9/23/2005

Arkin: DOD: No New Rules Needed

Arkin spells it out "I doubt that we will see the President or other Congressional leaders claiming this time that the military can't respond quickly and appropriately. That's because this time they are paying attention " -- law

DOD: No New Rules Needed
By William M. Arkin | September 22, 2005

Weeks before hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast, the Pentagon drafted new policies regarding the use of the military in the United States.

The drafts -- marked “For Official Use Only” and “Pre-Decisional” and obtained by this Washington Post blogger -- should put to rest concerns that there is a need to modify or repeal the Posse Comitatus Act to give the President more flexibility to employ the armed forces in any emergency.

There is no such need The President already has all the flexibility he needs; But you wouldn’t have known if from the cries for help this week. .. Warner, Allen, Lieberman, as well as Rumsfeld's spokesman Larry Di Rita, are all wrong. There is nothing that stands in the way of the military rendering emergency assistance, and what is more, if the President had wanted to fly in the 82nd Airborne even without State approval, he could have done so and the military could have taken his order without concern for its directives.

The problem with the response to Katrina was federal government incompetence and inattention, not any regulations or laws. Maybe these calls for changing the law are just a way of avoiding responsibility.

The two Defense Department documents, one a directive entitled Defense Support of Civil Authorities (PDF) and the other, an accompanying 190-page DoD Manual for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (PDF) are dated June 27. The two documents make clear that the DOD's position is that the military can provide support to civil authorities, and even act as a lead agency in the face of a breakdown of civil command and control (the Allen scenario) in accordance with the National Response Plan and current law…

One could argue that the Clinton era directive sets forth more rigorous criteria .. but this [new document] as much reflects the previous administration's reluctance to use military force as it does some greater desire on the part of the military to take over today.

The new draft manual makes clear the military's role:

First responsibility for support to the local incident response is with the State in which the disaster occurs. When State resources and capabilities are overwhelmed, Governors may request Federal assistance under a Presidential disaster or emergency declaration. Federal assistance is initiated when a disaster is so severe that a State's ability to provide response is overcome. … The DoD Components shall not perform any function of civil government unless absolutely necessary on a temporary basis under conditions of Immediate Response. Any commander who is directed, or undertakes, to perform such functions shall facilitate the reestablishment of civil responsibility at the earliest time possible


Maybe readers will see something in these two documents that I don't see. But now we have Hurricane Rita to test my interpretation. I doubt that we will see the President or other Congressional leaders claiming this time that the military can't respond quickly and appropriately. That's because this time they are paying attention

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com

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