Toward a Unified Military Response: Hurricane Sandy and the Dual Status Commander

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U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA
U.S. military forces have played a role in supporting civil authorities in varying locations and capacities from the Whiskey Rebellion to Hurricane Sandy. In a large-scale incident response scenario requiring combined support from the National Guard and federal military, effective management and coordination continues to challenge all involved. There are issues of constitutionality, legality, policy, financial considerations, and even politics, all uniquely situated between individual states’ interests and those of the Federal Government. In this context, there is a philosophical conflict between federalism and state sovereignty during military civil support missions that continues to present itself as an impediment to success. Balancing these institutionally divergent approaches to achieve a unified, efficient, coordinated, and effective military response has, and will continue to be, a strategic and political imperative. Despite the challenges, military forces are frequently involved in domestic response missions, often in a very public manner. As such, military force allocation and management have evolved into major topics of conversation among policymakers, academics, emergency managers, and military strategists alike. Owing to these issues, State and Federal Government lawmakers adopted policy and law authorizing a single military commander, referred to as a dual status commander, to legally assume simultaneous but mutually exclusive command and control over both Title 32 and Title 10 forces during domestic operations. As a proposed solution to the notable coordination challenges plaguing domestic civil support operations, the dual status commander initiative has been used successfully during planned events since 2004. The coordinated military response to Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012 was the first time in U.S. history dual status commanders assumed command of both Title 10 and Title 32 forces during a no-notice/ limited-notice incident. As such, this event provides a relevant and timely opportunity to study the military response to the storm and offer objective recommendations for improving future no-notice/limited-notice defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) operations under the dual status commander arrangement. The purpose of this monograph, therefore, is to offer an objective and systematic documentation and evaluation of the military response to Hurricane Sandy as a basis for assessing the efficacy of the dual status commander arrangement for no-notice/limited-notice incidents in the homeland. To complete this effort, we employed a rigorous case study investigation emphasizing the combined state and federal response to Hurricane Sandy in the New York City metropolitan area from October 22-November 15, 2012. The research examines the events of the storm response under the command of Brigadier General Michael Swezey, the designated dual status commander for the storm response in New York. We combined interviews with Department of Defense officials, National Guard commanders, and Active Duty military officers involved in the Sandy response with extensive document and content analysis of various Sandy-specific reports to generate our findings. Through this research, we intend to present a detailed and objective analysis of the response in order to provide military and defense officials with a greater understanding of the benefits and limitations of the dual status commander arrangement during a no-notice/limited-notice civil support incident. We conclude by offering a series of recommendations likely to improve policy, procedures, and training, among other things.
Hurricanes-Case Studies, Military, Emergency Response