The Army's Role in Domestic Disaster Support

An Assessment of Policy Choices

by John Y. Schrader

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This report begins identifying the central issues for determining the appropriate Army role in disaster relief. The study finds three potential options for an expanded Army role in civil emergency response: (1) continue to support the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA's) leadership of disaster response planning; (2) expand the Director of Military Support office to include formal state liaison offices; and (3) designate civil disaster support as a fifth pillar of national defense strategy and incorporate disaster-support missions into the Army's primary missions. The last two options expand the Army's current role and will require both internal changes and outside actions. While weighing these options and examining the issues surrounding them, the Army should take three steps to make its force ready to meet the current expectations of the American people in the event of a disaster at home: (1) transfer executive authority for military support from the Secretary of the Army to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; (2) support formal acceptance of civil disaster response as a mission for both active and reserve forces; and (3) review legal constraints on military participation in civil disaster relief.

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