Washington Post: War Plans Drafted To Counter Terror Attacks in U.S.


Richard Moore


War Plans Drafted To Counter Terror Attacks in U.S. 
Domestic Effort Is Big Shift for Military 

By Bradley Graham 
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Monday, August 8, 2005; A01 

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The U.S. military has devised its
first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to
terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15
potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several
simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers
who drafted the plans.

The classified plans, developed here at Northern Command
headquarters, outline a variety of possible roles for
quick-reaction forces estimated at as many as 3,000 ground
troops per attack, a number that could easily grow depending
on the extent of the damage and the abilities of civilian
response teams.

The possible scenarios range from "low end," relatively modest
crowd-control missions to "high-end," full-scale disaster
management after catastrophic attacks such as the release of a
deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological
device, several officers said.

Some of the worst-case scenarios involve three attacks at the
same time, in keeping with a Pentagon directive earlier this
year ordering Northcom, as the command is called, to plan for
multiple simultaneous attacks.

The war plans represent a historic shift for the Pentagon,
which has been reluctant to become involved in domestic
operations and is legally constrained from engaging in law
enforcement. Indeed, defense officials continue to stress that
they intend for the troops to play largely a supporting role
in homeland emergencies, bolstering police, firefighters and
other civilian response groups.

But the new plans provide for what several senior officers
acknowledged is the likelihood that the military will have to
take charge in some situations, especially when dealing with
mass-casualty attacks that could quickly overwhelm civilian

"In my estimation, [in the event of] a biological, a chemical
or nuclear attack in any of the 50 states, the Department of
Defense is best positioned -- of the various eight federal
agencies that would be involved -- to take the lead," said
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the head of Northcom, which
coordinates military involvement in homeland security

The plans present the Pentagon with a clearer idea of the
kinds and numbers of troops and the training that may be
required to build a more credible homeland defense force. They
come at a time when senior Pentagon officials are engaged in
an internal, year-long review of force levels and weapons
systems, attempting to balance the heightened requirements of
homeland defense against the heavy demands of overseas
deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Keating expressed confidence that existing military assets are
sufficient to meet homeland security needs. Maj. Gen. Richard
J. Rowe, Northcom's chief operations officer, agreed, but he
added that "stress points" in some military capabilities
probably would result if troops were called on to deal with
multiple homeland attacks. Debate and Analysis

Several people on the staff here and at the Pentagon said in
interviews that the debate and analysis within the U.S.
government regarding the extent of the homeland threat and the
resources necessary to guard against it remain far from

The command's plans consist of two main documents. One,
designated CONPLAN 2002 and consisting of more than 1,000
pages, is said to be a sort of umbrella document that draws
together previously issued orders for homeland missions and
covers air, sea and land operations. It addresses not only
post-attack responses but also prevention and deterrence
actions aimed at intercepting threats before they reach the
United States.

The other, identified as CONPLAN 0500, deals specifically with
managing the consequences of attacks represented by the 15

CONPLAN 2002 has passed a review by the Pentagon's Joint Staff
and is due to go soon to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
and top aides for further study and approval, the officers
said. CONPLAN 0500 is still undergoing final drafting here.
(CONPLAN stands for "concept plan" and tends to be an
abbreviated version of an OPLAN, or "operations plan," which
specifies forces and timelines for movement into a combat

The plans, like much else about Northcom, mark a new venture
by a U.S. military establishment still trying to find its
comfort level with the idea of a greater homeland defense role
after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Military officers and civilian Pentagon policymakers say they
recognize, on one hand, that the armed forces have much to
offer not only in numbers of troops but also in experience
managing crises and responding to emergencies. On the other
hand, they worry that too much involvement in homeland
missions would diminish the military's ability to deal with
threats abroad.

The Pentagon's new homeland defense strategy, issued in June,
emphasized in boldface type that "domestic security is
primarily a civilian law enforcement function." Still, it
noted the possibility that ground troops might be sent into
action on U.S. soil to counter security threats and deal with
major emergencies.

"For the Pentagon to acknowledge that it would have to respond
to catastrophic attack and needs a plan was a big step," said
James Carafano, who follows homeland security issues for the
Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

William M. Arkin, a defense specialist who has reported on
Northcom's war planning, said the evolution of the Pentagon's
thinking reflects the recognition of an obvious gap in
civilian resources.

Since Northcom's inception in October 2002, its headquarters
staff has grown to about 640 members, making it larger than
the Southern Command, which oversees operations in Latin
America, but smaller than the regional commands for Europe,
the Middle East and the Pacific. A brief tour late last month
of Northcom's operations center at Peterson Air Force Base
found officers monitoring not only aircraft and ship traffic
around the United States but also the Discovery space shuttle
mission, the National Scout Jamboree in Virginia, several
border surveillance operations and a few forest firefighting
efforts. 'Dual-Use' Approach

Pentagon authorities have rejected the idea of creating large
standing units dedicated to homeland missions. Instead, they
favor a "dual-use" approach, drawing on a common pool of
troops trained both for homeland and overseas assignments.

Particular reliance is being placed on the National Guard,
which is expanding a network of 22-member civil support teams
to all states and forming about a dozen 120-member regional
response units. Congress last year also gave the Guard
expanded authority under Title 32 of the U.S. Code to perform
such homeland missions as securing power plants and other
critical facilities.

But the Northcom commander can quickly call on active-duty
forces as well. On top of previous powers to send fighter jets
into the air, Keating earlier this year gained the authority
to dispatch Navy and Coast Guard ships to deal with suspected
threats off U.S. coasts. He also has immediate access to four
active-duty Army battalions based around the country, officers
here said.

Nonetheless, when it comes to ground forces possibly taking a
lead role in homeland operations, senior Northcom officers
remain reluctant to discuss specifics. Keating said such
situations, if they arise, probably would be temporary, with
lead responsibility passing back to civilian authorities.

Military exercises code-named Vital Archer, which involve
troops in lead roles, are shrouded in secrecy. By contrast,
other homeland exercises featuring troops in supporting roles
are widely publicized. Legal Questions

Civil liberties groups have warned that the military's
expanded involvement in homeland defense could bump up against
the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which restricts the use of
troops in domestic law enforcement. But Pentagon authorities
have told Congress they see no need to change the law.

According to military lawyers here, the dispatch of ground
troops would most likely be justified on the basis of the
president's authority under Article 2 of the Constitution to
serve as commander in chief and protect the nation. The Posse
Comitatus Act exempts actions authorized by the Constitution.

"That would be the place we would start from" in making the
legal case, said Col. John Gereski, a senior Northcom lawyer.

But Gereski also said he knew of no court test of this legal
argument, and Keating left the door open to seeking an
amendment of the Posse Comitatus Act.

One potentially tricky area, the admiral said, involves
National Guard officers who are put in command of task forces
that include active-duty as well as Guard units -- an approach
first used last year at the Group of Eight summit in Georgia.
Guard troops, acting under state control, are exempt from
Posse Comitatus prohibitions.

"It could be a challenge for the commander who's a Guardsman,
if we end up in a fairly complex, dynamic scenario," Keating
said. He cited a potential situation in which Guard units
might begin rounding up people while regular forces could not.

The command's sensitivity to legal issues, Gereski said, is
reflected in the unusually large number of lawyers on staff
here -- 14 compared with 10 or fewer at other commands. One
lawyer serves full time at the command's Combined Intelligence
and Fusion Center, which joins military analysts with law
enforcement and counterintelligence specialists from such
civilian agencies as the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service.

A senior supervisor at the facility said the staff there does
no intelligence collection, only analysis.

He also said the military operates under long-standing rules
intended to protect civilian liberties. The rules, for
instance, block military access to intelligence information on
political dissent or purely criminal activity.

Even so, the center's lawyer is called on periodically to rule
on the appropriateness of some kinds of information-sharing.
Asked how frequently such cases arise, the supervisor recalled
two in the previous 10 days, but he declined to provide
© 2005 The Washington Post Company 


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Wexford, Ireland
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