Thursday, March 24, 2011


Small answers to big problems


The disaster in Japan reminds us that in an epic catastrophe, a nation may be forced to deal with a wide range of troubles. Such disasters are often referred to as “black swans,” dangers we view as remote and thus don’t dwell on — but that prove incredibly difficult to handle if they do occur.

In Japan, officials wisely ordered people to “shelter in place” to avoid unnecessary radiological exposure. Unfortunately, truck drivers — fearing contamination — refused to deliver goods to towns near the nuclear reactors. Now the locals are running out of food.

When a government tells people to shelter, it should have a plan to get them supplies and medical aid. Without a workable plan, there’s a problem. Tokyo has a problem.

In the midst of a crisis, government must deliver a credible response. When people think government is functioning and responsible, they react with discipline, composure and self-confidence. When they think government has failed them, things start to break down. Tokyo has watched its credibility melt as fast as the core of the damaged nuclear reactors. That is a problem, too.

There’s an old combat saying: “You can’t have enough friends in the foxhole.” That holds true in any disaster, not just a shooting war. Successful response means using the resources at your disposal to maximum effect. In the U.S., one crucial capability for disaster response that is woefully underused is State Defense Forces.

The Founding Fathers believed that a well-regulated militia was “the ultimate guardian of liberty.” They codified that in the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution reserves for the “States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia.” States have raised and maintained them ever since.

Today, the best-known “militias” are the National Guard units that serve under the command of state governors and the civil authorities in U.S. territories (including the District of Columbia). Those can be federalized and serve as part of the “active-duty” military.

In addition to guard units, 23 states and territories have defense forces. Unlike the National Guard, those forces serve no federal function. In times of both war and peace, State Defense Forces remain solely under the control of their governors or territorial officials and are available for rapid deployment in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. Arguably best of all in this era of tight budgets, the defense forces are all-volunteer units.

Those forces are an important resource for the states that have them. The Alaskan State Defense Force aids in safeguarding the Alaska oil pipeline. After Sept. 11, 2011, the New York Guard, New York Naval Militia and New Jersey Naval Militia were activated to assist in response measures, recovery efforts and critical infrastructure security.

State Defense Forces can cross state lines to serve their fellow Americans. Forces from at least eight states, including Texas, Maryland, Virginia and Tennessee, contributed more than 2,250 highly skilled volunteers in support of recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Some traveled to Louisiana and Mississippi to provide direct assistance to victims. Others stayed in their states, taking over the responsibilities of National Guard units that were deployed to assist in the recovery.

These volunteer groups are particularly effective. Many are filled with retired military, law enforcement and emergency managers, providing a wealth of disaster-response experience. Technical units such as medical and communication squads are staffed by trauma surgeons, cybersecurity engineers and other career professionals.

In many cases, these volunteers have proved to be the best and most dependable responders. They dedicate their time and often pay for their own training and equipment. They are the most committed kind of volunteers — and the most cost-effective. In 2002 alone, for example, the Georgia State Guard reportedly saved Georgia $1.5 million by providing 1,797 days of operational service to the state.

In a large-scale catastrophe, these organized, disciplined and capable responders could serve a vital role. Yet 28 states and the District of Columbia have chosen not to create such forces.

In some of those jurisdictions, proposals to create Defense Forces have met resistance from the adjutant generals (who command state and territorial National Guard forces). Such objections make little sense, given that these forces are entirely volunteer organizations and offer the states a robust, low-cost force multiplier.

The District of Columbia has a bill under consideration to create a defense force for the city. Now — before disaster strikes — is the right time to think seriously about establishing guards.

James Jay Carafano is a senior national security analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Proposal to the District of Columbia City Council

This is a Testimony On District Of Columbia

Improving the Security of the District of Columbia with a D.C. Defense Force Bill 18-403, “DC Official Code Title 49 Enactment Act of 2009”

Published on March 14, 2011 by James Carafano, Ph.D.


Testimony before the
Council of the District of Columbia

Delivered March 14, 2011

My name is James Jay Carafano. I am the Deputy Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and the Director of Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

Mr. Chairman, I am honored to testify before the Council of the District of Columbia today. In my testimony, I would like to (1) provide the Council with necessary information about state militias, commonly referred to as State Defense Forces; (2) explain the constitutional authority that provides for State Defense Forces; and (3) demonstrate that such a unit would greatly enhance the security of our nation’s capital at practically no cost to the District Government.

State militias have helped to defend the United States since the Revolutionary War. Bolstered by the Founding Fathers’ concerns about maintaining a large standing army and preserved within the Constitution, the concept of the citizen-soldier has become ingrained in American culture and government.

Twenty-three states and territories currently have Defense Forces, which are distinct from the Reserves and the National Guard in that they serve no federal function. In times of both war and peace, State Defense Forces remain solely under the control of their governors, or in the case of the District of Columbia, the mayor, allowing for rapid deployment in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. Ultimately, State Defense Forces provide a cost-effective, vital force multiplier, especially if state National Guard units are deployed.

Despite its recognition in federal statute, creation of a State Defense Force remains at the discretion of each state governor, or in D.C., the council and mayor. State Defense Forces are entirely volunteer organizations. Members are not paid for training, and only some states compensate them for active duty. State Defense Forces generally require little equipment, posing minimal cost to the state or to the District. In fact, in 2002 alone, the Georgia State Guard reportedly saved the state of Georgia $1.5 million by providing 1,797 days of operational service to the state.

State Defense Forces have two important advantages. First, State Defense Forces are continually stationed within their respective states and can be called upon quickly and easily in times of need. Such a capability is particularly important when catastrophic disasters overwhelm local first responders and federal forces can take up to 72 hours to respond. State Defense forces also generally know the area and the resources at hand better than federal forces, giving them a vital advantage during emergency response. Second, State Defense Forces are exempt from the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits federal military forces from engaging in domestic law enforcement activities within the United States. While the Posse Comitatus Act has never proved a major obstacle to deploying federal forces for domestic emergency response, State Defense Forces permit a state military response unhampered by legal obstacles, allowing the D.C. Government to provide for its own interests without having to wait on the federal government to respond.

With the exception of the D.C. National Guard, every other National Guard unit in the country can be called upon by its respective state governor in the event of an emergency. High levels of National Guard deployment since 2001 have left some governors with only state police units to maintain security and facilitate emergency response. In the District of Columbia, only the President of the United States can call out the National Guard, leaving the D.C. government with little means of response in the case of an emergency regardless of National Guard deployment. The establishment of a D.C. Defense Force would fill this gap.

The District of Columbia cannot afford to sideline this national security asset. State Defense Forces are a proven force in homeland security and emergency response efforts. After 9/11, the New York Guard, New York Naval Militia, and New Jersey Naval Militia were activated. Additionally, after Hurricane Katrina, an estimated 2,274 State Defense Force personnel from at least eight states responded to support recovery efforts. Their state-apportioned status, organizational structure, and low-cost burden make these modern militias a vital and practical resource for the states and the District of Columbia.

In summation, a D.C. defense force will unquestionably improve the security of the District, particularly in an emergency situation, and will do so at minimal cost to taxpayers. Thank you again for the opportunity to address this issue before the Council.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Hampshire Looks at Creating a State Guard II

There has been significant opposition to the creation of a New Hampshire State Defense Force in the New Hampshire state Assembly, primarily from "liberals". Their main objection seems
to be a perception that either the state of New Hampshire is most unlikely to be invaded, or that so called "tin foil hat" type "militia" will join and take the defense force over.

While it must be admitted that the last time New Hampshire faced invasion was the War of 1812, that has no bearing on current international conditions. With the various state National Guards seeing repeated long term deployments to the Middle East, increased threats from terrorists and probable hostile and organized military groups from Central and South America, I, for one, would not make a 25 year bet against military violence on our soil.

As for the 'Tin Foil Hat" folks, I don't see most them being able to organize themselves, much less take over a state government agency.

Is there another reason for this opposition that I have missed?