Homeland Security/Homeland Defense

By Brig. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, The Adjutant General

President and NJ TAGOn September 11th history was made in the National Guard when both the President and the Governor activated assets of the New Jersey National Guard almost simultaneously.

In the aftermath of that fateful day, our national focus has been to change our systems in order preserve our homeland security. The continuing operations we have been involved with since 9/11 are multiple such as deployments overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom by the 108th ARW, the continuing CAP mission of the 177th FW, the day to day Army taskings with each increased threat level, and the continuing mission by the Army at the nuclear power plants.

Most of you have lived these operations on a very personal level because it is personal. Protection of the homeland was the first mission of the militia and now it has come back full circle to the National Guard because we are the “hometown team.” We have spent the last 30 to 40 years training for a Cold War mission and overseas contingency operations as part of our federal mission with the active duty. Those deployments will certainly continue. But now the federal mission for homeland security has landed squarely in our backyards with the National Guard as a primary support agency for civil authorities and, in some cases, the lead such as the fighter CAP mission of which 74% is provided by the Air National Guard.

Because it is a federal mission, we must anticipate that the stand up of Northern Command and the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security will certainly impact on the way we function eventually. But we cannot afford to wait for direction from the federal government. On the state side, we have many initiatives we have started in conjunction with other state departments to improve our interoperability. For the New Jersey National Guard we are developing our own comprehensive system to deal with multiple, sustained events within our borders.

The crowning accomplishment is our new Homeland Security Center of Excellence with a state-of-the-art Joint Operations Center. Part of the command, control and communications network of this Center are mobile command posts to increase our ability to get on the ground situational reports and has immediate contact with forward deployed assets. Of course, the facility is only as good as the organization and the personnel doing the work. A fully developed alert process has been built and our plans have been revised although we predict that our plans will always be evolving as we seek to get better. Most importantly we have an active training and exercise program.

We have a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Team (CST) – light and we continue to lobby the Secretary of Defense for a fully funded, full-time CST based here in New Jersey. A fully funded team will provide us with another mobile communications van as well as a mobile laboratory capable of onsite biological and chemical analysis. Additionally, we have begun the process of identifying teams for a quick response force in key areas such as communications, medical, civil engineering and security.

This is how we are planning to fight on the state side should we have to face another major catastrophic event again. It is also highly probable that in addition to fighting within our own borders, we will be part of the federal operations overseas. I know that you have all been heavily tasked this year but our efforts have improved our readiness and capabilities. Our mission is an honorable and worthy one. And it is a simple one—to protect our families, our homes and our way of life.