The definition of the word resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” As a nation, it is imperative that we are resilient, especially in the face of pandemics, natural disasters, and other crises that can strike suddenly and leave a large impact. National resilience is also vital to a strong national defense and our ability to protect the homeland.
At this year’s Association of the United States Army meeting, the Homeland Security Seminar discussed the topic of “Enhancing National Resilience.” The seminar, held Oct. 12, 2021, had several panel speakers and participants from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities.
The panel brought together these federal partners to spark a conversation on how each organization is focused on national resilience through their response efforts to natural disasters and defense support of civil authorities.
“Resilience and preparedness are two cornerstones of what we need to be a stronger country,” said John K. Tien, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who provided remarks during the panel. “Our ability to execute our mission depends in large part on collaboration with the Department of Defense, with other agencies, with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, with communities themselves. These partnerships are the foundation of our resilience and our security as a nation.”
Tien was not the only one who spoke on the importance of joint government and interagency collaboration, especially in times of national need.
Lt. Gen. A. C. Roper, the deputy commanding general of U.S. Northern Command, highlighted the fact that USNORTHCOM, the joint service combatant command for the United States, was created in a time of great need to help national resilience after September 11, 2001. He also highlighted how Northern Command has had to adapt since its inception to various natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and COVID-19.
“Resiliency needs to be a whole-of-nation discussion,” Roper said. “Our resiliency can either motivate conflict or it can deter it. A resilient nation helps de-escalate in crisis, just as an ill-prepared nation emboldens attack.”
He continued to say that through DSCA missions, as federal and interagency partners work together to fight and rebuild after a natural disaster, it shows that we as a nation are resilient. By rapidly recovering from each situation, we are showing how resilient we are as a nation and therefore deterring our adversaries, which fortifies homeland defense.
Lt. Gen. John R. Evans, Jr., the commanding general for U.S. Army North and NORTHCOM’s Joint Force Land Component Command, echoed Roper by stating that while homeland defense is the number one priority, DSCA is the most common activity the command assists with.
He went on to recount how Army North has assisted with some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history over the last three years, including wildland firefighting and hurricane response. Evans also talked about the impact of Operation Allies Welcome, the Southwest Border mission, and especially COVID-19 on the nation.
“Prior to COVID-19, most natural disasters involved only one or two of FEMAs ten regions,” Evans said during the panel remarks. “Our national response to the COVID pandemic required ARNORTH to activate and deploy our Defense Coordinating Elements from all ten FEMA regions nearly simultaneously for the first time in history.”
Each panelist also spoke on the process of requesting support at the federal level during times of national disasters.
Outside of the speakers, the three panelists included Ms. Heather C. King, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities, Mr. Joel Doolin, the Director for the Office of National Assessment and Integration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, the Director of the Army National Guard.
Maj. Gen. Robert Whittle, the deputy commanding general for U.S. Army North, facilitated the panel and the question and answer session at the end.
When asked what one of the biggest challenges is for enhancing resilience, a majority of the panelists mentioned information and cybersecurity issues, to include combatting misinformation. They also echoed the importance of federal organizations working together with state and local agencies to ensure coordination at all levels.
“Our DSCA mission is homeland defense,” Roper said. “Building national resiliency is homeland defense. Through DSCA, we are helping our fellow Americans in a time of crisis and by doing so, we are actually demonstrating our resiliency and that is homeland defense.”