By Staff Sgt. Corey BaltosJanuary 15, 2013
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - More than 50 senior government and military officials from throughout the nation attended the U.S. Army North hosted Department of Homeland Security / Department of Defense 2014 Concept of Support Workshop at the Fort Sam Houston ROC drill facility Jan. 9 and 10.
The event focused on the nation's federal law enforcement agencies' future homeland security support requirements. Among the key topics addressed by the representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Army North, Joint Task Force - North, National Guard Bureau, and the National Guard from Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas, was the continuing need for the agencies to work jointly in their efforts to secure the nation's borders and safeguard our citizens.
Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and senior commander of Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, opened the workshop and spoke of the importance of training together to overcome the potential of lack of communications that, at times, can exist between government agencies.
"We, the Army, need to do more training operations on the border - in support of other government agencies - to lessen the threat," he said.
While the Department of Homeland Security has the lead for securing America's borders, the Department of Defense also plays a key role by supporting the agency's efforts.
"DHS has the requirement to secure the borders," said Mark Werner, who serves with Counter Narcotic Threat Operations, U.S. Northern Command. "The Department of Defense has the unique capability to meet that need, through training, to enhance homeland security."
JTF-North, the U.S. Northern Command element under the operational control of Army North, has been providing military-unique support assets and capabilities to law enforcement since 1989. JTF-North's military support of homeland security operations assist federal law enforcement agencies' ability to interdict suspected transnational criminal organizations' activities.
The biggest threats to the nation's security, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, comes not only through the northern and southern borders but also from the maritime domain, where terrorists and traffickers attempt to smuggle narcotics, people and weapons into the United States.
"Threat brings us here," said Brig. Gen. Mark Stammer, the commanding general of JTF-North. "There are many different agencies working to secure our borders, but the threat lies between those jurisdictions. Events like this allow us to come together and merge our separate authorities into a single effort to better combat the threat."
JTF-North provides support within the entire U.S. Northern Command area of responsibility, which encompasses the entire North American continent, to include the air, land and sea approaches. Robert King, who serves with Customs and Border Protection, said he agreed with Stammer.
"A few years ago, it was just the Customs and Border Protection protecting our borders," said Stammer. "Now, there is more coordination in our efforts to meet our homeland security goals."
The improved coordination has proven valuable for those involved.
"The Department of Defense support operations have proven to be mutually beneficial to the federal agencies and the military - law enforcement gains much needed support and the military nets training benefits that are directly related to their duties," said Col. Tim Keeports, director, plans and policy, JTF-North.
Michael Donovan, campaign plans, Northern Command, said he credits workshops such as this for the increase in coordination between government agencies.
"These workshops bring together DHS, DoD, Title 10 and Title 32 assets to look at the problem holistically," he said. "Before, information would be shared piecemeal. This is a better way to solve the problem."
While many people think of our border with Mexico when they hear the phrase "border protection," workshop members discussed the importance of protecting all of the nation's borders.
"As we gain success on our southwest border, we must look at other areas for potential displacement," said King. "It is imperative that we maintain and build flexibility and agility in our planning and response."
Throughout the workshop, the gathered leaders agreed that the key to future success is communication and coordination.