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

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

Yesterday I covered the first chapter of Joint Publication 3-27, Homeland Defense. The manual describes for us military doctrine and some operational guidance for what to expect for domestic military operations under the Homeland Defense (HD) mission. You can catch up here. I’ll probably also write up an Executive Summary of everything I’ve learned from reading this manual.

Today, I’m breaking out my thoughts on Chapter II (Command Relationships and Interorganizational Cooperation) and Chapter III (Planning and Operations for Homeland Defense).

Subsection (II)(1)(b) clearly states that combatant commanders in the HD mission will be answering directly to the President and SecDef “for the performance assigned missions and the preparedness of their commands”. Because of the complexity of domestic military operations under the HD mission, both civilian and military officials will bear the burden of coordination, from the lowest levels of junior officers and local officials, to commanding officers and state officials, to combatant commands (ie., U.S. Northern Command) and the joint force intelligence staff, and all the way to the Secretary of Defense and the President. That’s a lot of coordination, which means a lot of movement and communication, and a lot of places to drop the ball.

Subsection (II)(2) covers “unified action” and, in summary, states that all officials from the local level to state and federal, to include civilian and military officials, are required to coordinate their efforts to achieve unity of effort. U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and special operations units already train with the Department of Homeland Security and “other interagency partners”. During an HD mission, federal officials will stand up a civil-military operations center (CMOC) where much of the aforementioned coordination will take place.

In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned that the effects of domestic cyber operations and “hacktivism” are probably being overlooked by most people contemplating a domestic conflict, and subsection (II)(2)(f) provides us some additional information:

“For cyberspace, the vulnerability and complex interrelationship of national and international networks demand closely coordinated action among the military, private sector, and other government entities at all levels.”

U.S. Cyber Command and other military cyber units “are the military front line of defense,” and that would, presumably, include operations against hacktivists and other foreign or domestic hackers targeting critical infrastructure and key resources.

Interestingly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), currently Marine General Joe Dunford, is responsible for “the preparation and review of [domestic] contingency plans… and reviews HD plans and operations for compatibility with other military plans”. The CJCS also “reviews and assesses requests from governors for [National Guard] HD activities and provides recommendations to SecDef”.

Subsection (II)(3)(a)(7) covers the role of governors. “Governors retain [command and control] of [National Guard] forces executing HD activities in their respective states”. “The President, SecDef, and [combatant commanders] are no in the state operational chain of command.”

Subsection (II)(4)(1) provides guidance for media relations: “Within the US homeland and its approaches, forces may face continuous media scrutiny. When faced with media questions or scrutiny, consult with the public affairs (PA) office before responding.”

Subsection (II)(6) covers Multinational Forces, generally with regard to the defense of North America. Subsections cover security cooperation efforts and enabling continental defense, however, I don’t see anything that specifically covers multinational force deployments to the United States for HD missions.

Moving on to Chapter III, subsection (III)(3)(a) of the manual outlines that regardless of the scope of military operations, civil-military relationships will be difficult to manage because of the numerous stakeholders involved. Those stakeholders include local, state, and federal officials and authorities, who communicate through different channels, have different policies and procedures, different chains of command, etc. “Interagency forums, associations, information sharing, and constant communications will be vital enablers” of overall coordination.

Back during the Ferguson riots, we at Forward Observer learned a valuable lesson. Local, state, and federal response brought together law enforcement from all levels, and they each had their own communications infrastructure. In order to be on the same page, they used common frequencies and much of their communications were broadcast in the clear. That enabled us to listen in and begin to see the same security picture they were seeing. During a HD mission, we may be able to listen in to some local traffic, but I don’t expect to be so lucky as to gather as much information as we were able to during Ferguson. And that means that, absent as much signals intelligence information, we’re going to rely more heavily on human intelligence to get our security picture. (See SALUTE and SALT Reporting for more information.) There’s a lesson here: unless you have eyes and ears collecting and reporting information today, you’re going to lack the intelligence required to drive decision-making tomorrow.

Subsection (III)(3)(b) covers an important part of this strategy: “… requires the [Joint Force Commander] to include communication goals and objectives in the commander’s intent and to have a communication approach that ensures unity of themes, objectives, and messages among key activities; consistency in intent or effect between command operations, actions, and information; and a risk assessment of the information that may reach unintended audiences, create unintended consequences, and require risk mitigation measures.”

Public Affairs, covered in subsection (III)(3)(b)(2), will play an active role in the HD mission. The PA is tasked with “communicating truthful and factual unclassified information” about defense activities.

Next we move on to (III)(4), which covers Intelligence Sharing for Homeland Defense. This section provides guidance for commanders at all levels to ensure that the fusion of “intelligence, counterintelligence (CI), [law enforcement] information, and other available threat information occurs” as it will “assist in developing a more accurate assessment of threats to the homeland and may prevent surprise”. Subsection (III)(4)(d) points out that U.S. domestic military operations operate under a different intelligence framework than overseas operations, and are subject to the Constitution and applicable laws. “These policies permit DOD intelligence missions in the homeland if the subject of the intelligence effort is definitively linked to defense-related foreign intelligence and CI activities,” however, it makes no mention of U.S. persons who are considered a threat to national defense. It appears that intelligence collection against U.S. persons would fall under the purview of local, state, or federal law enforcement; but this is not definitive.

The rest of Chapter III deals with a lot of information that’s irrelevant to our community security mission. Tomorrow I’ll be combing through the Appendices and providing my notes and thoughts on some probably valuable information contained therein.

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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