Small Wars Journal

humanitarian assistance

The Walled City Upon a Hill: Why the US is Responsible for the Deaths of Migrants

The US should embrace the fact that it is in part responsible for this crisis. America should do everything it can to help Central American migrants. This injustice must be corrected if the United States is to live up to its great legacy as the city upon a hill.

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Small Wars Preparations in Support of the Joint Operational Environment 2035

Preparations for future small wars described in the JOE 2035 must account for stability operations, FHA and peace operations, and counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations. Viewing these types of small wars as distinctly separate and mutually exclusive is a flawed perspective; the world is an interconnected place and the types of small wars the joint force may encounter in the future will often occur simultaneously and as a result of one another.

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Nadia Murad's Story Continues: VP Pence, the Yazidis, Human Rights & Humanitarian Assistance

Murad’s advocacy, willingness to tell her heart-breaking story hundreds of times, and tenacity pushed a nearly impossible win across the finish line. Now Trump’s rash choice on troops in Syria may reverse that work. If and when the Yazidis begin to trickle back into Sinjar, they will have Murad, and very few others, to thank.

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Defense Coordinating Elements: A Vital Link Between DOD and Civil Authorities

The Chemical, Biological Radiological Nuclear Response Enterprise exercises foster interagency cooperation and support for response and recovery of man-made and natural disasters.  Embedded within each of the ten Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions are Defense Coordinating Elements lead by an O-6 Defense Coordinating Officer.  The nine-person DCE is the single point of entry for all local, tribal, state, and federal requests for DoD assistance.   The DCE is augmented by senior reserve officers serving as Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps assigned to each state.  The EPLOs work closely with state emergency managers and the state National Guard Joint Force Headquarters to maintain awareness of capabilities, gaps, and emergency response plans within their state.  During a disaster they serve a vital role by faciliting information sharing between the DCE and State Emergency Operations Centers or Joint Force Headquarters.  This is especially critical in developing situational awareness and building trust between local or state and federal entities.

The general saying in the Defense Support of Civil Authorities world is “a disaster is not the place to be handing out business cards,” meaning a disaster is not the place you should meet your intra-agency counter-part for the first time.  During VIBRANT RESPONSE 13 the DCE had the unique opportunity to rehearse interagency operations while working with FEMA National and Regional Incident Management Assistance Teams who were also participating in the National Exercise scenario for the first time.  FEMA IMATs rapidly deploy to effected venues and assist local and state leadership to identify federal assistance requirements, and to coordinate and integrate inter-jurisdictional response in support of an affected state or territory.  As the name implies, they help manage Federal resources to fill needs that the local and state emergency managers cannot meet.  During VR 13 the DCE actively participated in the FEMA 24-hour planning cycle known as the Incident Action Process, identified and validated DoD mission assignments, and provided the requirements and guidance to U. S. Army North’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support headquarters for action. 

The VR 13 exercise was followed by the real-world deployment of multiple FEMA IMATs and six DCEs to five states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support the response and recovery needs resulting from the landfall of Hurricane Isaac.  Many of the DCEs had not previously operated in hurricane states.  Using their understanding of FEMA operations and well trained state EPLOs they were able to establish a Federal Staging Area for Urban Search and Rescue Teams, coordinate Incident Support Bases, facilitate aerial imagery, and control DoD helicopters deployed in support of the Federal response.

The CRE exercise VR 13 served as an excellent opportunity for DoD to interact with Federal, State, and local agencies to prepare for the “next big disaster.”  The way ahead is clearly to continue fostering the DoD relationship with our partner Federal Agencies to plan and prepare for civil support for all-hazards events.