Homeland Defense:

DOD Can Enhance Efforts to Identify Capabilities to Support Civil Authorities during Disasters

GAO-10-386: Published: Mar 30, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2010.

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In addition to its primary mission of warfighting, the Department of Defense (DOD) plays an important role in civil support. Four years after the poorly coordinated national response to Hurricane Katrina, issues remain about DOD's progress in identifying its capability requirements for supporting a coordinated civilian-military response to a catastrophic domestic event. This report addresses the extent to which DOD (1) has identified and addressed its capability gaps for its civil support mission; (2) has clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and relationships and identified appropriate levels and types of personnel to assign to the FEMA regions; and (3) shares and tracks information concerning its civil support requirements response process with civil authorities. To do this, GAO analyzed DOD civil support guidance and plans and met with DOD and FEMA officials regarding the support that civilian authorities may request during a catastrophic incident.

DOD has identified capability gaps for its civil support mission by completing a capabilities-based assessment, but key DOD policies and guidance for the civil support mission are outdated, limiting DOD's ability to fully address capability gaps. DOD's strategic guidance requires that it anticipate requests for civil support by identifying capability gaps. However, inconsistency and misalignment across DOD's policies, strategy, and doctrine for civil support make it difficult for DOD to address capability gaps and pre-position equipment and supplies. GAO found this was due to outdated key DOD policies and guidance that do not reflect DOD's current organizational framework for providing assistance to civil authorities. If DOD updates key policies for civil support, it will be better able to address capability gaps and provide timely and appropriate support to civil authorities. DOD has increased its personnel dedicated to coordinate civilian requests for assistance, but it has not clearly defined their roles, responsibilities, and relationships, and its staffing is not based upon a staffing assessment by FEMA region. DOD guidance calls for coordination with federal and state authorities on military capabilities for civil support. However, while the Defense Coordinating Officer program has improved civil authorities' overall awareness of DOD's capabilities, roles, and responsibilities, command and control and coordination among the Defense Coordinating Officers and the military services' liaison officers have been confusing and sometimes problematic because DOD's civil support guidance is outdated. Further, DOD officials noted that staffing of the Defense Coordinating Officer program should reflect its multiservice environment and the unique challenges of each FEMA region. Different FEMA regions are prone to different disasters and have varying needs for DOD support, but the size and composition of the Defense Coordinating Officers' staff--nearly all from the Army--were not based on a staffing needs assessment. Therefore, they do not necessarily reflect variations in the support needs of the regions. As a result, DOD may be missing an opportunity to optimize its ability to provide a coordinated response to civil authorities with appropriate multiservice capabilities. While DOD follows established processes in responding to requests for assistance from civil authorities, it has not established a system to track civilian requests that is accessible to DOD's interagency partners. The National Response Framework broadly identifies how DOD responds to requests for assistance, and DOD guidance further specifies DOD's processes. However, civil authorities are not fully aware of the length of this process. While DOD has several different tracking systems in use by different DOD components for the civil support mission, it lacks a formal, interoperable, and unclassified system for tracking all requests for assistance across DOD. Without such a system, gaps will remain in gaining real-time situational awareness and maintaining a common operational picture of DOD support for all federal partners in disaster-response missions including DOD.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD has since published several civil support related guidance documents to address the recommendation. DOD announced in early 2011 that it had published DOD Directive 3025.18, "Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA)," on December 29, 2010. In April 2012, DOD published DOD Instruction 3025.20, "Defense Support of Special Events." In May 2013, DOD informed GAO that the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), had signed and published DOD Instruction 3025.21, "Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies," on February 27, 2013. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to conduct its civil support missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs to update DOD policy and guidance for civil support (i.e., DOD directive and instruction 3025 series) to reflect current doctrine, terminology, funding policy, practices, and DOD's organizational framework for providing civil support, to include clarifying NORTHCOM and PACOM roles and responsibilities for civil support missions; and establish time frames for completion.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOD has taken a number of actions and has others under way. On September 8, 2011, DOD published DOD Instruction 3025.16, "Defense Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) Programs,". In July 2013, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) said that they had published a supplement (referred to as a Fragmentary Order) to Operation Order 01-13, to address DCO engagement activities during the initial operational phase of its Concept Plan (CONPLAN) 3500 (Civil Support). These engagements include regional planning and preparedness. This order also established procedures for EPLO support to DCOs. Additionally, they said that in coordination with the Council of Governors, Secretary of Defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff, USNORTHCOM developed procedures for establishing a Dual Status Commander, in order to enhance unity of command and effort of DOD forces providing Civil Support at the State level. These actions represent progress toward fully addressing the intent of the recommendation. As of July 2014, DOD reported that draft DoDI 3025.jj ("Defense Planning and Coordination in Support of Civil Authorities") had completed reviews by Washington Headquarters Services and OSD's Office of General Counsel in January 2014 and was sent out for formal coordination with DoD Components, but due to the critical comments received the draft DoDI was removed from the formal coordination process in March 2014. Draft DoDI 3025.jj is currently being revised in coordination with the Joint Staff, the Services, and USNORTHCOM and the new date is targeted for December 2014.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to conduct its civil support missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to clarify roles and responsibilities, including command and control relationships for the Defense Coordinating Officers, Defense Coordinating Elements, and Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD said it is incorporating its training and equipping requirements for Defense Coordinating Officers, Defense Coordinating Elements, and Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers into the guidance it has developed--DOD Instruction 3025.16, "Defense Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) Programs," published on September 8, 2011. In July 2013, officials at U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) informed GAO that the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NORTHCOM, U.S. Pacific Command, the Military Departments, and the National Guard Bureau will assess training requirements and readiness reporting for the DOD role in complex catastrophes. They will also make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on how to sustain/improve mission capabilities in support of DSCA, as well as exercise integration to leverage training opportunities. As of July 2014, DOD reported that draft DoDI 3025.jj ("Defense Planning and Coordination in Support of Civil Authorities") had completed reviews by Washington Headquarters Services and OSD's Office of General Counsel in January 2014 and was sent out for formal coordination with DoD Components, but due to the critical comments received the draft DoDI was removed from the formal coordination process in March 2014. Draft DoDI 3025.jj is currently being revised in coordination with the Joint Staff, the Services, and USNORTHCOM and the new date is targeted for December 2014.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to conduct its civil support missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to identify the extent to which NORTHCOM and PACOM should set training and equipping requirements for the Defense Coordinating Officers, Defense Coordinating Elements, and Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD indicated several past and ongoing efforts will help address the recommendation. DOD highlighted, in particular, DOD Instruction 3025.16, "Defense Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) Programs," published on September 8, 2011; and a draft instruction on "Defense Planning and Coordination in Support of Civil Authorities," which is undergoing substantial revision due to recent updates in the DOD initiative for DOD Support to Complex Catastrophes. DOD stated that is plans to issue the instruction in September 2014. In July 2013, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) stated that as part of the Secretary of Defense's initiative to Improve DOD support in Complex Catastrophes, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based upon the requirements of NORTHCOM and U.S. Pacific Command, are to identify requirements and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense to support effective DOD coordination and liaison with DOD's Federal, Regional, and State partners on complex catastrophe preparedness and response. As part of this effort, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness will consider the feasibility of joint billets for DCOs, DCEs, EPLOs, JRMPOs, and Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ)-States. As of September 2014, NORTHCOM's IG office stated that despite positive initiatives taken to date, a review of DCO/EPLO staffing requirements has not been completed. DOD, the Combatant Commands, and the Services would benefit from such an analysis. They added that despite positive actions taken to date to improve DCO/EPLO operations, multiple efforts are still ongoing that support this action item. DODD 3025.jj remains in development with OSD, the Services, and USNORTHCOM. A USNORTHCOM operational planning team is in the process of coordinating command and control relationships for DCOs and their Defense Coordinating Elements (DCE). Another effort is underway to revive the annual DSCA/IDR Preparedness Workshop, which provided a vehicle for coordination among all DOD DSCA participants to institutionalize these processes. USNORTHCOM and components are still evaluating requirements and potential solutions for providing additional staff support to the DCOs/DCEs.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to conduct its civil support missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct a review of staffing requirements for the Defense Coordinating Officers, Defense Coordinating Elements, and Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers in both the NORTHCOM and PACOM areas of responsibility that includes but is not limited to an assessment of staff size, subject-matter expertise, and military service composition by FEMA region.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. In July 2013, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) stated that as part of the Secretary of Defense's initiative to improve DOD support in Complex Catastrophes, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on options to automate the exchange of information between Service authoritative databases and Global Force Management (GFM) execution tools and applications in order to speed the force generation process. NORTHCOM and its components use the DOD DSCA Automated Support System (DDASS) to track and manage requests for DOD assistance from federal agencies. According to NORTHCOM, as part of the Joint Action Plan, developed in concert with the Council of Governors, FEMA and DOD are developing/employing software tools with common data standards to ensure shared common situational awareness among partners. They said that the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy will provide additional recommendations on shared situational awareness to the Council of Governors plenary session, to include Federal and State information requirements, and standard operating procedures for sharing critical information between Federal and State governments. These efforts also support the Secretary of Defense's initiative to Improve DOD support in Complex Catastrophes, which tasks the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NORTHCOM, U.S. Pacific Command, and the National Guard Bureau to identify and evaluate DOD shared situational awareness systems, and make recommendations to remedy gaps and shortfalls in shared situational awareness. However, in 2012, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense Integration & Defense Support of Civil Authorities), Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense & Americas' Security Affairs) (ASD[HD&ASA]), stated that after further review of the recommendation, the DOD does not believe an official, DOD-wide unclassified tracking system is the appropriate solution. The department said that the combatant commanders have the latitude to implement a tracking system that best suits their operational needs. Further, the department stated that it maintains visibility of the FEMA mission assignment through DCO/DCE participation in the daily teleconferences during DSCA events.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to conduct its civil support missions, the Secretary of Defense should Direct the Joint Staff in coordination with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration / Chief Information Officer to identify and establish an official, DOD-wide, unclassified tracking system for all incoming requests-for-assistance from federal agencies regarding civil support missions. This system should at a minimum include: (1) requirements and guidance to ensure that the system is comprehensive and captures request-for-assistance data that can be used to anticipate civil support requirements; (2) access for FEMA and other lead federal agencies, to provide them with real-time situational awareness; and (3) time frames for the system's development and implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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