September 1, 2012  

Joint duty reservists

Cmdr. Benjamin Griffeth’s letter to the editor, “Reserve needs joint path, too” [February], said: “[T]he states’ Joint Force Headquarters only benefits the National Guard, as there is no reserve counterpart to this state-driven command.”

To the contrary, there are a substantial number of reserve officer billets serving in a joint-duty capacity supporting state National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and state civilian emergency management agencies. Each of these billets should be carefully examined for permanent designation as a Joint Duty Assignment-Reserve (JDA-R) billet.

There are 93 senior Navy Reserve officers (O-5s and O-6s) serving as emergency preparedness liaison officers throughout the 54 states and territories and roughly an equivalent number of Air Force and Army Reserve EPLOs, not to mention regional Marine and Coast Guard EPLOs. A large majority of EPLO drills and annual training days are spent training and responding to domestic operations jointly with National Guard and state emergency management agencies.

In fact, 2011 saw a record 29 Navy EPLOs simultaneously supporting state Emergency Operation Centers, Guard Joint Operation Centers and Federal Emergency Management Agency Joint Field Offices in response to Hurricane Irene. Moreover, EPLOs regularly train with FEMA, the FBI, state police agencies, the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and a host of state agencies with emergency response responsibilities. Obviously, EPLOs regularly serve in joint and interagency duty.

Active-duty defense coordinating officers and their defense coordinating elements should also be considered joint duty. Many such offices are co-located with FEMA and the federal coordinating officers. These units regularly exercise and deploy with National Guard, state and federal agencies supporting emergency response.

The recent development and implementation of the Dual Status Command, allowing a National Guard general officer to lead both Title 10 and Title 32 forces, is clearly joint duty. The dual-status commander supporting civilian authorities is also a defined, integrated mission: defense support to civil authorities.

These Guard, Reserve and active-duty billets are among the first military responders to a homeland disaster. Under the National Response Framework, ironically, Northern Command, a joint command, is the last responder (in most instances) “when an emergency exceed(s) the capabilities of local, state and federal agencies.” In other words, NORTHCOM is held in reserve (last in, first out); the first, front-line military responders are Guard and Reserve. If NORTHCOM, filled with joint billets, functions as the homeland reserve force, the front-line Guard and Reserve units first-responding to homeland emergencies and ahead of NORTHCOM should be designated JDA-R billets.


Navy Capt. Scott R. Boyer, EPLO