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Joint force: capital unit seen as prototype for homeland defense.

A NEWLY ORGANIZED ALL-SERVICES command charged with protecting the Washington, D.C., region from terrorist attacks, natural disasters and civil disturbances is expected to serve as the model the other key regions in the United States, according to Navy Rear Adm. Jan C. Gaudio.

Called the Joint Forces Headquarters-Nation-Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR), its nerve center is based at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in Washington, D.C. It is part of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which was created in 2002 to consolidate responsibility for the defense of the United States.

"Very soon, you may see commands like this all over the country," predicted Gaudio, who serves in dual capacity as JFHQ-NCR deputy and commandant of the Naval District of Washington.

"If we can make a joint command work here in the nation's capital, we can do it anywhere," he told National Defense.

The joint force headquarters was activated in September 2004. Its mission is to provide homeland defense, military assistance to civilian authorities and consequence management in the national capital region, Gaudio explained.

That region includes the District of Columbia and the surrounding six counties, as well as four cities, in Virginia and Maryland. With many overlapping federal, state and local jurisdictions, "it is a rather complex operating environment," Gaudio said.

"Just driving down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol Building to the White House, you pass through five jurisdictions," he added. Included are the U.S. Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Park Police, Federal Protective Service and U.S. Secret Service.

"We still are working out specific technical issues so that we can talk to each other and see the same operating picture," Gaudio said.

With this in mind, the command has installed two major command and control systems--a joint operations center and a mobile command center. The two of them are packed with the latest communications technology, said the operations director, Army Col. James R. Bartran.

The JOC occupies the second floor of a thoroughly renovated 19th century brick structure at Fort McNair. Built at a start-up cost of $1.8 million, it is capable of establishing two-way voice and video communication, secure and non-secure, with virtually every similarly equipped facility on earth.

"If you envision our headquarters as a weapons system, the center is where we steer the weapon," Bartran said.

It includes a space similar to a ship's bridge, where the command's leadership can monitor and react to an evolving crisis, explained Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clay Michaels, officer in charge. It has an open bay with 56 workstations--each with its own secure and non-secure network access, telephones and video teleconferencing.

"If you're familiar with a Navy ship, this is our combat information center," Michaels said. The center never closes and has networked links to federal, state and local law enforcement and civilian agencies, including NORTHCOM's secure communications systems.

If things get really touchy, officers can retreat to a top-secret conference room, Bartran said.

On one wall of the center's main room are large, multi-purpose video screens that can be used for teleconferencing, monitoring developing news stories, displaying relevant maps and charts, or viewing radar images of ships, aircraft and ground vehicles as they move around the region. "We can see anything within at least 100 nautical miles," he said. "I won't be more specific than that."

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, which works closely with NORTHCOM, has installed a dozen or so powerful cameras throughout the region to focus on aircraft approaching secure airspace. Lasers attached to the cameras aim beams at pilots, warning them away from the sensitive area.

The center pays particular attention to presidential travels, Bartran said. "Whenever the president moves, we're aware of it. We track everything that he does."

Meanwhile, the mobile command center is a 41-foot, 10-wheel truck designed to allow the JFHQ-NCR commander to exercise command and control functions while on the scene at crisis locations.

The vehicle, which has a crew of nine, serves as the JFHQ-NRC's forward command post, said Army Lt. Col. Mike Kasales, the officer in charge. Its trailer is air-conditioned, carpeted and equipped with many of the same command, control and communications technologies found in the JOC.

"It's pretty slick," Kasales said. "There's nobody we can't talk to." The vehicle has an antenna that extends to 50 feet in height that enables it to communicate via satellite.

The truck is designed to operate within a 30-mile radius of Fort McNair for up to 72 hours without interruption. To sustain the crew, it has its own small kitchen and bathroom. To help the driver navigate the area's complex streets and highways, the truck is equipped with a global positioning system device and a range finder to tell the height of bridges and tunnels as the 13-foot, six-inch-high vehicle approaches them.

JFHQ-NCR only intervenes in an event when requested by the lead federal agency and approved by the defense secretary. "We play a support role," Gaudio said.

If called upon, JFHQ-NCR can move quickly to put together a task force from area units from all of the services, tailored to handle specific situations, Gaudio said. "If necessary, we could have hundreds of troops on Capitol Hill within an hour, and well over 4,000 within a very short space of time."

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area includes several thousand U.S. troops, he said. While the majority has primarily ceremonial and clerical jobs, many units also have operational responsibilities. Among them:

* The Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, at Indian Head, Md.

* The Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill, with three companies of troops guarding the White House, the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

* An estimated 120 members of Navy construction battalions, soon to be consolidated at the Anacostia Navy Annex.

* The Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, the "Old Guard," which provides security for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.

* The 12th Aviation Battalion, flying UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from its base at Davison Army Airfield, Va.

* The MDW Engineer Company, at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The company is the only unit in the Army assigned specifically to conduct technical rescue tasks, mainly freeing victims trapped in collapsed buildings.

"My people are trained to operate heavy equipment, such as bull-dozers, to remove rubble," explained the company commander, Capt. Clay Morgan. "They use carpenter's tools to build wooden supports to stabilize unstable structures until we can get everybody out."

JFHQ-NCR works closely with other military units, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, which has assigned armed, 25-foot Defender Class Homeland Security Response Boats to patrol the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. It also can draw on the Army and Air National Guards and the Air Force's Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Although Langley is in the Hampton Roads region, some distance from Washington, "they can have F-16 fighters up here in a matter of minutes," Gaudio said. Even closer is the District of Columbia's 113th Air National Guard Wing, which has F-16s based at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Gaudio was not eager to say much about air defenses. He did concede that hidden away on area military installations are "everything from shoulder-fired missiles to fairly sophisticated surface-to-air systems."

JFHQ-NCR units can be deployed to support any "national event" in the Washington area, Gaudio said. They already have been called out to provide support for President Bush's second inauguration, his State of the Union address to Congress, President Reagan's funeral, the dedication of the World War II Memorial and relief efforts following Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The Marine Corps' chemical-biological unit has been dispatched to Capitol Hill twice, in response to the 2001 anthrax incident and the 2004 ricin scare.
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Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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