Sunday, October 12, 2008
United States President George W. Bush deployed the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to a new role on United States soil last Wednesday, training for dealing with national crises. Critics claim that act of the Executive Branch violates the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits military participation in domestic matters.
In 2007, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act was introduced; it overturned the Posse Comitatus Act by allowing the Commander in Chief to suppress ‘insurrection’ and ‘restore order’. When it was repealed in 2008, Bush stated that he did not respect the later repeal.
The combat team, renamed CCMRF (C-hemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive C-onsequence M-anagement R-esponse F-orces), has been assigned for year-long duty and training at Fort Stewart to prepare them for “civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios” such as security or natural disasters. After a year, a new unit will take its place.
CCMRF will be under the control of the Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and now has the same legal authority as a unit deployed to Iraq under the direct control of the Executive Branch. The unit will have use of engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, and a Navy weather team, as well as members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. A spokeswoman for NORTHCOM added that both wheeled and tank vehicles would be available for the CCMRF.
In July the unit was assigned a new commander, Col. Roger Cloutier. “If we go in,” he said proudly of the deployment, “we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil”. CCMRF will be training in both traffic and riot control equipment, and will be the first to use the Army’s new nonlethal package, which is intended for war-zone and not domestic use.
NORTHCOM’s September 30th statement includes a quote attributed to “future operations division chief” Colonel Michael Boatner saying, “This response force will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control, but will be used to support lead agencies involved in saving lives, relieving suffering and meeting the needs of communities affected by weapons of mass destruction attacks, accidents or even natural disasters.”
The action has raised concerns for some citizens like journalist Naomi Wolf, an author critical of the Bush administration, who referred to the deployment as a ‘coup’ in a well-circulated viral video and issued Americans a call to action.
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NORTHCOM is a joint command established post-9/11 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities. When Hurricane Katrina damaged Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas, but were not assigned to NORTHCOM, but instead individual commands under provisional authorities.
Military officials have not yet responded to a request for comment.