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The Pentagon Wants Authority to Post Almost 400,000 Military Personnel in U.S.

By Matthew Rothschild, August 12, 2009

The Pentagon has approached Congress to grant the Secretary of Defense the authority to post almost 400,000 military personnel throughout the United States in times of emergency or a major disaster.

This request has already occasioned a dispute with the nation’s governors. And it raises the prospect of U.S. military personnel patrolling the streets of the United States, in conflict with the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

In June, the U.S. Northern Command distributed a “Congressional Fact Sheet” entitled “Legislative Proposal for Activation of Federal Reserve Forces for Disasters.” That proposal would amend current law, thereby “authorizing the Secretary of Defense to order any unit or member of the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, and the Marine Corps Reserve, to active duty for a major disaster or emergency.”

Taken together, these reserve units would amount to “more than 379,000 military personnel in thousands of communities across the United States,” explained

Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs, in a letter to the National Governors Association, dated July 20.

The governors were not happy about this proposal, since they want to maintain control of their own National Guard forces, as well as military personnel acting in a domestic capacity in their states.

“We are concerned that the legislative proposal you discuss in your letter would invite confusion on critical command and control issues,” Governor James H. Douglas of Vermont and Governor Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the president and vice president of the governors’ association, wrote in a letter back to Stockton on August 7. The governors asserted that they “must have tactical control over all . . . active duty and reserve military forces engaged in domestic operations within the governor’s state or territory.”

According to Pentagon public affairs officer Lt. Col. Almarah K. Belk, Stockton has not responded formally to the governors but understands their concerns.

“There is a rub there,” she said. “If the Secretary calls up the reserve personnel to provide support in a state and retains command and control of those forces, the governors are concerned about if I have command and control of the Guard, how do we ensure unity of effort and everyone is communicating and not running over each other.”

Belk said Stockton is addressing this problem. “That is exactly what Dr. Stockton is working out right now with the governors and DHS and the National Guard,” she said. “He’s bringing all the stakeholders together.”

Belk said the legislative change is necessary in the aftermath of a “catastrophic natural disaster, not beyond that,” and she referred to Katrina, among other events.

But NorthCom’s Congressional fact sheet refers not just to a “major disaster” but also to “emergencies.” And it says, “Those terms are defined in section 5122 of title 42, U.S. Code.”

That section gives the President the sole discretion to designate an event as an “emergency” or a “major disaster.” Both are “in the determination of the President” alone.

That section also defines “major disaster” by citing plenty of specifics: “hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought,” as well as “fire, flood, or explosion.”

But the definition of “emergency” is vague: “Emergency means any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.”

Currently, the President can call up the Reserves only in an emergency involving “a use or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction” or “a terrorist attack or threatened terrorist attack in the United States that results, or could result, in significant loss of life or property,” according to Title 10, Chapter 1209, Section 12304, of the U.S. Code. In fact, Section 12304 explicitly prohibits the President from calling up the Reserves for any other “natural or manmade disaster, accident, or catastrophe.”

So the new proposed legislation would greatly expand the President’s power to call up the Reserves in a disaster or an emergency and would extend that power to the Secretary of Defense. (There are other circumstances, such as repelling invasions or rebellions or enforcing federal authority, where the President already has the authority to call up the Reserves.)

The ACLU is alarmed by the proposed legislation. Mike German, the ACLU’s national security policy counsel, expressed amazement “that the military would propose such a broad set of authorities and potentially undermine a 100-year-old prohibition against the military in domestic law enforcement with no public debate and seemingly little understanding of the threat to democracy.”

At the moment, says Pentagon spokesperson Belk, the legislation does not have a sponsor in the House or the Senate.

For more information on NorthCom, see Matthew Rothschild’s “What Is NorthCom Up To?” which ran on the cover of The Progressive’s February issue.

And to stay abreast of the military’s encroachment into domestic affairs and other civil liberties issues, please subscribe to The Progressive today for only $14.97 by clicking here.

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Tags: Featured This Just In Matthew Rothschild NorthCom Pentagon

Working on a military base I talk to a lot of GIs going to and coming from overseas assignment. A few months ago I talked to one that said he was asked by "Survye", along with others, if he could turn his guns on U.S. citizens if ordered. Most, 90%, said no but the 10% that said yes were not U.S. citizens or had just become same. This whole thing is worrisome. Think what would happen if they allowed U.N. troop in to "help law enforcement" quel riots.

I don't trust any Gov't using the military on our shores but this Administration is showing more and more signs of Chavez. Do you research, don't believe me. Learn it for yourself. The fact are there, just look. Chavez did most of what this president is doing now, took over banks,(in a different way, by force) threatened Oil Companies then took THEM over, Took over big businesses and put in his own people, and now using a covert movement to talk over radio and TV stations saying that they are "Subsersive" and not good for the people, can you say "Fairness Doctrine"? But like I said, do your own research and don't believe me or the press that has all but started wearing shirts that have our presidents picture on them.

Submitted by Dutchman on Sat, 08/15/2009 - 4:43am.

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US citizens shouldn't be the only ones worried about this. I remember about 20 years ago reading from a good source that there was a US military base just across the border from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, where about 30,000 troops seemed to have no defined purpose but was within easy reach of Ottawa, our federal capital. I know that most US pressure on Canada is exerted on a commercial and financial level, as when then-Prime Minister John Turner was summoned to New York by a coterie of businessmen and instructed that Canada WOULD sign the Free Trade Agreement, but as the largest exporter of oil to the US we feel especially vulnerable. Would the US ever allow an NDP (New Democratic Party) government to be elected to power in Canada? Although it is feebly left-of-centre by European standards, you only have to look at the Health Care debate to see how easily many US citizens can be stampeded into seeing 'reds-under-the-bed' across the border.

Can anyone tell me if the base still exists, and what it is there for?

With Arctic Sovereignty being the next source of friction between the US and Canada, what exactly IS NorthCom for?

PS It is not "socialized health-care", it is 'mutual insurance', which many industries practice, and it's FABULOUS. After the war(yes,WW2) both the victorious and defeated powers conceived universal health care (with the possible exception of Japan). In 1948 President Truman tried to do the same thing for the USA. Everybody else implemented it, but the US insurance industry has been blocking it for over 60 years. Believe me you will love it when you get it!

Submitted by smudgersmith on Fri, 08/14/2009 - 3:22pm.

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That's about the number of foreign troops in the U.S. right now.

Submitted by escapefromobamastan on Fri, 08/14/2009 - 3:08pm.

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Let's not forget that Mao, Stalin and Hitler used the military against their own people. To say one should just ignore this because presidents in the past have used similar Executive Orders is just dim-witted.

Submitted by inahaus on Fri, 08/14/2009 - 1:34pm.

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Nothing new here is correct. Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Hoover, Eisenhower all used Federal military against civilians. And our Senators and Congressmen will be scrambling for any Federal money which comes with these "military postings".

Submitted by Campwheeler on Thu, 08/13/2009 - 1:34pm.

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Ho hum. Nothing new. JFK issued an executive order that allowed himself to do the same thing, AND conscript any able-bodied man not already in the military.

Submitted by greg morris on Wed, 08/12/2009 - 3:41pm.

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That was executive order 11000.

Submitted by greg morris on Wed, 08/12/2009 - 4:59pm.

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