DoD protects the Continental United States (CONUS) through two distinct but interrelated missions: Homeland Defense (HD) and Civil Support (CS) missions. DoD serves as the federal department with lead responsibility for HD, which may be executed by DoD alone or include support provided by other agencies. While these missions are distinct, some department roles and responsibilities overlap, and operations require extensive coordination between lead and supporting agencies.

The actors interviewed for HD/CS support include USNORTHCOM/ USPACOM, NGA, and NGB (Title 10 and Title 32). The Civil Support Appendix will evolve in future phases of the GeoCONOPS project when the focus moves to catastrophic, intelligence, and law enforcement missions.

Civil Support is defined as the application of DoD’s rapid response and other technical capabilities to domestic emergencies or disasters in support of civil authorities. Civil Support includes, but is not limited to, support to US civil authorities for natural and manmade domestic emergencies, civil disturbances, and authorized law enforcement activities. When this type of support is requested through a formal request process, approved by the President or Secretary of Defense (SecDef), and executed under the guidance of the NRF, the support is characterized as Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). For the purposes of this GeoCONOPS, the umbrella term “Civil Support” is assumed to include the activities, roles, and responsibilities described by the following legacy terms: CS, DSCA, and Military Assistance for Civil Disturbance (MACD).

DoD is a full partner in the federal response to domestic incidents, and the DoD response is fully coordinated through the mechanisms outlined in the NRF. In providing CS, the SecDef will always retain command of DoD personnel, with the exception of National Guard forces under the command and control of the Governors (State Guard in Title 32 status: State Mission, Federally Funded). Nothing in the NRF impedes the SecDef’s statutory authority pertaining to DoD personnel and resources.

Per Joint Publication 3-28 Civil Support, the authority over and control of DoD capabilities is maintained by the President, as Commander in Chief, through the SecDef and the chain of command as established by law. When emergency conditions dictate, and when time does not permit approval from higher HQ, local military commanders and responsible DoD component officials are authorized to respond to requests from local authorities and to initiate immediate response actions to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage under imminently serious conditions.

Requests for DoD assistance may occur under Stafford Act or non-Stafford Act conditions. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 93-288) (Title 42 US Code, Section 5121), authorizes the federal government to help state and local governments alleviate the suffering and damage caused by disasters. DoD support in a domestic disaster or a presidential declaration of emergency is in support of the primary or coordinating agency(ies). Military commanders and responsible DoD civilians may, under certain conditions, respond under immediate response authority to save lives, prevent suffering, and mitigate great property damage under imminently serious conditions. Without a disaster declaration, the President may also direct DoD to support the response to a disaster or emergency for a period not to exceed 10 days.C[1]

DoD has assigned 10 Defense Coordinating Officers (DCO), one to each FEMA region. If requested and approved, the DCO serves as DoD’s single point of contact at the JFO for requesting assistance from DoD. With few exceptions, requests for Civil Support originating at the JFO are coordinated with and processed through the DCO. The DCO may have a Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) consisting of a staff and military liaison officers to facilitate coordination and support to activated Emergency Support Functions (ESF). Specific responsibilities of the DCO (subject to modification based on the situation) include processing requirements for military support, forwarding MAs to the appropriate military organizations through DoD-designated channels, and assigning military liaisons, as appropriate, to activated ESFs.C[2]

As noncatastrophic events emerge, the DoD will initiate various tasking chains and mechanisms to support information requests, analysis, and coordination efforts for Civil Support. Formal tasking requests for support and information will be processed by USNORTHCOM/USPACOM, NGA, Defense Program Office for Mission Assurance (DPO-MA), and other DoD agencies. As one of the foundational organizations supporting CS, USNORTHCOM’s command structure of governance and reporting is typical of many DoD organizations. Reporting to USNORTHCOM are component commands for each of the services: US Army North (USARNORTH), US Air Force North (USAFNORTH), US Fleet Forces Command, etc. The USARNORTH commander has additional duties in charge of the Joint Land Forces Component Command (JFLCC). There are also specialized Joint Task Forces (JTF) with specific missions. Of the various JTFs, the main one charged with executing tasks related to CS is Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS), headquartered in Norfolk, VA. During crisis events the JTF-CS commander reports directly to the ARNORTH commander, while DCOs at FEMA act in liaison roles directly with the ARNORTH commander as well.

All of these DoD organizations have unique mission requirements to support Civil Support with unique and tailored geospatial products and analysis. In addition, each of these organizations approaches the geospatial non-critical event by leveraging infrastructure, imagery, CI assessments, time-sensitive event data, and complex geospatial analysis for data and product dissemination to state and local agencies. The USNORTHCOM Interagency Coordination Group (ICG), coordinates information sharing and deconfliction between the DoD agencies and provides clear and authoritative information for Civil Support. These CS processes often consist of a complex network of geospatial information and analysis to provide comprehensive data products and services for federal, state, and local emergency responders. Through the years since the stand-up of DHS, USNORTHCOM, NGA, DPO-MA, and USPACOM have supported hundreds of analysis and geospatial products for hurricane support, CI assessments, major wildfires, national significant security events and have provided intelligence and operational support resulting in a prevention of terrorists’ attacks. The relationship and communication between the DoD and civil organizations need to continue to mature for support of emergency operations, catastrophic, and noncritical catastrophic events.

Another element of Civil Support is the use of the National Guard, both state (Title 32) and federal (Title 10). The National Guard is a constitutionally unique element of the DoD, serving first as a state militia under direction of the State Governor and State Adjutant General, but ultimately under the direction of the President of the United States. The Adjutant General serves as the State Director of Homeland Security in six states and the State Director of Emergency Management in three states. The State National Guard serves as a joint reserve entity, comprising two reserve services: Army and Air Force. The National Guard serves in three distinct operational statuses: Title 10 (federal active duty), Title 32 (federally funded state duty) and state active duty. The majority of CS operations performed by the National Guard are in Title 32 status. The NGB, a joint entity, administers the federal functions of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

The National Guard is typically the first military element to respond to an emergency within a state or local jurisdiction. The National Guard assists state and local emergency management and response personnel with a vast number of services, primarily as a force multiplier. Through this support, the National Guard has many unique geospatial information elements from fixed joint force HQ to staging areas and logistics support. The following geospatial information categories define the National Guard’s support to state and local emergency management:

  • Joint Task Force Joint Operations Center
    (JTF JOC)
  • State National Guard receiving locations
  • State National Guard logistics supply points
  • State National Guard staging areas
  • State National Guard unit locations

Federal agencies or state governors request DoD capabilities to support their emergency response efforts by using a formal RFA process. The decision process for approving Stafford RFAs is illustrated below:


[1]C  Joint Publication 3-28, Civil Support, September 14, 2007.

[2]C  DOD Support to Domestic Incidents, January 2008. Prepared by The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense/Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs.

[3]    Joint Publication 3-28, Civil Support , September 14, 2007, pg II-5.

Updated on October 29, 2018