Joint Task Force Alaska (JTF-AK), headquartered at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, is a subordinate command of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). It is comprised of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian specialists. JTF-AK’s mission is to, in coordination with other government agencies, deter, detect, prevent and defeat threats within the Alaska Joint Operations Area (AK JOA) in order to protect U.S. territory, citizens, and interests, and as directed, conduct Civil Support.
USNORTHCOM is the combatant command established in 2002 to provide command and control of DOD homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
Within its JOA, JTF-AK plans and, if directed, integrates the full spectrum of DOD homeland defense efforts and provides defense support to a primary agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Prevention, crisis response and consequence management are capabilities included within the spectrum of support.
In coordination with other federal, state and local agencies, JTF-AK evaluates events and locations throughout the state of Alaska for their potential vulnerability as targets for aggression and terrorism. JTF-AK provides situational awareness to military commands and civilian agencies throughout the state of Alaska and the continental U.S. to aid in homeland security awareness and planning.
JTF-AK’s civil support mission includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur in response to natural or man-made disasters. Support also includes managing the consequences of a terrorist attack employing a weapon of mass destruction. The task force provides assistance to a Primary Agency when approved by the Secretary of Defense and as directed by the commander of USNORTHCOM. Military forces may provide civil support to save lives, prevent injuries and provide temporary critical life support, but, in accordance with the Posse Comitatus Act, do not become directly involved in law enforcement.
The mission of supporting civil authorities is not a new one for DOD. The U.S. military has a long history of providing assistance to civil authorities during emergencies. An emergency must exceed the capabilities of local, state and federal agencies before JTF-AK becomes involved. In most cases, support will be limited, localized and specifi c. When the scope of the disaster is reduced to the point that the Primary Agency can again assume full control and management without military
assistance, JTF-AK will exit, leaving the on-scene experts to finish the job.