Domestic Military Operations & the Homeland Defense Mission (Part Three) – Forward Observer Shop

Domestic Military Operations & the Homeland Defense Mission (Part Three)

In the two days previous, I’ve been working my way through Joint Publication 3-27: Homeland Defense to get a better idea of what domestic military operations would look like during a domestic conflict. This manual provides only high-level guidance, but married with the knowledge of our local areas and communities, we can make better sense of what to expect.

You can catch up on Part I here and Part II here.

To be clear, there are differences between the Homeland Defense (HD) mission, which focuses mostly on repelling attacks and invasions, and Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), which is military support to domestic law enforcement. Appendix A subsection (1)(a)(2) makes it clear that the military can transition between HD and DSCA missions, depending on the “[U.S. Government’s] desired outcome”.

According to Figure A-1 (figure below), the transition from DSCA to HD means that the Defense Department takes the lead role. DSCA missions include:

  • Disaster relief
  • Support to law enforcement
  • Maritime Homeland Security & DOD forces (48 hours or more)

Should the situation move past DSCA to HD, the following missions or activities could apply:

  • Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear (CBRN) response
  • Emergency preparedness
  • National Guard [ordered to] state active duty (in exceptional circumstances)
  • Cybersecurity

Appendix A, subsection (3) covers Planning Consideration for Transition, and subsection (3)(a) states the the military’s reserve components contain “personnel, equipment, and skills” that can be leveraged into “HD plans and operations”. Reserve components called to federal active duty serve under the same Title 10 guidelines as the National Guard under state command. Subsection (3)(d) outlines auxiliaries like the Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), which can contribute to the HD mission. Subsection (3)(f) says that although military forces may be used in the HD mission, the SecDef is expected to impose and make known regulations prohibiting “direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity… is otherwise authorized by law,” (i.e., such as a Constitutional exception or Congressional declaration).

Subsection (3)(g) covers Insurrection, and clearly states that the President “at the request of a state governor or legislature, or unilaterally in some circumstances, [can] employ the US Armed Forces to suppress insurrection against state authority, to enforce federal laws, or to suppress rebellion”. “[T]he designated [Joint Force Commander] should utilize this special application knowing the main purpose of such employment is to help restore law and order with minimal harm to the people and property and with due respect for law-abiding citizens”.

Other appendices make for some interesting reading, but don’t concern the Homeland Defense mission for a domestic conflict.

Reading this manual helped me to better understand what we might expect during domestic military operations during a domestic conflict. I’ve identified several key areas where I’ll dive deeper and describe the tactics, techniques, and procedures that might be employed during a domestic conflict.

If you’re interested in the potential for these scenarios, or concerned about where we could be headed as a country, then stay up to date with developing conditions with our threat intelligence reports. Each Friday we publish the National Intelligence Bulletin, which covers issues of national security, domestic systems disruption, risk of failing critical infrastructure, and threats to social, political, and economic stability.

If you enjoyed this article and want more of my thoughts on intelligence, security, and defense for an uncertain future, be sure to subscribe to my email updates.

Always Out Front,

Samuel Culper


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Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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