posted on Jan, 21 2009 @ 09:00 PM
The Pentagon's plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built
around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Ga., was available as of Oct. 1, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of the U.S.
If funding continues, two additional teams will join nearly 80 smaller National Guard and reserve units made up of about 6,000 troops in supporting
local and state officials nationwide. All would be trained to respond to a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield
explosive attack, or CBRNE event, as the military calls it.
Military preparations for a domestic weapon-of-mass-destruction attack have been underway since at least 1996, when the Marine Corps activated a
350-member chemical and biological incident response force and later based it in Indian Head, Md., a Washington suburb. Such efforts accelerated after
the Sept. 11 attacks, and at the time Iraq was invaded in 2003, a Pentagon joint task force drew on 3,000 civil support personnel across the United
In 2005, a new Pentagon homeland defense strategy emphasized "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents." National security
threats were not limited to adversaries who seek to grind down U.S. combat forces abroad, McHale said, but also include those who "want to inflict
such brutality on our society that we give up the fight," such as by detonating a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city.
In late 2007, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed a directive approving more than $556 million over five years to set up the three response
teams, known as CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces. Planners assume an incident could lead to thousands of casualties, more than 1 million
evacuees and contamination of as many as 3,000 square miles, about the scope of damage Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.
Last month, McHale said, authorities agreed to begin a $1.8 million pilot project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through which
civilian authorities in five states could tap military planners to develop disaster response plans. Hawaii, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Washington
and West Virginia will each focus on a particular threat -- pandemic flu, a terrorist attack, hurricane, earthquake and catastrophic chemical release,
respectively -- speeding up federal and state emergency planning begun in 2003.