Dennis Reimer

Retired Gen. Dennis Reimer served 37 years in the Army before leaving as chief of staff in 1999. He is now director of the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City. The following remarks are excerpted from testimony before the House National Security Committee panel on emerging threats last spring. Go to for the full text.

In addressing the partnership between first responders and the military, one must acknowledge the difficult task the military faces. One of the fundamental lessons to come out of Oklahoma City was that terrorism can affect any city or town in the United States. Any disaster of any size will most likely require federal assistance and the Federal Response Plan addresses many of the mechanics associated with that assistance. However, with over 85,000 local jurisdictions for the military to support, there is a need for doctrine and a degree of standardization that do not currently exist. . . .

A doctrine that is universally understood is paramount. The early stages of any disaster are extremely critical and during those stages, similar to combat, training often has to trump natural reactions. There is a need for a standardized interdepartmental training program that focuses on the mission-essential tasks associated with responding to a terrorist attack. A compatible communications system for all is essential for effective control of an incident, but is currently beyond our near-term resource reach. The front-end planning and system engineering of the communication architecture necessary for effective control must be done as a matter of priority.

In my mind, the National Guard is a key military element in both homeland defense and homeland security. Their rich and proud tradition going back to the 17th century has always stressed protecting our citizens. The close support they provide the governors and their close association with state emergency responder personnel, coupled with their added flexibility when employed in a Title 32 [state] status, make them a natural candidate for an enhanced role in this area.

The downsizing of our military has placed increased reliance on the National Guard-particularly in the Army-for the full spectrum of military operations. [The tempo of operations] for them is becoming an increasingly heavy burden and there is a need to re-examine and probably fine-tune the structural alignment between the active and reserve component forces. At the very minimum, the issue of mobilizing first responders [who serve in the military reserves] and taking them away from their duties of protecting the homeland in order to deploy overseas with their military units should be addressed. . . .

Without a common doctrine, a commonly understood operational framework and standardization of terminology, the risk of wasting precious minutes at the front end of this process is increased. This risk can be mitigated through a program of cooperation between the military and the first responders. The creation of Northern Command with its mission to deter aggression and defend the homeland is . . . the right decision.

The decision to place National Guard officers in key leadership positions within Northern Command is praiseworthy. However, before one can determine the proper force structure necessary to properly accomplish that mission, the policy issue concerning the role of the Department of Defense in homeland security [versus] homeland defense has to be addressed. This is a policy issue best addressed by Congress and . . . the administration, but the American public has an expectation that the homeland will be secured. If attacked again, I doubt that any of us will be satisfied with another study to fix responsibility.

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