Installations are the "combat power" the military brings to the homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities missions and are being looked at in the same sorts of ways military organizations are in judging their readiness.
That is at least one message one could take from first-ever Installation and Base Commanders Conference for the National Capital Region, a gathering brought together by Joint Force Headquarters for the National Capital Region. Knowing what can be counted on is important for logisticians and other planners faced with a natural disaster or terrorist crisis.
The commanders' agenda included overviews of the myriad and possibly conflicting expectations for military facilities in the post 9-11environment. It also drilled down to installation by installation reviews of capabilities and limitations.
Meeting Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 6 and 7, 2007) at the Washington Navy Yard's Conference Center on the banks of the Anacostia River, commanders mixed it up with other participants invited by JFHQ-NCR Commander Maj. Gen. Guy C. Swan III as all looked at the roles installations might be called on to play in mitigation of natural and manmade disasters.
Swan touched on a number of the conference themes opening the conference.
"During my watch I've seen an explosion of interagency cooperation," Swan said in welcoming remarks.
He noted the support agreement between the Defense Logistics Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as the primacy of the Corps of Engineers for public works and engineering support under the National Response Plan. All three agencies were represented in a panel focusing on expectations for installations -- what might be expected of them as support platforms, and what help they themselves might receive, and when.
"One thing I've noted: DoD is only scratching the surface about doctrine for domestic operations," Swan continued. While it's necessary and appropriate to focus on external defense, he suggested, the effort to find the best practices and best ways of doing business domestically was being done from the ground up, with a special effort taken place after the hurricanes of 2005.
The morning session featured Army North and Northern Command representatives who tag teamed to give an overview of logistical planning for domestic operations, differentiating the FEMA Mobilization Center and Operational Staging Area concepts, possible roles for installations, with military-focused Base Support Installation status.
The nested contingency plans developed by JFHQ-NCR got an unclassified disclosure in an afternoon briefing along with the information that the command's emergency preparedness concept plan, CONPLAN 2400, was cleared through NORTHCOM, with which it links, and was being presented by Adm. Timothy Keating to the secretary of defense for final approval.
Installations both within the National Capital Region and outside, but designated as part of the Joint Task Force NCR Area of Interest have various support roles and projected BSI status under the plan, subject to the mission analysis done at the time of the crisis.
Robert Cheshire, JFHQ-NCR's J-G4, gathered the audience about him for a rock drill the first afternoon that looked at the command's experience during Virtual Shield 07 in December when the region was presented with a hypothetical nuclear blast. Running through the way the exercise developed,
Cheshire said that among the lessons learned was the realization of how much was not known about the installations. Greater detail was needed in the analysis of installation capabilities for receiving supplemental forces (the Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration process, or JRSOI). In addition, the understanding of other potential customers for installation space and services in any crisis situation was flawed or lacked detail.
Filling the knowledge gaps and developing a common operating picture of installation capabilities contribute to the late hours kept by JFHQ-NCR planners and logisticians. Yet they are not alone.
Swan noted that the puzzle of "how do you do readiness reporting for domestic missions?" is being tackled and that the input from the installations for this will be greatly welcomed.
In fact, the Defense Readiness Reporting System is verging on expansion to encompass readiness reporting for installation and facilities, according to Thadd Buzan, a DRRS expert within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And the installation commander's evaluation is the most critical piece.
The 2006-directed "Serial 3" DRRS implementation guidance calls for such integration. Buzan related that the way the work is proceeding is to treat installations as equivalent to military organizations (or operational units) in their readiness reporting. They are thus assigned missions and resources, among which are installation facilities.
While overall installation mission areas are set across DoD, such as force generation and deployment capabilities, the various services will define their own METs, mission-essential tasks.
An effort to use such information, already being reported, to assist in presenting a "JTF-NCR Readiness Common Operational Picture" is being worked locally. Jack McDermott, of the J36 Readiness division at JFHQ-NCR, outlined for the commanders how such a system might work.
Presently a "hand-jammed" notional system, the COP would be presented as a Web-based view that looks at the JTF-NCR geographic area, or broader "area of interest," layering information by service or functional area, such as medical or aviation. DRRS information would feed through, and when status changed, blink or otherwise signal that something may have occurred impacting plan assumptions that merited attention of the commander.
With installation commanders on deck for second-day briefs of their installations' capabilities and limitations, the first day closed with a review by Fort Hamilton, N.Y., Garrison Commander Col. Tracey Nicholson of consequence management as experienced in New York following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Not within the National Capital Region, but part of U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Fort Hamilton "lost connectivity" for several days following the attack. The commander, working with the mayor and the National Guard made independent decisions for support "based on what made sense at the time," Nicholson related.
When then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki ratified the steps that had been taken and urged the installation to "help everyone you can" and "keep doing what you're doing," it was a welcome affirmation, Nicholson said.
Despite the limited green space on the 120-acre Brooklyn post, the facility is vitally important to the region as a secure facility only 13 miles from downtown New York City, Nicholson said. Its capabilities and its external support partnerships - as well as the support and guidance it receives from its MDW connection - have outweighed its size and space limitations in its value to the country and will continue to be leveraged.