JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Once again, the Association of the United States Army delivered on their commitment to provide an informative and impactful forum on all things Army at this year’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Oct 13-16. AUSA featured presentations on the state of the Army and its future, as well as panel discussions on military and national security topics.
Two of AUSA’s panel discussions featured U.S. Army North’s Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson. The Multi-Domain Homeland Defense panel focused on how the Army defends the nation at home across several domains – ground, cyber, air, and space, to be ready for today’s threats while investing in modernization and readiness for tomorrow.
Army North’s panel, "America’s Disaster Response: The Army’s Preparedness for a Complex Catastrophe," was co-hosted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The panel discussed the importance of unity of effort between the Army and local, state and federal partners during a complex disaster response.
Multi-Domain Homeland Defense
Joining Richardson on this panel were David P. Pekoske, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting deputy secretary; Theresa Whelan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security; Vice Adm. Michael J. Dumont, U.S. Northern Command deputy commander; Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command commander; and Maj. Gen. Stephen Hager, Cyber National Mission Force deputy commander.
The panelists discussed the various complexities associated with defending the nation, its critical functions, and infrastructure to protect the American people and their way of life.
The homeland is not a sanctuary
Real world threats exist in both the physical and virtual realms and there are consequences to leaving any domain unsecure or uncontested.
Dumont’s presentation highlighted U.S. Northern Command’s strategy, which is focused on the new normal. Once formidable geographical barriers of entry to the United States, such as the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Arctic, have evolved from protective features into possible avenues of attack.
So what should today’s defense look like? According to Dumont, a credible defense is a globally integrated one, capable of effectively deterring and defeating attacks while maintaining the capability to project power forward, rapidly respond in support of civilian authorities, and fight at a time and place of the nation’s choosing. Northern Command’s new Homeland Defense strategy is focused on exactly those items.
When asked how Homeland Defense is more than counterterrorism, Richardson noted the importance of effectively engaging adversaries during the competition phase to deter escalation, deny encroachment, and defeat destabilization efforts.
“These efforts expand competitive space for policy makers to achieve their national objectives,” Richardson said.
The new frontline is Homeland Defense
Counterinsurgency still has its place, but according to Whelan, many of the threats the nation faces are unconventional, existing in what is known as the gray zone.
This is the space in which adversaries can achieve their national objectives without triggering full-scale conflict. Instead of having to physically attack, conquer, or hold ground to win, adversaries can challenge the U.S. in other domains through non-kinetic attacks on critical infrastructure to delay and possibly prevent troops from reaching the fight.
Cyber Command’s Hager further elaborated on both points as he explained that physical and geographical barriers do not matter within the cyber domain. Rather, entry for adversaries in the cyber realm is easy, inexpensive, and provides them a rapidly changing environment to persistently attack our nation’s networks and systems without triggering an armed conflict.
To protect the nation against such malicious cyber activity, Cyber Command employs a three prong strategy. First, defending forward to disrupt and stop cyber threats at their source. Second, using persistent engagements to gain insight and generate opportunities to contest how adversaries fight and operate. Lastly, the command directly responds to incidents against the Department of Defense Information Network or other networks, as requested by civil authorities.
Coordinating with other departments and agencies helps the command engage at levels below armed conflict while providing public and private sector partners with indicators and warnings needed to preempt, defeat, and deter cyber-attacks.
Partnerships and security fundamentals matter
Threats of an attack impact everyone. A successful national defense is a joint effort that takes a whole-of-government approach that includes state and local communities, as well as the private sector. Therefore, despite all of our technological advances, security fundamentals still matter. The basics start at home and work.
For example, private citizens and businesses can protect themselves and the nation by simply signing and encrypting e-mails and routinely patching their systems. These steps help prevent entry level vulnerability gaps such as exposure of Personally Identifiable Information.
America’s Disaster Response: The Army’s Preparedness for a Complex Catastrophe
Army North’s second panel event featured Damon Penn, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistant Administrator of the Response Directorate; Robert G. Salesses, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and DSCA; and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander, as well as Richardson.
Richardson focused the discussion on the command’s role in Defense Support of Civil Authorities, or DSCA, and the responsibility to support disaster response missions. She described key takeaways as understanding one’s organizational role during a response, identifying requirements to support others, and building relationships prior to a disaster.
In particular, the discussion centered on the complexities involved in a catastrophic event that would tax all federal and state systems on a massive scale. Such an event would require a coordinated, multistate Total Army force response across a geographically dispersed region.
Complex catastrophes tax every system, invest and plan now
Lessons learned from recent disaster responses set the focus for the future. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017 taught us that the true challenge for Department of Defense forces and federal agencies in any complex catastrophe lies in responding to cascading events following the disaster.
“Find synergy to make things happen,” Semonite recommended. “A good organization can do any one storm and be able to handle it.”
However, it is the complexities that come with responding to one disaster while preparing teams for the next that stresses our systems and procedures. This is why pre-event planning and training are so important. He expressed the need to continue to build and sustain relationships with other partners and agencies at multiple levels before a crisis happens.
For the states and National Guard forces, this includes creating tailored mission packages so the state only pays for what it needs. Pre-identifying a Dual Status Commander as well as examining immediate needs such as evacuation, shelter, power, fuel, transportation, and communication capabilities helps save lives. We never know when a disaster will strike, but the past has taught us that it is never too late to prepare.
To view either panel, use the following links:
Multi-Domain Homeland Defense - https://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/21611
America’s Disaster Response: The Army’s Preparedness for a Complex Catastrophe - https://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/21636