With the less than opaque veil shrouding the current White House actions, Obama’s latest unheralded EO on Jan 11th, establishing the Council of Governors, sent the blog world into a tizzy. The extremes of reaction ran the gamut.
When Shutking broke out the “martial law” headline, commenter John Erickson, who’s blog profile says he works in government in Lincoln, Nebraska, tut tutted that view, saying they were only a federal advisory committee.
PropagandaMatrix comes thru with less sensationalist perspective, noting the other blog fears, but not casting it’s own lot into the more extreme theories. They did, however, note this “..clearly represents another assault on Posse Comitatus, the 1878 law that bars the military from exercising domestic police powers, which was temporarily annulled by the 2006 John Warner National Defense Authorization Act before parts of it were later repealed.”
As with most government powers, there is always the potential for abuse. In this case, there is cause for serious concern because every bit of this entails expanding traditional Command in Chief powers to the DOD, spreading troops around the US (potentially not American troops at that…) and deciding who has ultimate tactical command over reserves and Guard in the event of “emergencies”, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters.
Since we can’t expect much in clarification from this transparent administration, it’s up to us to sort out the intent, and inherent dangers to our founded Republic. And we sure we don’t need yet another head scratcher, like Obama’s INTERPOL executive order before Christmas. So I’m here to connect a few more dots on the Council of Governors.
The Council of Governors is not a complete bolt out of the blue, but another step in a series of events. The first recommendation of the Council came in a May 2007 commissioned report on the National Guard and Reserves by Arnold Punaro. The review noted that the Guard was short almost $40 bil in supplies and equipment due to committments since the 911 attack, and that individual governors had been “slighted”. The commission recommended a creation of the Council of Governors so that “… governors could provide direct input on National Guard issues to the executive branch.”
Month’s later, it’s creation was mandated by Congress, with no specific timeline to do so, via The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. This was a bill first introduced by Ike Skelton in the House Jan 2008, and sailed thru both chambers with almost unanimous bi-partistan support. It was signed into law Jan 28th, 2008 by then President Bush, and became Public Law No: 110-181.
Buried in the 602 pg bill (pg 498) was Section 1822 – aka the mandate:
SEC. 1822. COUNCIL OF GOVERNORS.
The President shall establish a bipartisan Council of Governors to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the White House Homeland Security Council on matters related to the National Guard and civil support missions.
President Bush never created the Council, and neither had President Obama… until yesterday, that is. The question is, did Obama create this council for it’s original purpose? From what I’ve put together so far, it’s not looking that way. Keep reading.
Flashback, April 4th, 2008: News hits that a month and a half earlier, Feb 14th, 2008, the US and Canada enter into a military agreement between NORTHCOM, NORAD and Canada COM, defined as a Civil Assistance Plan:
In a political move that received little if any attention by the American news media, the United States and Canada entered into a military agreement on February 14, 2008, allowing the armed forces from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a domestic civil emergency, even one that does not involve a cross-border crisis, according to a police commander involved in homeland security planning and implementation.
It is an initiative of the Bi-National Planning Group whose final report, issued in June 2006, called for the creation of a “Comprehensive Defense and Security Agreement,” or a “continental approach” to Canada-US defense and security.
The law enforcement executive told Newswithviews.com that the agreement — defined as a Civil Assistance Plan — was not submitted to Congress for debate and approval, nor did Congress pass any law or treaty specifically authorizing this military agreement to combine the operations of the armed forces of the United States and Canada in the event of domestic civil disturbances ranging from violent storms, to health epidemics, to civil riots or terrorist attacks.
“This is a military plan that’s designed to bypass the Posse Comitatus Act that traditionally prohibited the US military from operating within the borders of the United States. Not only will American soldiers be deployed at the discretion of whomever is sitting in the Oval Office, but foreign soldiers will also be deployed in American cities,” warns Lt. Steven Rodgers, commander of the Nutley, NJ Police Department’s detective bureau.
Canada Free Press’s Sean Osborne reported on it within weeks of the agreement. At that time, Osborne thought it sniffed of a EU type political union. And while he thought it was prudent to plan for a united defense if necessary, he also saw the need for a careful eye on this new military union, and it’s purpose.
Note the timing of this new CAP… February 14th, 2008. Just a few weeks after the passage of Public Law No: 110-181… and Section 1822 that mandated the creation of a Council of Governors.
Coincidently, the preceding Section 1821 of that same enacted Public Law dealt happened to deal with another mandate concerning NORTHCOM. Section 1821 ordered the Chairman and Chief Joint of Staff to review the adequacy of NORTHCOM’s manpower, and any need for increased components, reporting to the DOD no later than one year’s time.
SEC. 1821. UNITED STATES NORTHERN COMMAND.
(a) MANPOWER REVIEW.—
(1) REVIEW BY CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF.— Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall submit to the Secretary of Defense a review of the civilian and military
positions, job descriptions, and assignments within the United States Northern Command with the goal of determining the feasibility of significantly increasing the number of members of a reserve component assigned to, and civilians employed
by, the United States Northern Command who have experience in the planning, training, and employment of forces for homeland defense missions, domestic emergency response, and providing military support to civil authorities.
Within 90 days of receipt of that review, the Defense Secretary was to present a copy of that review to Congress, along with recommendations on achieving the reports recommended goals.
This put the timeline deadline at the end of May, 2009…. Obama’s 4th month in the Oval Office. Still no creation of the Council of Governors.
Still awake? Hope so, because now it gets really interesting….
One month later, June 2009, NORTHCOM sends a Legislative Proposal to Congress, requested amending Title 10 of USC, expanding the Secretary of Defense’s powers to mobilization of the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve to assist civil authorities in disasters and emergencies… “…thus enabling a truly Total Force approach to disaster response.” Currently, only the Commander in Chief can call up the Reserves – and only in an emergency involving “a use or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction” or “a terrorist attack or threatened terrorist attack in the United States that results, or could result, in significant loss of life or property.”
The Federal Reserve forces represent a significant capability, embedded in thousands of communities throughout our nation, which, with the exception of national emergencies, cannot be ordered to active duty to assist the primary Federal agency’s response to major disasters or emergencies, even in circumstances when Reserve units may be closest to the disaster area and thus the most timely and cost-effective response.
This proposed new Title 10 section would also implement the recommendation of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves that the “mobilization authorities for Federal Reserve forces to respond to emergencies should be expanded” to “provide the authority to involuntarily mobilize Federal Reserve components for up to 60 days in a four-month period and up to 120 days in a two-year period.”
Somewhere around the end of July 2009, Paul Stockton, Obama’s appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense ( formerly with Stanton’s CISAC) is pitching the Council of Governors creation to Congress as a means to “reclaim” balance between federal and state authorities. From his testimony,
As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive effort, one that involves State and local partners as partners aforethought and not as an afterthought. Congress, in section 1822 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181), has provided a valuable vehicle through which to accomplish this goal: the “Council of Governors,” which would provide a forum for Governors, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to exchange advice, views, and recommendations on the National Guard, DSCA, and other matters of mutual interest. I will make it a top priority to implement this congressional objective.
This certainly has morphed in scope from the original recommended intent to provide Governors with “…direct input on National Guard issues to the executive branch.”
By August 12th, Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive is reporting that the Pentagon is now asking Congress to allow the Defense Secretary to park almost 400,000 military personnel from throughout the United States.
So the new proposed legislation would greatly expand the President’s power to call up the Reserves in a disaster or an emergency and would extend that power to the Secretary of Defense. (There are other circumstances, such as repelling invasions or rebellions or enforcing federal authority, where the President already has the authority to call up the Reserves.)
The ACLU is alarmed by the proposed legislation. Mike German, the ACLU’s national security policy counsel, expressed amazement “that the military would propose such a broad set of authorities and potentially undermine a 100-year-old prohibition against the military in domestic law enforcement with no public debate and seemingly little understanding of the threat to democracy.”
Add to above the vague definition of “emergency”… generally left up to the President to determine… and we have a serious power grab in the making.
Dave Mundy at the Texas National Press isn’t so subtle with his last summer’s headline… “Military asks Congress to set aside Posse Comitatus”.
An Aug. 12 article in The Progressive, a liberal news journal, by reporter Matthew Rothschild reports that the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has asked Congress to grant the Secretary of Defense the authority to post up to 400,000 troops in North America “in times of emergency or natural disaster.” If granted, the move would further erode the authority of the states and would minimize the role played by the states’ militia, the National Guard, in handling domestic issues.
More ominously, nothing in the Pentagon’s request specifies that the troops to be posted in U.S. cities would necessarily be Americans.
Sept 2009: NORTHCOM releases the 32 pg initial framework for the “Tri Command”. It lays the foundation for how NORAD, NORTHCOM and Canada COM operate and interact to accomplish their missions and goals, including organizational charts, and sharing of both information and intelligence. NORTHCOM and Canada COM are both national forces, reporting to Defense Secretary (US) and CDS (Canada), while NORAD is set up as a bi-national force. Commanders have the flexibility to set up Joint Task Force in areas for the duration of the military operation.
The Commanders of these three organizations are directed to establish three plans for the combined defense of the US and Canada. The CAP, mentioned above, is unclassified. The other two, the Canada-US Combined Defense Plan and NORAD Concept Plan are classified.
Governors, however, cannot be left out of the mix. A couple of months early, when Stocken was testifying before Congress and NORTHCOM was requesting distribution of units across the US, Asst. Defense Secretary Stockton, had sent a letter to the National Governor’s Association INRE their plans. The governors were having nothing of the sort without some serious guidelines in authoritative boundaries. Indeed they reminded Mr. Stockton that a similar proposal in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 was nixed due to gubernatorial concerns.
In their reply on August 7th reply, they recommended setting up the Council of Governors to facilitate discussing the division of tactical command for the NORTHCOM/Defense Department’s expanded powers and military authority.
Governors and their Adjutants General would welcome the opportunity to work with you and others at DoD and the National Guard Bureau to discuss tactical control during disasters and to identify legislative and operational opportunities to improve our response to such events. The best way to facilitate such consultation and communication is for DoD to quickly establish the Council of Governors as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. Doing so will provide an appropriate forum to address these issues and other aspects of defense support to civilian authorities.
Jan 11th… Obama creates the Council.
We now know the two fold intent…
1: To achieve the NORTHCOM Legislative Proposal goals by giving the Defense Secretary powers to call up the reserve units, and stash them across the US in preparation….
2: To get the Governor’s blessing on that power, and suss out who gets to command what, and under what circumstance.
It’s Stockton’s task to liaison between the governors, DHS and the National Guard.
What remains to be seen is what powers can be conferred upon the 10 gubernatorial council members, and what State authorities they cede… either willingly, or hoodwinked out of.
What questions come to mind is why now? What does Obama know to take these extraordinary steps, or… from the conspiratorial angle, just what does he have planned?
But there’s one guarantee… Gibbs sure isn’t going to tell us, and this is another round table of negotiations that won’t be making it to C-SPAN.
For the humorous take on the EO, check out Andrew Malcom’s “whereas” blog post on LA Times Top of the Ticket.