September 12th, 2005

deserve life

Preparing the National Guard for Disaster Relief

Katrina Will Shape Military Debate
Army Has Resisted Proposal For Guard Disaster Units; Short of People, Equipment
By GREG JAFFE, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, September 12, 2005; Page A5

WASHINGTON -- Before Hurricane Katrina, the Army fiercely resisted the idea that it should set aside big National Guard units that would specialize in homeland security and disaster relief.

But that resistance will be tested by the government's tepid initial response to Hurricane Katrina. So will some new ideas on how National Guard units might move closer to the front lines of disaster response. Both will be part of a seemingly inevitable debate that is almost certain to be fierce.

The wrenching pictures of hurricane victims pleading for help may have raised the issue for most Americans, but in some circles the search for a broader military role has been under way much longer. Earlier this year, the Rand Corp., a government-funded think tank, proposed that the Pentagon create 10 new 900-soldier battalions from the National Guard that would focus exclusively on homeland defense.

Instead of training for war, these units would train with state and civilian authorities. They would be positioned in each of the 10 regions into which the Federal Emergency Management Agency has divided the nation. They would craft disaster relief plans and help ensure communication systems were robust enough to survive catastrophes. When disaster hit, these soldiers would be the first to flow into the stricken areas, providing the core of a headquarters for other National Guard units to link up with and build on.

"The Army's view was that they wanted Army combat units to be trained, ready and available for all things," says Lynn Davis, a senior analyst who played a role in developing the Rand concept. "We argued that the problem with that is many units may not be [trained] and ready quickly enough to do things at home."

The response to Hurricane Katrina could change that thinking.

[snip discussion of the Army wanting to focus the NG on overseas combat duty, equipment shortages among non-deployed units, and Pentagon resistance to using active-duty units for disaster work]

In recent months, the National Guard has carved out some very small units for homeland defense missions. It recently formed 55 Weapons of Mass Destruction civil-support teams whose mission is to help state authorities if there is a chemical or biological attack. Each of the units has only about 25 soldiers. But siphoning off more soldiers solely to the homeland defense mission would create big strains on the active force, say Army officials.

daveamongus proposed solving this problem by creating a separate organization. Doesn't look like the government is headed that way yet, but there are some people considering the problem.

Life Update

Started out the weekend by getting the van back from the shop, just in time to let celticdragonfly go to her knitting meetup.

Friday was Jamie's speech therapy appointment. I had the day off, which was good because I need to keep up on the physical therapy routine for him--it's physical enough that it's a lot easier for me to do it than celticdragonfly. She took Maggie off on some errands, because otherwise she's always trying to take over the therapist's attention. That was a lot of fun. Jamie can be a great kid, and he loves the physical play. We're a little worried about his delay in talking. He does have a wonderful laugh, and he does connect on the emotional level. He'll rush up to me and give me a big smile and then go back to playing. So I'm not really worried about autism yet. But it is a possibility, which is why we want to keep giving him the therapy.

We followed that up with a bookstore run. Went to the Borders to see the monthly animal demonstration, but it turned out the zoo guy was in Africa. So we went to Barnes & Nobles and got a discount card (and some books) instead.

Saturday celticdragonfly went off to the ORAC meeting. I stayed home to get a little work done around the house. Jamie went down for a nap after lunch, so I took Maggie out with me to do the work. There was a big pile of boxes to break down. She was my helper--as I finished cutting up each box and stuffing it into the barrel she'd bring me another. When I was cutting weeds and such she just watched. What amazes me is we were in the front yard and I could trust this three year old to stay close to me and come back if I called her. No worries about her running into the street. Wonderful kid.

When Jamie woke up we ran down to ToysRUs to get a kiddie wading pool. Now that the temperature has dropped down to "hot" instead of "OMG heatstroke" we figure we can give them more backyard playtime. Had to go to ToysRUs because everybody else who used to carry the things is now devoting the shelf space to Halloween stuff. I suppose I should be glad for Halloween . . . it keeps them from moving the Christmas season any earlier. Anyway, we got the display one that had been shelved almost to the ceiling. Drove home through darkening skies and got a few raindrops. Washed the dust off the thing, then put it in the shed so the rising wind wouldn't blow it away. Sunday was also cloudy and windy. If I'd known this would've happened I'd've bought the thing months ago.

celticdragonfly returned from the meeting with Gerry and sandytyra, who'd given her a lift. We all went to dinner then came back to watch the first two Dr Who episodes--not the new one, the original. People liked their pacing a lot slower back in the 1960s, didn't they? We enjoyed it. Maggie was practicing for her major, though, so we finally put the kids to bed.

Went to church in the morning. I took Jamie down to the nursery while celticdragonfly and Maggie went to the service. The attendent didn't show so I was stuck there with him through the service. Sigh. I hate missing chances to do stuff together, and discussing the service gives us something new to talk about (which can be hard to find these days).

We've had some issues with the house settling--doors getting misaligned and such. celticdragonfly found out from the ORAC folks that it's standard around here to water your foundation to keep the ground from shrinking. Wasn't an issue last summer with the record rain, but now we're getting a lot of cracks in the ground. I got out the drip hoses the previous owner left here, but they were rotted to the point that I couldn't get water any reasonable distance from the faucet. Time for another hardware store run.

Fencon is coming up and we're trying to get ready. Going to a con with two little kids in tow takes logistics. I also have to prepare for a con game. I'm going to run a GURPS Serenity session. First time I've ever GMed at a con, so it'll be interesting dealing with strangers. Hopefully it'll be a good time all around.