National Guard Teams Prepare for Terrorist WMD Attacks
by Jim Kouri
Not long ago, Denys Ray Hughes, 59, of Phoenix, AZ, was found guilty of Attempted Production of a Biological Toxin for Use as a Weapon, Possession of an Unregistered Destructive Device and Possession of an Unregistered Silencer, by a federal jury.
The evidence at his trial showed that Hughes grew castor bean plants and cultivated thousands of their seeds, which contain the toxin called ricin. Hughes further possessed the necessary precursor materials, as well as written instructions for extracting the toxin. The government also proved at trial that Hughes possessed a destructive device, specifically, a pipe bomb, and multiple silencers.
Hughes' conviction for Attempted Production of a Biological Toxin for Use as a Weapon carried a penalty of life imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine.
To prepare for potential attacks in the United States involving weapons of mass destruction, the US Congress approved the development of National Guard's Civil Support Teams which are responsible with identifying chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive weapons; assessing consequences; advising civil authorities on response measures; and assisting with requests for additional support.
So far, 36 of the 55 approved teams have been fully certified to conduct their mission. The National Guard Bureau is in the process of establishing, certifying, and planning for the long-term sustainment of the CSTs, according to an unclassified report submitted to the National Association of Chiefs of Police by the GAO.
The established CSTs have thus far been trained, equipped, and staffed and have command and control mechanisms in place to conduct their domestic mission. However, confusion resulting from a lack of guidance on the types of non-WMD missions the CSTs can conduct to prepare for their WMD terrorism mission could impede coordination between state authorities and local emergency management officials on the appropriate use of the CSTs.
CSTs were created to focus on assisting civil authorities in domestic WMD events. Based on its review of the CSTs' training, equipment, and staffing criteria; analysis of CST readiness data; site visits to 14 CSTs; and discussions with state, local, and federal responders, analysts from the Government Accounting Office found the certified teams visited to be ready to conduct their mission.
NGB and the states have a clear structure for operational command and control of the CSTs. Though current NGB guidance and the CSTs' message to state and local officials emphasize the CST mission as being focused on WMD events, some CSTs have responded to non-WMD events, such as providing emergency assistance to the Gulf Coast states after the 2005 hurricanes.
While NGB views such missions as useful preparations for WMD events, guidance has not been clarified to reflect the type of non-WMD missions that would be appropriate. This lack of clarity has caused confusion among state, local, and NGB officials, potentially slowing coordination efforts.
Also, the Department of Defense is proposing a limited role for the CSTs to coordinate and operate with Mexican and Canadian officials in the event of a cross-border WMD incident. DOD and NGB are informally considering limited overseas missions for the teams, though they have no plans to request a further expansion of the CSTs' mission to encompass overseas operations.
According to NGB and the CST commanders, some overseas missions could provide valuable experience and have a positive effect on CST readiness, while other, more demanding missions, such as supporting the warfighters, could be detrimental to the readiness and availability of the CSTs.
Although NGB continues to develop a long-term sustainment plan for the CST program, going forward, it faces challenges to the administration and management of the CSTs that could impede both the progress of newer teams and the long-term sustainment of the program. NGB has made progress in establishing an administrative management structure for the CSTs, including issuing a broad CST management regulation and initiating a standardization and evaluation program.
But the CSTs face challenges in personnel, coordination plans, equipment acquisition and planning, training objectives, readiness reporting and facilities. Also, insufficient NGB guidance on state National Guard roles and responsibilities for overseeing and supporting their CSTs has resulted in varied support at the state National Guard level.
NGB is aware of the challenges and has efforts under way to address them. While these challenges have not yet undermined CST readiness, if NGB efforts are unsuccessful, the progress of newer teams could be impeded and the long-term sustainment of the CST program put at greater risk.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.