U.S. Northern Command setup becomes clearer

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • American Forces Press Service
When U.S. Northern Command stands up Oct. 1, the new organization in charge of homeland defense will have "combatant command" of a small number of specialized units.

Combatant command, or COCOM, gives combatant commanders the authority to organize, train and operate units. It is different from operational control, which allows commanders to use forces that have been trained and are supported by someone else.

When the command unfurls its flag at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart will have COCOM of the Joint Forces Headquarters Homeland Security, based at Norfolk, Va. and currently under U.S. Joint Forces Command. The headquarters has 130 civilian and military personnel assigned.

Other units will come under operational control of the new command if they are needed, Department of Defense officials said. "If there is an incident, then other units may (fall) under Northern Command," said one official. "This would be much the same as units coming under the control of U.S. Central Command when needed."

Besides becoming the commander of U.S. Northern Command, Eberhart commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Wearing his Northern Command hat, he has operational control of the U.S. contributions to the joint U.S.-Canadian defense organization.

The Joint Forces Headquarters Homeland Security coordinates the land and sea defense of the United States. In addition, the command serves as the liaison with lead federal agencies and supports those agencies in the event of an attack. The headquarters will work with other agencies on prevention of attacks, military response if an attack is successful and military aid to such agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Joint Task Force Civil Support and Joint Task Force 6 will also transfer to the new command Oct. 1.

JTF-Civil Support, based at Fort Monroe, Va., supports civil authorities in the event of an attack on the United States. The 160 task force members coordinate military support requested by civilian authorities.

JTF-6, based at Fort Bliss, Texas, is DOD's counterdrug support unit that provides resources to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Since it was established in 1989, JTF-6 has helped more than 430 federal, state and local agencies in more than 5,300 missions. Officials said the JTF's counterdrug mission will remain, but its mission will probably expand into other border security realms.

Northern Command will also have direct coordinating authority with the U.S. Coast Guard.

In the event of attack, the U.S. Joint Forces Command will provide any additional forces Northern Command may need.