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Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) - Defense Coordinating Officer

What is it?
Each year, the Army provides support to civil authorities as directed by the Secretary of Defense (SecDef). The 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 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. The DSCA support is generally coordinated through the Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO)/Defense Coordinating Element (DCE). The 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 X forces and DoD resources in the mission area.

What has the Army done?
The Army has placed a principle DoD representative co-located with the FEMA regional director. The DoD representative is responsible for planning, coordinating, and integrating DoD's homeland defense and DSCA support with local, tribal, state, and federal agencies throughout the region. They maintain a high state of readiness within the DCE by ensuring that all assigned personnel are trained and prepared to deploy in response to both natural and man-made disasters. They also direct operational activities and evaluate the performance of appropriate regional and Army Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers (EPLO's) and integrates additional multi-service EPLO's into operations. The representative develops and promotes critical relationships with military, civil, and interagency organizations.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • DoD representative in the disaster area.
  • Link between lead federal agency representative and DoD.
  • Liaison to state, local and other federal agencies.
  • Coordinates requirements with emergency operations center(s).
  • Validates action request form and accepts mission assignments (MA) from the federal coordinating officer.
  • Assists with receiving, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) of units/personnel.
  • Determines best military resource(s) to meet MA requirements and forwards a recommended force with MA through the combatant commander, the Joint staff, and ultimately to the SecDef.
  • Provides link to base support installation for facility support
  • Coordinates administrative and logistical support of deployed military forces. Controls DoD resources in the disaster area operational control (OPCON) of forces for MA, and tactical control (TACON) for non-MA forces.
  • Maintains accounting records for reimbursement.

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.

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