Wednesday, September 17, 2008

DOD Chemical Consequence Management Force

There is an interesting post over on the Armchair Generalist blog today. It deals with some recent training by DOD’s new CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force. This ‘unit’ is a joint force that will assist in responses to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incidents. One would assume that a terrorist attack on a high-risk chemical facility would be an incident to which this force might respond. Would that be appropriate?


Response Force


The Armchair Generalist makes his view of this military force quite plain:


  • “You may know from past posts that I am not a fan of the DOD response forces. From the small WMD Civil Support Teams through the CERF-Ps to these CCMRFs, I think they're a waste of time and not any use unless prepositioned at a major event where a terrorist WMD incident occurs. Better if we were to give the money to the states and locals for "all-hazard" emergency response needs.”

The main problem with these DOD forces is their response time. Even the WMD Civil Support Teams (one in each state) are unlikely to be able to get to an incident site within three hours of an attack. This is not soon enough to prevent any but a very small fraction of the causalities that one would expect to see from such an attack. Most of the chemicals released in such an attack would not be persistent, so there would be little immediate need of the chemical detection and decontamination capabilities of such a unit. There might be a few incidents where their chemical reconnaissance capabilities might be beneficial for mapping contaminated zones, but that would be very unusual.


Training Cadre


These units would probably be much more valuable if they were used as a training cadre for local fire, EMS, and hospital personnel. Their technical capabilities would be invaluable for helping these personnel plan an emergency response for such a terrorist attack on a local chemical facility. They could also conduct training and plan/supervise drills in support of those plans.


Local Response


Any response to a local incident is going to have to be handled by local agencies. They are the only ones that are going to have an adequate response time and the necessary familiarity with the local facilities and community. What these agencies lack is training and equipment. Helping them by identifying the needed equipment and providing the required training is something that could be done by a Federal response force

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