Information Papers

Defense Support to Civil Authorities: Defense Coordinating Officer/Defense Coordinating Element

What is it?
Each year the Army provides support to civil authorities as directed by the Secretary of Defense. Defense Support of Civil Authorities (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. The Department of Defense (DoD) provides federal military forces, DoD Civilians and 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. DSCA support is generally coordinated through the Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO)/Defense Coordinating Element (DCE). DCO/DCEs serve as DoD first responders to a natural or man-made disaster. The Army maintains a permanently assigned DCO/DCE in each Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region to plan, coordinate, and integrate DSCA with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies. Each DCO/DCE has a permanent staff of seven personnel with planning and operations expertise. The DCO, as the Joint Force Commander, assumes operational or tactical control of all assigned Title 10 forces and DoD resources in the mission area.

What has the Army done?
Significant DSCA events by numbered region include the following:

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army will continue providing support to civil authorities through U.S. Army North when requested. In the future, the Army will identify ways to streamline support provided to civil authorities under standing rules and regulations established by the DoD. Providing timely and appropriate response to an incident remains one of the Army’s key operational concepts. The DCO/DCEs will continue to provide support as the Army’s Service component command to the U.S. Army Northern Command.

Why is this important to the Army?
The Army’s DSCA support contributes to relief efforts in the case of President-declared disasters. Supporting civil authorities enhances working relationships and mutual support between the Army and tribal, local, state, and federal agencies. The DCO/DCE is the key Army element coordinating DoD support to, and liaison with, these agencies. The Army continues to lend necessary assistance to civil authorities when requested by the DoD. The Army will remain DoD’s premiere land-based homeland defense response force. It stands ready to provide teams of highly skilled professionals, integrated and interoperable with federal, state, tribal, and local partners, for any and all actions relevant to America’s security and civil support challenges in the 21st century.