Domestic Operations Workshop
Christine Wormuth, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, addresses attendees of the National Guard Bureau's Domestic Operations Workshop, March 23. Wormuth spoke on changes to the structure of CBRNE response forces and the Guard's role in the new organization of forces.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Army News Service, March 24, 2010) -- The National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High Yield Explosives, or CBRNE, response capabilities will undergo a reorganization to allow better continuity of response to an incident and an easier transition between state and federal command and control elements, a senior DOD official said yesterday.

"We did a lot of work to ensure that the force planning construct represents the kinds of demands we may face in terms of domestic operations," said Christine Wormuth, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, while addressing attendees here at the National Guard Bureau's Domestic Operations Workshop. "We spent a lot of time looking at what kind of work does the department need to do in terms of thinking through prevention issues."

The changes ahead, which came about as a result of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, include a reworking of the organization of the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF.

"The first major change that we made is the decision to essentially go from a three CCMRF plan to a single CCMRF plan with other complimentary pieces," she said.

With the new plan, said Wormuth, the CCMRF will be a larger organization and will have a quicker response time.

Rather than responding to an incident within 96 hours of notification, the restructured unit will be able to respond within 24 hours of notification with up to 2,000 troops and an additional 3,000 within 48 hours.

"That's going to be a big improvement, and we will also be restructuring some of the capabilities inside that organization to put a lot more emphasis on lifesaving capabilities," she said.

The remaining two CCMRFs will be reorganized largely into command and control elements, said Wormuth.

"One of the important requirements that we identified, and that we previously identified, frankly, was the need to be able to respond to multiple, simultaneous events," she said. "We felt strongly that we needed to have a federal ability to command and control multiple, simultaneous events."

While the CCMRF will largely be made up of active-duty forces, a new response force will contain Guardmembers.

"Instead of doing a second and third CCMRF, we are now going to build, from within existing National Guard end strength, 10 Homeland Response Forces," said Wormuth. "There will be one of these HRFs in each of the FEMA regions, and they will be organizations of about 560 personnel oriented and built around a core of CBERNE capabilities, much like what we see in today's CERF-Ps (CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages), augmented with a pretty substantial command and control capability as well as a pretty substantial security capability."

The HRFs will largely respond at the call of the governors of affected states should an incident occur, said Wormuth.

"We felt it was important to recognize the political reality that nine times out of 10 an event is going to be controlled at the state level by the governor, and as a result, we really needed to rebalance our DoD forces to reflect that reality and be able to work in any number of those scenarios," she said.

The HRFs also are planned to have a dual role, said Wormuth.

"Under this new CBRNE consequence management enterprise, you can envision that HRFs might respond to some incidents and work for the governors in state active duty or Title 32 status for some events that are more manageable in size," she said. "For larger events, you can envision two chains of command where you have the HRFs, and others being employed by the governor, working alongside Title 10 forces that are being employed by (Northern Command)."

The HRFs could also be federalized.

"In the most extreme case, and again I think the bar for this is very, very high, the president could choose to federalize all of the forces and have them under a single chain of command reporting to NORTHCOM," said Wormuth.

The HRFs are also designed to foster a dialogue among regional first responders and other agencies.

"We would like to see them play a very important role at the regional level in terms of helping develop and build regional plans and working with the state emergency managers," she said. "We'd like to see the HRFs, that command and control element inside of the HRFs, really build that connective tissue at the regional level."

The benefit to that, said Wormuth, is that with regionally dispersed elements it means a quicker response time to an incident.

"The HRFs, like the CERF-Ps, will be designed to deploy to an incident within six to 12 hours of being requested by the governors," she said. "And, you could see situations in larger events where multiple HRFs from other regions would fall in on an incident in a particular region."

But one of the questions currently being worked through, said Wormuth, is whether or not the HRFs will be geared strictly to CBRNE events or should they be used to respond to other incidents.

"Do the HRFs have to be focused only on CBERNE events or could they be used for major natural disasters like a major earthquake in California'" she said. "And if they are going to be available for some natural disasters, how are we going to ensure that they are used prudently'"

All that is currently being reviewed, while plans are underway to implement HRFs into the force structure, said Wormuth.

"NORTHCOM is leading the effort to develop the detailed implementation plan working very closely with the National Guard Bureau, who is in turn working with the individual states," she said. "It's a team effort, but we will be working on that detailed implementation plan from now and going through the summer."

(Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16