October 18, 2004
All eyes on deck
Homeland defense strategy calls for beefed-up protection from unexpected places
By Jason Sherman
Times staff writer
The F/A-22 Raptor was designed to tangle with Soviet fighters over Europe. The Littoral Combat Ship was invented to operate near hostile coasts.
If a draft homeland security strategy circulating in the Pentagon is adopted, both power-projection weapons would be reassigned to defensive missions much closer to home — and changes to the U.S. military’s development and acquisition plans wouldn’t stop there.
The 70-page “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support” describes a layered defense to improve surveillance near U.S. borders and intelligence-gathering overseas, a vision that would require vast constellations of air, land and sea sensors and better battle-management systems and communications gear.
The strategy, produced by Paul McHale, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for homeland defense, needs Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s approval to go into effect. Rumsfeld had listed the creation of such a strategy among his top 10 priorities for the year.
The draft strategy directs combatant commanders and senior Pentagon civilians to figure out how a new focus on homeland defense would change the needs for force structure, technology and management. The Pentagon is already preparing to launch a raft of studies to nail down the answers.
The changes would start with weapons due to arrive in a few years.
“There are many aspects of homeland defense that the Defense Department can undertake by leveraging assets that it already has,” said Scott McMahon, a homeland defense expert at the Rand think tank.
The document calls for the Air Force’s F/A-22 Raptor, originally designed to counter Soviet fighters, to protect U.S. cities from cruise missiles. The tri-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter also would be pressed into domestic service; among the planes it will replace is the F-16, which flies most of today’s homeland air patrol missions.
And the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, designed to operate off hostile coasts, will be suited to defend U.S. waters, the document says.
Lower-profile programs across the services, such as nonlethal technologies and military medicine, may get more seed money because they can help ground forces, particularly the Army National Guard, carry out homeland defense and civil support missions.
For example, the draft strategy calls for more spending on weapons and technologies that can subdue attackers or disable vehicles and ships without killing people — an area that has gotten more lip service than fiscal commitment from the Pentagon.
For a decade, the Marine Corps has been leading Pentagon efforts in this area. The weapons range from pellets filled with pepper spray that can be fired from a special rifle to a millimeter-wave laser gun that heats an intruder’s skin to painful limits.
Ongoing tests and some real-world deployments have proven nonlethal weapons’ viability, Marine officials say. But preliminary budget figures show the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate, headquartered at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., receiving $44 million in the 2006 budget — a slight decrease from the 2005 budget.
The biggest chunk of new money would go toward building a better picture of the air and sea approaches to U.S. territory.
A system is needed to weave data from vast arrays of new sensors into an immediate picture of the approaches, said experts following the issue. Such a system would draw on intelligence and communication tools used by civilian agencies, including the federal Homeland Security Department, the FBI and even local fire and police departments.
“Maritime … is one area that cries out for closer cooperation” between the Defense and Homeland Security departments, said James Carafano, a homeland defense expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
“It is the one seam where we need to be seamless and where we just haven’t had the level of cooperation and integration between DoD and DHS that we absolutely need,” Carafano said.
Adm. Vern Clark, the Navy’s chief of naval operations, began calling in 2002 for a “maritime NORAD,” referring to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, to track and identify all ships approaching U.S. shores and “extend the security of the United States far seaward.”
A 2003 Defense Science Board study underlined the technical shortcomings faced by U.S. Northern Command, which plans, organizes and carries out the defense of U.S. territory. The command, which controls few permanently assigned forces, does not have the technical ability to scan all horizons, said the chairman of that study, titled “DoD Roles and Missions in Homeland Security.”
Today’s Navy and Coast Guard can react to threats, but are limited by what can be spotted by radar and sonar or other intelligence assets, said retired Adm. Don Pilling, a former vice chief of naval operations.
“It was clear during the Defense Science Board review that we have assigned NorthCom large expanses of ocean without the ability to have a very good idea of what was happening all the time” in the command’s area of responsibility, Pilling said. “If we were to put radars in space that were able to track the oceans, we’d have a lot more capability.”
Navy Secretary Gordon England has offered his own “maritime domain awareness” vision that would combine data and intelligence from the Navy, Coast Guard, 19 other agencies and U.S. allies. The picture would cover not just maritime threats but ones in space and cyberspace as well, England said Sept. 29 at the U.S. Naval Institute Warfare Exposition and Symposium in Virginia Beach, Va.
Cooperative Engagement Capability, a Navy program that lets warships share radar pictures and data, also could help. It will be installed on 38 ships and 16 aircraft by fiscal 2006, Navy officials say.
The draft document also directs NORAD to develop a plan for a joint deployable area air and cruise missile defense system that can defend U.S. territory from everything from missiles to stealthy aircraft.
“A true national air defense capability that covers all U.S. territory 24/7 would be a very significant additional investment,” said McMahon, the Rand analyst.
Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NORAD was looking for external threats using a series of radars set up along the coasts, but had no way to tap into the interior radars used by the Federal Aviation Administration to track domestic air traffic.
In the three years since the attacks, NORAD has linked up to about 70 of the FAA’s long-range interior radars and is integrating close to 40 of the administration’s terminal approach control radars, Air Force Gen. Ralph Everhart, NORAD and Northern Command boss, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
On other fronts, the draft strategy cites a need for improved collaboration and coordination between defense and civilian agencies to develop new medicines, vaccines and disease detection capabilities.
The draft document also calls for leveraging military expertise to help civilian agencies prepare for, prevent and respond to attack, and some of that is already underway.
For example, subject matter experts in biodefense already are sharing a campus at Fort Detrick, Md. They include the Department of Homeland Security’s National Bioterrorism Analysis and Countermeasures Center and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
That kind of collaboration is “extremely important,” said retired Lt. Gen. James Peake, who recently stepped down as the Army surgeon general.
In addition, Army medical re-engineering efforts are underway to position reserve mobile hospitals for swift response to mass casualties.
Some homeland security experts question the new draft strategy’s core idea of a layered defense. Many maritime threats will masquerade as legitimate commercial traffic, which requires a different approach, said Stephen Flynn, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us From Terrorism.”
Flynn said such floating Trojan horses will be stopped not just by new sensors but by police work and procedures that identify crews and cargo coming into U.S. waters.
“The layered defense approach is still very much a response to a conventional threat,” Flynn said. “What I see maritime domain awareness developing into is a chance for the satellite companies to make a return on their investment by tracking things moving across the waterways.”
And for all the new ideas, homeland security won’t take over the entire budget, said Bert Tussing, professor of national security affairs at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. He helped review the draft strategy and co-wrote a paper last year describing a layered defense and intelligence network.
“Invariably, there are going to be resource considerations because we’re facing a new world, a new threat,” Tussing said.