provide support outlined in the order. Providing timely and appropriate response to an incident remains one of the Army’s key operational concepts.

Why is this important to the Army?
Army DSCA contributes to relief efforts supporting President-declared disasters. Supporting civil authorities enhances working relationships and mutual support between the Army and tribal, local, state, and federal agencies. It also contributes to national security. The DoD has a long tradition of supporting civil authorities, while maintaining its primary mission of fighting and winning the nation's wars. The Army will remain the DoD’s premiere land-based homeland defense response force. It stands ready to provide teams of highly skilled professionals with state-of-the-art equipment for integration and collaboration with federal, state, tribal, and local partners—teams competent to meet any and all of America’s security and civil support challenges of the 21st century.