DSCA National Guidance
Brent E. Herzberger
MLC Class 18-010
1SG Harris, MSG Sammis
It is August 23, 2005, and The World Meteorological Organization had named the third storm during that record hurricane season, Katrina. Originating over the Bahamas, it makes its first United States landfall on the Florida peninsula just two days later. President Bush declares a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana on August 27 Katrina slams into the gulf coast states of Mississippi and Louisiana just two days after. The Louisiana Governor would not relinquish control of the State National Guard, decisions were delayed due to broken communication lines and many were ill-prepared for the rescue, support, and security of over 20,000 victims. DSCA National Guidance during Hurricane Katrina demonstrated failures with laws, communications, and preparedness.
Within his legal authority, on 27 August 2005, “The president’s emergency declaration authorizes the FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and to provide appropriate assistance in a number of Louisiana parishes, or counties” (AP, 2005). The Federal Emergency Management Agency stated that the Governor’s lack of response further hindered any efforts to begin assistance. During the same period the Bush Administration requested that the Governor allow National Guard troops to be assigned to a single commander, she refused.
The present laws hindered the president and his administration of being able to provide the assistance required, it “spurred an internal administration debate as to whether active-duty military forces could be used in relief or law enforcement roles” (Tkacz, 2006). This debate was in reference to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which forbade the President of the United States to utilize federal troops without the express authorization from Congress to enforce laws. The Posse Comitatus Act, considered antiquated by some lawmakers, established during a period of reconstruction following the Civil War. Lawmakers argue it is not relevant with current threats and state emergencies that could be beyond local and state capacities.
November 15, 2006, the 109th Congress enacted six statutes revising federal emergency management policies based on reports from the Katrina aftermath. These changes still have not affected the federal laws that Posse Comitatus spell out, but rather give more to the federal agencies that may be responding to future emergencies. In addition to the statute changes, a bill submitted to the Senate but never passed “To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to enhance emergency communications at the Department of Homeland Security, and for other purposes” (H.R. 5852, 2006). This bill would have enhanced and outlined the needs for communications prior to and during and emergencies.
Having established communications is vital in any operation, military or civilian, in a declared emergency. Without clear lines of communications and information, direction and coordination can be difficult or non-existent. In a time of crisis, information needs to be in the hands of decision makers in real time to avoid costly errors resulting in loss of life and property. Preemptive warnings established in enough time for federal state and local agencies allowed time to make sure alternate methods of communications to be established. During Katrina, communications not only failed at the physical level including landlines, cellular and network but also failed at a level of understanding needs, intent and requests.
A New York Times article published shortly after Katrina described the dire situation of communications during Katrina
The near-total collapse of communications made every task far more difficult, forcing some Guard commanders to use “runners, like in World War I” as one put it. With landlines, cell phones and many satellite phones out of action, the frequencies used by the radios still functioning were often so jammed that they were useless. (Shane, S., Shanker, T. 2005).
This made coordination of troops, federal agencies and local services almost impossible leading to delays of supplies, coordinated rescue efforts, and control of civil disturbances.
In addition to the physical breakdown of communications, the conversations between the Governor and the federal government became unclear on what is requested and required. Governor Kathleen Blanco hampered the means by which the government was able to provide assistance by asking for everything instead of giving a detailed list of resources needed (Tkacz 2006.) Had she organized a specific list of things needed to aid in the recovery efforts they would have been able to send them more rapidly. This may have been because of panic during a stressful situation or just ignorance of how the system itself worked. Having knowledge of processes and requirements in these types of situations is another reason why planning and preparedness are paramount for efforts to run smoothly.
For any operation to run smoothly it requires planning and rehearsal. Preparedness is only effective when an established plan is followed and drilled to proficiency. The military conducts Pre Combat Checks (PCC’s) and Pre Combat Inspections (PCI’s), this allows leaders to know they have what they need before the mission. In dealing with a situation such as Katrina, it takes considerably more planning and rehearsal as you have different federal agencies, state and local services working toward a common goal. Established protocols are designed to ensure a first, second and third order effect of plans are in place. This leads to redundancies for one system failing to fall into the next.
Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) is a Joint Military Operation and The National Preparedness Goal established in 2011 describes five mission areas, prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery (Department of the Army, 2012, p2). This publication spells out the groundwork for commanders to avoid the lack of preparation during Katrina. When coordinating efforts using published guidance it gives the commanders the ability to be effective yet maintain operational flexibility on the ground. This is key to avoid confusion when responding to emergencies when the time is the factor requiring the most management.
Covering a topic such as National Guidance in relation to DSCA in preparation for a storm is vast. It would be difficult to compose in a single document everything that is required to initiate, prepare, rehearse and ready to react. Since Katrina herculean efforts made to ensure that, a disaster that caused over 125 billion dollars in property damage and took 1,245 lives is mitigated to prevent such another disaster. Through published guidance and laws based from lessons learned during the Katrina storm, our nation’s leaders have developed a roadmap for leaders at all levels to respond when called upon with units ready to perform the task and complete the mission.
Associated Press (2005). Fox news. Retrieved from www.foxnews.com/story/2005.08/28/bush-declares-state-emergency.html
Department of the Army. (2012). Defense support of civil authorities (ADP 3-28). Retrieved from http://armypubs.army.mil/ProductMaps/PubForm/Details.aspx?PUBNO=ADP+3-28
H.R. 5852, 109th Congress: 21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006. Retrieved from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/hr5852
Shane, S. Shanker, T. (2005) When storm hit, national guard was deluged too. The New York Times Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/us/nationalspecial/when-storm-hit-national-guard-was-deluged-too.html
Tkacz, S. (2006) In Katrina’s wake: rethinking the military’s role in domestic emergencies. William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Volume15, Issue 1, Article 11