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National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs)

What is it?
The WMD-CST is a high-priority, rapid response unit that supports civil authorities- specifically the local incident commander- in responding to a WMD event or incident. This unit is the lead element of the Department of Defense (DoD) response to a WMD attack. The WMD-CST consists of six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical, and survey. The teams provide support to civil authorities at a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives (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. Congress expanded the law governing WMD-CST operations to include response to intentional and unintentional release of nuclear, biological, radiological, toxic/poisonous chemical materials or natural or man-made disasters in the United States that result in or could result in catastrophic loss of life or property.

This unit is made up of 22 highly-skilled Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Soldiers and Airmen from the Army and Air National Guard. Each unit is federally resourced, trained, equipped, and sustained. By law, each WMD-CST operates under Title 32 AGR status, and is under the control of a governor who can, without DoD approval, use them as an asset. 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. The CSTs are equipped with a mobile analytical laboratory capable of providing identification of chemical, biological, or radiological materials and a sophisticated communications suite which provides reach back communications with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies.

What has the Army done?
Currently, Congress has authorized 55 WMD-CSTs. The breakdown is: one in every state, territory, the District of Columbia, and two in California. Congress has also appropriated funding for two additional WMD-CSTs (a second CST for New York and Florida) and OSD (Comptroller) has issued Presidential Budget Directives to establish both in FY10. The Secretary of Defense has certified 53 of the 57 CSTs to Congress as operationally ready to accomplish their designated mission. The Virgin Islands and Guam have completed all requirements and the certification staffing is expected to be completed by June 2009. The organizing, equipping, and training of New York and California's second CSTs are expected to take another 18 to 24 months.

The Army's Training and Doctrine Command, in coordination with the National Guard Bureau, conducted a WMD-CST limited objective experiment to validate the WMD-CST structure and equipment, and to identify capability gaps in meeting and sustaining unit doctrinal and mission requirements. The Army is using the results to recommend future changes to the CST based upon doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities doctrinal model.

To date, CSTs have been used to support operations such as recovery at the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Space Shuttle Columbia recovery operations, and numerous other national events including: the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the G8 Summit, the winter Olympics, the Pentagon 9-11 Dedication Ceremony, and the inauguration of President Obama. Some CSTs were also employed, for the first time, as part of the National Guard response to Hurricane Katrina in both Louisiana and Mississippi. Most recently, WMD-CSTs conducted operations for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The CST program uses a continuous assessment cycle to evaluate and upgrade equipment, personnel, training, tactics, techniques, procedures, and doctrine. The mandate from Congress to the Army is that these units must sustain leading edge technology and skill sets in order to maintain superiority over potential enemy threats. In the future, CSTs may deploy overseas in support of first responder and combatant commander requirements.

Why is this important to the Army?
The WMD-CSTs are the lead element of the National Guard response force and an integral element of the DoD's overall CBRNE program strategy to augment civil authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction or the effects of natural disasters in the United States.

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