Chapter Chapter 4
Section Military Assistance
Active duty military and National Guard personnel provided critical emergency response and security support to the Gulf Coast during the height of the crisis. State active duty and Title 32 National Guard forces that deployed to Louisiana and Mississippi operated under the command of their respective Governors.147 Title 10 active duty forces, on the other hand, fell under the command of the President and had more limited civil response authority.148 On August 30, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England authorized U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take all appropriate measures to plan and conduct disaster relief operations in support of FEMA.149 USNORTHCOM established Joint Task Force Katrina (JTF-Katrina) at Camp Shelby to coordinate the growing military response to the disaster.150
By September 1, JTF-Katrina, commanded by LTG Honoré, included approximately 3,000 active duty personnel in the disaster area; within four days, that number climbed to 14,232 active duty personnel. LTG Honoré’s leadership, combined with the Department of Defense’s resources, manpower, and advanced planning, contributed to the military’s success in the Federal response, especially in areas such as search and rescue, security, and logistical support. Two C-130 firefighting aircraft and seven helicopters supported firefighting operations in New Orleans.151 By September 5, military helicopters had performed 963 search and rescue, evacuation, and supply delivery missions.152 Military personnel also assisted Federal, State and local agencies with other needs as well. For example, DOD aircraft flew mosquito abatement aerial spraying missions over 2 million acres to prevent the spread of mosquito- and water-borne diseases.153 Military personnel also performed such missions as salvage, sewage restoration, relief worker billeting, air traffic control, and fuel distribution.
The Departments of Homeland Security and Defense should jointly plan for the Department of Defense’s support of Federal response activities as well as those extraordinary circumstances when it is appropriate for the Department of Defense to lead the Federal response. In addition, the Department of Defense should ensure the transformation of the National Guard is focused on increased integration with active duty forces for homeland security plans and activities.
The standard National Guard deployment coordination between State Adjutants General (TAGs) was effective during the initial response but was insufficient for such a large-scale and sustained operation.154 To address this shortfall, LTG Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, held a conference call on August 31with all fifty-four TAGs to distribute requests for forces and equipment to all TAGs.155
Guardsmen performed a range of missions, including search and rescue, security, evacuations, and distribution of food and water. In Mississippi, National Guard forces prepared Camp Shelby as a staging point for incoming forces and also engaged in law enforcement support, debris removal, shelter support and other vital operations.156 Guardsmen from Texas and Pennsylvania supplied satellite phone communications to the response. 157 When a group of Pennsylvania Guardsmen arrived to fix a Louisiana woman’s roof, she told the group: “That’s a long way to come to help us. We’re really grateful … you boys are going to heaven, I tell you.158 By August 29, sixty-five National Guard helicopters were positioned throughout the Gulf Coast.159 By September 2, nearly 22,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen had deployed to the region —including 6,500 in New Orleans alone160 —breaking the National Guard’s previous record for the largest response to a domestic emergency.161 Eventually, over 50,000 National Guard members from fifty-four States, Territories, and the District of Columbia deployed to the Gulf Coast, providing critical response assistance during this week of crisis.162 The robust active duty and National Guard response played a crucial role in the effort to bring stability to the areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
A fragmented deployment system and lack of an integrated command structure for both active duty and National Guard forces exacerbated communications and coordination issues during the initial response. Deployments for Title 32 (National Guard) forces were coordinated State-to-State through EMAC agreements and also by the National Guard Bureau. Title 10 (active duty) force deployments were coordinated through USNORTHCOM. Once forces arrived in the Joint Operations Area, they fell under separate command structures, rather than one single command. The separate commands divided the area of operations geographically and supported response efforts separately, with the exception of the evacuations of the Superdome and the Convention Center in New Orleans.163 Equipment interoperability problems further hindered an integrated response. Similar issues of bifurcated operations and interoperability challenges were also present between the military and civilian leadership.164 This lack of interoperable communications was apparent at the tactical level, resulting from the fact that emergency responders, National Guard, and active duty military use different equipment.165