Defense Support to Civil Authorities
What Role Do Air F
orce Civil Engineers Play in Disaster Response?

As natural and man-made disasters continue to challenge local, state and federal authorities during response and recovery operations, Air Force Civil Engineers offer a number of capabilities that can be leveraged if needed to provide support. 

 

By Lt. Col. Joel A. Bolina, M.SAME, USAF 

    


 

The 2013 Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support recognizes that, although the Department of Defense (DOD) is always in a support role to civilian authorities for disaster response, the capacity, capabilities, and training of the military mean that DOD is often expected to play a prominent supporting role in response efforts. The strategy also notes that public expectations for a rapid federal response have grown in the wake of major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina—and this was additionally evident with Superstorm Sandy. Furthermore, in a speech to the Environmental Defense Fund in May 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that the rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar ice caps, and more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. According to a Secretary of Defense memorandum issued in July 2012, DOD must plan for a complex catastrophe and enable fastest identification of its capabilities for complex catastrophe response.

Therefore, in light of the environmental factors, command directives associated with Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), and public expectations for a rapid federal response, how do Air Force Civil Engineers fit into the puzzle?

State authorities normally exhaust state resources, existing mutual aid agreements, and Emergency Management Assistance Compacts before requesting federal assistance. In most cases, the National Guard is the first line of response. When federal military response is requested, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates the federal response to a disaster and will issue a Request for Assistance or Mission Assignment to other federal agencies such as DOD.

Air Force Civil Engineers, in the execution of DSCA missions, can accomplish several tasks that could be requested by civilian authorities in response to a natural or man-made disaster. These capabilities were identified through an analysis using the Civil Support Task List (CSTL), Universal Joint Task List, Air Force Unit Task List, and various Air Force Civil Engineer Unit Type Codes and their associated Mission Capability statements.

 

METHODOLOGY, ANALYSIS, AND DATA FINDINGS

This analysis uses the same methodology as the CSTL by attempting to “crosswalk” the civil support task to each of the service’s capabilities through a correlation between the civil support description to each of the service’s task list (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force). However, this study also introduces and utilizes a prototype methodology to provide more fidelity and current, up-to-date correlations between civil support tasks and Air Force Civil Engineer capabilities. What has emerged through a multi-tiered analysis, and the use of the CSTL and consultation from subject matter experts from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB, Fla., is identification of the civil support tasks that Air Force Active Duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard Civil Engineers could potentially support at the request of civil authorities.

Air Force Civil Engineer capability assessment.Air Force Civil Engineer capability assessment.


 

The analysis used three levels of investigation: Tier 1, Tier 2, and a Tier 3 level. Then, a preliminary assessment roll-up and final assessment roll-up were made, predicated on the results of the Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 results. Various levels of matches were made in all the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) with exception of: ESF 2 – Communications; ESF 8 - Public Health and Medical Services; ESF 13 - Public Safety and Security; ESF 14 - Long-term Community Recovery and Mitigation (which was not considered by the CSTL); and ESF - 15 External Affairs. Other highlights of the analysis demonstrate that Air Force Civil Engineers can potentially support 22 of the 24 ESF 3 - Public Works and Engineering tasks; all ESF 10 - Oil and Hazardous Materials Response tasks; and all ESF 12 - Energy tasks.

In the final assessment, Air Force Civil Engineers are either “capable,” “capable with stipulations,” or “not capable” of supporting each of the 165 civil support tasks identified in the CSTL. The analysis also demonstrates that airmen engineers are capable of supporting 62 of the civil support tasks, capable with stipulations of supporting six of the civil support tasks, and not capable of supporting 97 of the civil support tasks identified in the CSTL. From another perspective, Air Force Civil Engineers possess capabilities to potentially support 10 of the 15 ESFs.

Air Force Civil Engineer capabilities in support of Civil Support Tasks.Air Force Civil Engineer capabilities in support of Civil Support Tasks. 


  

SIGNIFICANCE AND POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS

The intent of this analysis is not to advocate for another mission set for the Air Force Civil Engineer community. On the contrary, according to the 2014 Civil Engineer Supplement to the War and Mobilization Plan, providing DSCA, if called upon, is an existing mission for Air Force Civil Engineers. It further states that Air Force Civil Engineers provide, operate, sustain and recover installations and transition to an expeditionary nature and deploy where needed when providing DSCA. Also, the intent of this study is not to alter the day-to-day activities and training requirements for Air Force Civil Engineers. This is because the principles and skill sets that airmen engineers that can contribute to DSCA are already embedded within their day-to-day tasks and Mission Essential Training Tasks and are fitting for responding to and recovering from natural or man-made disasters.

Even though Air Force Civil Engineers possess many capabilities that are suited for DSCA, parameters such as readiness, availability of personnel and resources, operations tempo and associated dwell ratio maintenance may preclude them from supporting DSCA.

   

In the final assessment, Air Force Civil Engineers are either “capable,” “capable with stipulations,” or “not capable” of supporting each of the 165 civil support tasks identified in the CSTL. 


  

In addition, acknowledging that the preponderance of forces assigned to Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) and an associated Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Response Force (DCRF) consists of Army units, the intent of this analysis is not to insinuate that Air Force Civil Engineer units should be utilized in lieu of the Army engineer units assigned to JTF-CS and an associated DCRF for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and non-CBRN disasters. Instead, the intent is to highlight which Air Force Civil Engineer capabilities can be utilized to complement U.S. Northern Command’s efforts to respond to a complex catastrophe. JTF-CS and an associated DCRF are a ready and capable force. However, during one or more simultaneous complex catastrophes, all resources at all levels may be overwhelmed. Air Force Civil Engineer capabilities can be used to complement and supplement if necessary. Furthermore, the intent of this study is not to imply that the Air Force Civil Engineer community should increase and/or modify its existing capabilities to match all of the potential requirements that local, state, or FEMA agencies may require during a complex catastrophe. In fact, it is clear in the Department of Homeland Security’s 2007 Target Capabilities List that “no single jurisdiction or agency is expected to perform every task identified and no two jurisdictions require the same level of capabilities.” However, what this study may lead to is an opportunity for civilian agencies, such as FEMA in coordination with DOD, to generate new pre-scripted Mission Assignments to expedite the flow of DOD resources and capabilities, should they be required.

Also, this study may help codify which Air Force Civil Engineer capabilities are suited to support DSCA. Perhaps then, it will specifically assist the Defense Coordination Officers, their associated Defense Coordination Elements, and other positions that support the Defense Coordination Officers such as the Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers when they are reviewing and validating the Requests for Assistance and Mission Assignments that they field from civilian agencies during a DSCA contingency.

 

READY TO SUPPORT IF NEEDED

Air Force Civil Engineers can potentially support 69 of the 165 CSTL civil support tasks. Northern Command can consider this full range of complementary capabilities in the future for DSCA-related missions. This is important for Northern Command and Defense Coordination Officers to be aware of, in the event local, state, federal, and existing Northern Command assets are overwhelmed.

Lastly, the results of this study can be utilized by the Defense Coordinating Officers and their staffs as a reference list to assist in the review and validation of Requests for Assistance and/or the generation of new pre-scripted Mission Areas, used to refine the coordination draft of the National Guard’s CSTL, and can be used by sister services when conducting their own capability assessment analyses.

   [This article was developed from a thesis by the author, which can be accessed by clicking here]


 

Lt. Col. Joel A. Bolina, M.SAME, USAF, is Chief, Air Force Section and Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief Program, Office of Defense Coordination, U.S. Embassy – Mexico; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..