Homeland Defense: DOD Needs to Assess the Structure of U.S. Forces for Domestic Military Missions

GAO-03-670 Published: Jul 11, 2003. Publicly Released: Aug 11, 2003.
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The way in which the federal government views the defense of the United States has dramatically changed since September 11, 2001. Consequently, the Department of Defense (DOD) has adjusted its strategic and operational focus to encompass not only traditional military concerns posed by hostile states overseas but also the asymmetric threats directed at our homeland by both terrorists and hostile states. GAO was asked to review DOD's domestic missions, including (1) how DOD's military and nonmilitary missions differ; (2) how DOD's military and nonmilitary missions have changed since September 11, 2001; (3) how the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act affects DOD's nonmilitary missions; and (4) the extent to which DOD's organizations, plans, and forces are adequate for domestic military missions and the consequent sustainability of the current mission approach.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should assess domestic military mission requirements and determine if steps should be taken to structure U.S. forces to better accomplish domestic military missions while maintaining proficiency for overseas combat missions.
Closed – Implemented
DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation. In the June 2005 DOD Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, DOD stated that it must equip and train warfighting forces, as necessary, for domestic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High Explosive (CBRNE) consequent management because civil authorities are likely to call upon DOD if this type of event occurs within the next 10 years. However, beyond an already dedicated command and control element designed for CBRNE, DOD will continue to rely on dual-capable forces for domestic consequence management. In the strategy, DOD stated that because DOD has limited resources and it needs to manage its risk, it decided to place its priority on being able to complete its homeland defense mission and that its civil support mission would be its second priority. In this regard, DOD has assessed the domestic military mission requirements and taken steps to only provide a dedicated command and control CBRNE element.

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