Pentagon Saves National Guard WMD Unit That Helped in Boston

The U.S. Defense Department was poised as recently as last month to dismantle a National Guard crisis team that assisted in the emergency response to the bombings at Monday's Boston Marathon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on March 29 informed lawmakers in writing of plans to dismantle the New York-based 24th National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, as well as a similar WMD unit housed in Florida, House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) said on Tuesday. The units were to cease operations by late June, Hagel said in a letter that did not offer a reason for the decision.

Members of the New York team "responded to the Boston Marathon bombings," where twin blasts killed three people and wounded close to 200 near the end of the course, Young said.

The Pentagon move, now reversed, would have been at least the second attempt to eliminate the two teams as a cost-saving method. New York and Florida both have two of the full-time units that would provide assistance to civil authorities following a biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear incident. California also has two, while other U.S. states and territories are alloted one team.

Young noted that his committee had authorized funding for the teams in a fiscal 2013 defense bill.

"Congress is very, very supportive of those teams," the lawmaker said. He pressed Hagel and other top Pentagon officials during a Tuesday budget hearing to explain the reasoning behind the planned elimination of the units.

Hagel, though, said his department reversed its decision and requested funding for the teams in its fiscal 2014 budget proposal.

"I think the Congress was informed of that [in] the last few days, and we put the money back in," the Pentagon chief said. He later reaffirmed his department's backing for the teams in response to questioning by Representative Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

The roughly 20-person New York unit -- based at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn -- dispatched five personnel to Boston after receiving a request last Friday from the Massachusetts state government, said Eric Durr, public information director for the New York state Military and Naval Affairs Division.

"Anytime you've got a high-key event where there's lots of people, there's usually a ... unit from a civil support team in the area to provide assistance to first responders," Durr told Global Security Newswire by telephone. He declined to discuss specifics of how the 24th personnel provided assistance following the Monday attack.

The National Guard said operating a second WMD unit in New York requires about $500,000 each year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) indicated in a 2012 press release.

The motivation behind the Pentagon about-face was not immediately clear. Defense Department officials did not respond by press time to requests for comment.

All 57 WMD civil support teams are included in the National Guard’s fiscal 2014 budget justification, which makes specific reference to the additional units in New York and Florida. Short-term spending measures have financed the teams during the current budget cycle.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.