Guard, NORTHCOM leadership concept will improve disaster responses

By Sgt. Darron Salzer


ARLINGTON, Va. - The National Guard’s relationship with U.S. Northern Command has always been of the utmost importance Navy Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, Jr., combatant commander, said here last week.

“One of the biggest goals I had coming into this job was to dramatically improve the relationship,” he told senior Guard officer and enlisted leaders on Feb. 28, “and I’m really proud to say that we’ve managed to do that – largely due to the great friendships that I have made with the adjutant generals.”

One of the things to come out of the relationship is the fruition of the contingency dual status commander concept, whereby a single commander can direct federal and state resources to better coordinate domestic incident responses.

“The CDSC concept is intended to achieve unity of effort when federal support is needed to support a state during a disaster,” he said.

“This didn’t go as well as we wanted it to during Katrina, and we’ve learned a lot since then, but one of the first things I told [Air Force] Gen. [Craig] McKinley was that my first priority was to move to a new level using the CDSC concept,” Winnefeld said, “this close collaboration between the National Guard Bureau, the States, USNORTHCOM and the Office of the Secretary of Defense does exactly that.” “We’ve always used Dual Status Commanders deliberately for pre-planned events that took six months, and it always worked pretty well, so it seemed me that there was no reason why we couldn’t do this in a contingency in the wake of a disaster, particularly if we prepared ourselves properly to do it.”

Understanding how this works is the key to ensure that everyone knows just how successful this concept can be, he said.

One of the most important ideas behind the program is the ability to react quickly to a disaster, he said, “not worrying about negotiating memorandums of agreement.

“We want to have all of that paperwork done in advance, so when the president and the governor give the go-ahead, we can fill in the blanks, get the paperwork signed and move ahead and not waste time.

“We really want to support the state joint task force headquarters commander’s staff with some federal expertise, should the state desire it, so we’ve also offered the opportunity to have Title 10 deputy commanders who will be trained alongside the regular CDSCs,” Winnefeld said.

“We also can leverage a staff element to the state JTFHQ to assist the adjutant general or [Joint Task Force] commander and help them better understand and work with the federal side.”

Winnefeld stressed that these people are not there to tell JTF commanders how to run their shops, but that they are really support elements that are available for use in whatever way JTF commanders see fit.

The fundamental principles of sovereignty of state and working closely with National Guard and the chief of the National Guard Bureau are two things that are important to Winnefeld.

“It is USNORTHCOM’s job to support the states, and not going around doing whatever we want,” Winnefeld said of his relationship with the states’ adjutant generals and the Guard.

“We’ve had the opportunity to table-top, or simulate this, with a few states, and it has gone pretty well,” he said, “and we’ve come a long way conceptually, since we started putting this together eight months ago.”

He said great progress was being made in the program, and they want to create more stability in the program, “because no one is more qualified to command federal and state military responses than a Guardmember from that state.

“Really, this concept is all about how I can serve you more rapidly, so that you can get the most rapid federal response in the wake of a disaster.”