There is no question that the Department of Defense has a responsibility to support the federal response to catastrophic events. The response to a nuclear detonation within the United States is the most demanding exercise of possible homeland-security scenarios. And one cannot question the enthusiasm and expertise shown by military and civilian responders as they train to respond to “unthinkable” terrorist incidents. But is it good defense policy?
As our forces return from more than a decade of fighting in the Middle East, indications are that the defense budget will continue to decline. Personnel levels within the Army and Marine Corps will drop. Few people are willing to critically examine the planned DOD response to a domestic CBRN terrorist incident, in part because Congress desires a strong domestic-response capability and in part because the White House has stated that it is a top national-security priority. But are the current measures in place the correct ones to address this particular challenge?