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National Guard's Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams: A Quick Push for a New Program

NCJ Number
Terrorism and Political Violence Volume: 13 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2001 Pages: 107-126
Kirsten M. Krawczyk
Date Published
20 pages
This article examines the role of the National Guard Civil Support teams. It highlights some of the existing counter-Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) infrastructure, and underscores the need for the United States to slow its over-anxious response to countering WMD terrorism.
In 1997, Congress designated the Department of Defense as the lead agency in enhancing domestic preparedness and consequence management for potential Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attacks. By November 1997, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support teams. The Civil Support teams (CSTs) each consist of 22 members’ and were created to assist state and local authorities in assessing a WMD incident. This article presumes that terrorists could use chemical or biological agents, but the threat is not as great as perceived in 1997 when the Civil Support team was approved. It is argued that the United States should pursue an adequate, yet rational, program to respond to WMD attacks, but the rapid development of the CSTs is a response to an overblown threat. Adequate domestic infrastructure for homeland defense exists and the fear that the United States had no counter-WMD capabilities with the creation of the Guard Civil Support teams is unfounded. The current infrastructure, including regular active duty military, civilian responders, and the National Guard, would benefit most from more time to train and to coordinate with each other. Perhaps monies earmarked for the establishment of new unproven CSTs should be diverted to solve some of the Nation’s most basic problems first. For example, 50 percent of the public health organizations do not have the computers to communicate with the Centers for Disease Control. It would be inefficient to implement new teams when the original 10 are struggling with training and logistical issues. There is no doubt the Defense Department has a large role to play in homeland defense, but it needs to resist Congressional pressures to expand new programs when other programs exist that could use more funding. Glossary, 78 notes