July 1, 2009
The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security recently hosted a teleconference for law enforcement agencies and associations such as the National Association of Chiefs of Police to discuss the Obama Administration’s interest in using the military during “emergencies.”
Fortunately, NewsWithViews.com had exclusive access to the discussion and the explanations by Homeland Security and Defense Departments officials.
Officials announced during the teleconference that the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate met with the Commander, US Northern Command, General Gene Renuart, to discuss “pre-disaster planning, response and recovery in support of the federal response to the 2009 hurricane season as well as wild fires, floods and other potential disasters.”
The meeting reinforced the important relationship between the two organizations and focused on the operational role of US Northern Command and what resources and skills they bring to any major Federal effort related to all-hazards preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. It was also an opportunity to meet operational leaders who would fill key positions in those support efforts.
“NORTHCOM plays a vital role in disaster response in support of state and local officials,” Fugate said. “I am impressed by their commitment to teamwork and interoperability. They are leaning forward and are solutions-oriented partners among the nation’s emergency response team.”
“We are committed to teaming with and supporting our civilian partners,” added Renuart. “If our federal partners, state and local officials are successful in responding to contingency operations, then ultimately we are successful. We look forward to our continued collaboration and cooperation.”
However, many law enforcement executives and organizations went on the record saying they did not appreciate the prospect of federal troops usurping the authority of local and state law enforcement agencies or the role of the National Guard unit currently under the control of governors.
“My initial reaction is: why are we allowing federal troops to basically invade the sovereignty of individual states when each state has its own law enforcement agencies and each state possesses an armed and trained National Guard and, in the case of some states such as New York, a trained militia?” according to New York police officer Edna Aquino.
“We have not used armed federal troops in New York since the Civil War when Union troops and Navy battleships attacked dissenters who opposed conscription by the Union Army,” she added.
According to officials from the Homeland Security Department, FEMA and Northern Command share a common interest and a unified approach to disaster response and recovery.
“Both organizations also understand that the most effective plans to save lives and protect property begins with preparedness. This meeting was an important stepping stone to ensure mutual preparedness and effective planning in support of state and local officials,” said one official.
Homeland Security Department officials offered these two rationales for their joint ventures with the Department of Defense:
“Emergency preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone should have a personal response plan for a disaster, everyone should know who their first responders are at the local and state level, and everyone should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least the first 72 hours.
“FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.”
Political strategist Mike Baker is disturbed over this latest “emergency plan” designed to allow federal troops to operate freely within US borders.
“This is a constitutionally unsound development for our nation. While President Barack Obama and his ilk worry about how America’s military is perceived by other nations and are concerned with how we treat enemies, they seem to be willing to use extreme measures against their own citizens.
Will we witness another Branch Davidian massacre in the name of ‘emergency response’ or other rationale? It’s not a positive development for this nation,” said Baker.
Northcom was established about a year after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and is responsible for an area of operations that includes the United States, Canada and Mexico. It serves as a “one-stop-shopping” point for military support in case of an attack on American soil. However, according to officials speaking during the teleconference, the Obama Administration is expanding that role to include natural disasters or emergencies that were once the domain of state and local authorities.
Over the years, according to Baker, the federal government has expanded its role and even included other nations in operational plans within the US. For example NORAD is a joint US-Canadian command established 51 years ago to defend against nuclear-armed Soviet aircraft entering North American airspace. Decades later, the command’s mission has expanded to include early detection of threats via air, space, land and sea.
The sheer number of participants speaks to NORAD’s level of preparation and coordination to operate within US borders. Teaming up to deal with emergencies are American and Canadian NORAD agents, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, NAV Canada, the White House, U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
“This is not something we should be celebrating. This is something we as Americans should fear,” states another NYPD officer.
“If states do not have the capability to respond on their own to a hurricane or earthquake, then perhaps they should increase their capabilities or change their leadership,” said Det. Benny Cardoza.
“Using Hurricane Katrina as an excuse to increase federal authority in the affairs of individual states is a sorry excuse and one that should be shunned by citizens and local cops,” states the decorated cop.