Information Papers

ARNG 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 that will support civil authorities, specifically the local incident commander, in response 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: 1) command, 2) operations, 3) communications, 4) administration/logistics, 5) medical, and 6) survey. The WMD-CST mission is to support civil authorities at a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or 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 additional resources. In the FY07 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress expanded CST operations to include response to intentional or unintentional release of nuclear, biological, radiological, toxic or poisonous chemical materials; or a natural or man-made disaster in the United States that results in, or could result in, catastrophic loss of life or property.

Each WMD-CST has a total of 22 highly skilled Army and Air National Guard Active Guard Reserve personnel assigned from 14 military occupational skills (or 57 Air Force specialty career fields). The unit is federally resourced, trained, equipped, and sustained. By law, the WMD-CST operates in T32 status under state control and will 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 provide support to another state's response under a supported Governor. WMD-CSTs are equipped with a mobile analytical laboratory capable of providing identification of chemical, biological, or radiological materials and a sophisticated communications suite that provides reach-back communications with local, state, tribal, 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 or the emergency first responder community.

What has the Army done?
Currently, 55 WMD-CSTs have been established, one in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia, with two in California. Of the 55 CSTs, 52 are certified by the Secretary of Defense to Congress as operationally ready to accomplish their designated mission. Three CSTs continue completion of a rigorous individual- and unit-training regimen culminating in an external evaluation administered by Army Northern Command.

In FY07, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, in coordination with NGB, conducted a WMD-CST limited objective experiment to validate the WMD-CST TDA and determine capability gaps in meeting and sustaining unit doctrinal and mission requirements. Results will be used to recommend changes to doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities within Army processes.

CSTs have been used to support operations such as cleanup at the World Trade Center after 9/11, recovery operations after the loss of the space shuttle Columbia,, and activities at numerous national special security events (including political conferences, international leader summits, and major sporting venues). The successful deployment and use of WMD-CSTs as part of the National Guard response to Hurricane Katrina in both Louisiana and Mississippi led to the Congressional expansion of the CST mission set. Although Katrina did not involve WMD, 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, as well as to save and protect the lives of local residents.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for 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 United States or worldwide in support of first responder missions, as well as Combatant 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?
WMD-CSTs are the lead element of the National Guard homeland defense and consequence management response forces. As key elements of the DoD's overall CBRNE program, they provide the first “military assessment” of the incident, and they can aid in the planning for follow-on DoD support to civil authorities in the event such support is required.