Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Homegrown Terror: Reservists as First Responders

The recent passage of the FY12 NDAA adds $1 billion to the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account to ensure that the Reserve Components are prepared for their national defense, disaster response, and homeland security missions. Earlier this month, ROA attended a joint-committee hearing during which lawmakers considered the threats associated with homegrown terrorism. What role should the RC have in deterring and responding to terrorist threats at home? Read and discuss:

The first-ever Joint House committee on Homeland Security and Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing was held on Wednesday, December 7, 2011. The hearing, chaired by Congressman Peter King (R-NY) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) examined the threat of homegrown terrorism on the United States military. With investigations into the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, and other multiple thwarted terror plot attempts aimed at the United States military, the increased threat of homegrown terrorism has been brought to light. The Reserve Officers Association attended and observed the hearing.

The hearing featured a panel that included testimony from Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton, Director and co-founder of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point Lieutenant Colonel Reid Sawyer, and U.S. Army Senior Advisor Jim Stuteville. This panel focused on the steps being taken by the Department of Defense to identify, report, and respond to domestic terrorist threats on the U.S. military, particularly those homegrown terrorists to covertly enter the military or radicalize after entering the military.

Currently, the Department of Defense is focusing on methods to identify potential internal terrorists by teaching awareness of potentially violent behavior. Part of the controversy surrounding this approach, however, is the Department’s and the Administration’s refusal to formally acknowledge radical Islam as a potential threat. Some on the committee, including Chairman King and Chairman Lieberman, believe the military should be identifying ideological extremism to address potential threats. Others, on the other hand, believe that identifying a religion would alienate all Muslim service members. 

In an article published in The Officer magazine last September, ROA’s Director of Legislation, CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.) explored the issue of homegrown terrorism. In this article, he argued that terrorism does not have to be part of a huge plot; rather, terrorism can be an individual act:

 “The point of terrorism is terror. An extensive organization is not needed. Terrorists don’t need to inflict massive casualties to generate terror; they just need to deliver fear. For terrorism to succeed, it must first create a state of mind, which in turn leads to a chain of events that terrorists wish to set in motion, leading to the fulfilling of the terrorist’s political goals.”

Reservists and Guardsmen play a vital role in countering or mitigating terrorist attacks. The National Guard has the mission of homeland security and, Reservists may play a more crucial role through Title 10 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY-2012. Title 10 authorizes Reservists to be the first responders to natural and man-made disasters. This bill has passed Congress, and is awaiting the President’s signature. With a more vital role on the home front, Congress must consider individual acts as being terrorist-related and must take the necessary precautions. As Hanson contends, “to discount individual acts as not being terrorist-related is to ignore the extent of the real threat, which can ultimately serve terrorist goals.”

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