Thursday, December 4, 2008

Consequence Management

The Commission that issued the "World at Risk" report warned that we could potentially face an attack using nuclear, biological or other weapons of mass destruction "somewhere in the world" in the next 5 years. Scary! So what's being done? Well, the Commission had recommendations, and some of them even made sense. And (much to the concern of some) the Pentagon also announced this week that there would be 15,000 troops dedicated to Northern Command to respond to a weapon of mass destruction attack; 5,000 active-duty soldiers, with the rest of the troops from the National Guard and Reserves. Okay. So how does this help us? Well....the increase in military forces dedicated to NORTHCOM really doesn't help at all in preventing an attack; but it does help in managing the consequences of any attack.

It's clear that we also need to try to prevent an attack from ever occurring, particularly on American soil. But if it ever does, the military is best equipped to help civil authorities manage the results of any attack. Think about it...remember the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina? It was the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and active-duty military forces that had the command structure, the training, the logistics, and (frankly) the shear ability to do what was necessary to gain control of the situation and start dealing with the disaster. While we learned a number of lessons from the Katrina response, there is still no reason to believe that civil authorities are any better equipped or trained to deal with nuclear, biological, chemical, or high explosive weapons. The military is, so it makes total sense for the military to be ready to respond to any attack using weapons of mass destruction.

So to those out there who are afraid of the military running amok, or fear another Kent State (for those of you youngsters who don't know what happened at Kent State, look it up), you need to ask yourselves who would do what needs to be done if we were attacked, if not the military. Who has the training to deal with the aftermath of a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon? Who has the chain of command and logistics necessary to ensure that people and needed resources are in the right place at the right time? Who has the equipment that may be needed? It certainly isn't FEMA, nor is it the state or local authorities. Only the military has the ability to do what needs to be done.

So it's a good idea to get the right forces assigned to the right command and ensure that they're properly trained and that they've done what's needed to ensure civilian authorities are integrated into the military's planning. This is too important not to make it work.


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