Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) is a standing joint task force and subordinate command of U.S. Army North (USARNORTH). It is charged with providing command and control of Department of Defense forces deployed to support a Primary Agency (PA) managing the consequences of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRN) incident in the United States and its territories and possessions. It also conducts defense support of civilian authorities (DSCA) response operations. When directed, JTF-CS will deploy to an incident site, establish command and control of Department of Defense forces, and provide military assistance and support to civil authorities by saving lives, preventing further injury and providing temporary critical support to enable community recovery. Deployment of JTF-CS, at the direction of the Commander of U.S. Army North and U.S. Northern Command, and on the authority of the Secretary of Defense, would occur only after a Governor requests federal assistance from the President, and after the President issues a Presidential Disaster Declaration. JTF-CS was established in October 1999 and is located at Fort Eustis, Newport News, Va.
Throughout a CBRN or DSCA response operation, JTF-CS will remain in support of the PA, which is the civilian agency in charge of the federal response. Presidential Decision Directive 39 designated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the PA for managing the consequences of a CBRN situation.
As a partner in the Federal Response Framework, Department of Defense (DOD) has provided assistance and support to state and local authorities managing responses to natural disasters. However, the forces, equipment, and experience required to effectively respond to a CBRN incident are very different from those needed to respond to natural disasters. JTF-CS was established to develop the expertise and maintain the focus on the mission of providing command and control to domestic CBRN response missions as well defense support of civil authorities.
The organization is structured in accordance with Joint Publication 3-33. JTF-CS is a total force, comprised of active, reserve and Guard members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to include civilians and contractors. JTF-CS members are experts in their respective specialty areas, well grounded in the capabilities of their respective services, and experienced in working with members of other services. Once assigned to JTF-CS, members receive additional training tailored to prepare them for executing CBRN and DSCA consequence management missions. In a CBRN or DSCA situation, several thousand military personnel could be drawn from all services and attached to JTF-CS by order of the Secretary of Defense. These personnel bring with them the capabilities needed to carry out approved requests for DOD support and assistance.
Preparing for and conducting domestic CBRN and all-hazards DSCA response missions requires JTF-CS to work closely with the many other federal, state and local agencies that also respond to CBRN incidents and accidents. These agencies include the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and state emergency management agencies, to name just a few. DOD is only one member of the federal response community and recognizes the vital need for interagency coordination.
The primary mission authority allowing the Department of Defense (DOD) and JTF-CS to engage in domestic CBRN and DSCA response operations is the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 5121 et seq). The Stafford Act authorizes the President to provide disaster and emergency assistance to state and local governments upon receipt of a request from a Governor. Deployment of JTF-CS, at the direction of the Commander of U.S. Northern Command, and on the authority of the Secretary of Defense, would occur only after a Governor requests federal assistance from the President and the President issues a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
The U.S. Northern Command Area of Operations (AOR) includes air, land and sea approaches and encompasses the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles. It also includes the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The defense of Hawaii and our territories and possessions in the Pacific remain the responsibility of U.S. Pacific Command. JTF-CS responds to CBRN incidents in the United States, its territories and possessions. This includes Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We would support of U.S. Pacific Command after incidents occur in Hawaii and U.S. territories and possessions in the Pacific. Currently JTF-CS does not have the mission of responding to CBRN and DSCA incidents in Canada or Mexico.
Although primarily charged with a CBRN response mission, JTF-CS could be directed to respond to a natural or manmade disaster during defense support of civil authorities operations if asked to do so by U.S Northern Command. Most recently, JTF-CS provided command and control for DoD forces which had a part in administering 4.9 million COVID-19 vaccines.
In coordination with other federal, state, and local agencies, JTF-CS is continuously preparing to respond to a broad spectrum of terrorist attacks – chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive as well as natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wild fires – anywhere in the United States. We gain and maintain situational awareness in coordination with military commands and civilian agencies throughout the U.S. We study city response plans (not a Feasibility Study) so that we can clearly understand the local response capabilities. We study state response plans (not a Feasibility Study) to understand the state’s ability to supplement an affected area. In this manner we identify capabilities the Department of Defense may be asked to provide and we plan our response accordingly. We develop detailed force requirements for a variety of likely CBRN response contingencies. These requirements include communications and transportation assets, as well as service support, engineers, medical, aviation and specialty units. To further unity of effort among the variety of agencies that may potentially be involved in providing support to a CBRN or DSCA incident, JTF-CS directly coordinates with a wide array of federal, state, local, and military organizations to conduct training and planning.