Category Archives: Special Ops

NORTHCOM Domestic Contingency Plans

(I’ve been writing about NORTHCOM and the various contingency plans relating to Coronavirus in Newsweek and have tried to make sense of the different plans, in nitty-gritty, beyond articles. Here are my notes.)


U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) Operations Plans

William M. Arkin, 22 April 2020.

In the wake of 9/11, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was established on October 1, 2002 “to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DOD) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities.” As such, NORTHCOM is the lead domestic combatant command for coronavirus, carrying out its normal and enhanced homeland defense missions and responding to “requests for assistance” from FEMA to provide civil support.

A combatant command for America, a single chain of command, one entity. NORTHCOM has settled in to a certain routine over two decades, starting with defending America’s skies and the National Capital Region, then in building up an expansive weapons of mass destruction response and “consequence management” apparatus, and then, after Katrina, an all-hazards and national response framework military counterpart to the non-military world, no hurricane, earthquake, wildfire or pandemic outside of its mission set.

If there’s any entity that should have been ready for coronavirus, its NORTHCOM. That proposition will undoubtedly be closely examined as commissions and blue ribbon panels go to work when it’s all over. Who said what to whom when will no doubt be exhaustively examined. It’s obviously way too early to say much, but one thing can be said with assurance: after Donald Trump is long gone, NORTHCOM will still be there.

That’s when all of the exceptions will be uncovered, that NORTHCOM is the singular command except. Except for Hawaii and the Pacific Islands territories, where U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) has identical homeland defense responsibilities. Except for counter-terrorism, where U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is the lead. Except for nuclear deterrence, obviously under STRATCOM. Except for the counter-everything missions under U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Except for those responsibilities that the State hold to themselves. Except for those operations that the Navy and the other services have doggedly retained. And except for all that is not under the military’s direct control – continuity of government, WMD domestic response, and even national mobilization – where other organizations such as the FBI and the White House Military Office have both public and non-public responsibilities. And then there’s the defense of virtual and exo-atmospheric space, now under U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) and the new U.S. Space Force.

There are so many exceptions and it is such a patchwork not only because bureaucracies furiously guard their turf but also because it’s the United States, where what is federal and what is state continues to be hotly contested, as well as what is military and what is civilian. Then comes the question as to whether an organization with so many different missions – from air defense to dealing with a pandemic – can adequately prepare for any of them. This will undoubtedly raise the issue of national security versus public health, about 9/11 versus coronavirus, about domestic need versus the wages of perpetual war.

I’ve been endeavoring to keep an eye on all of this for two decades, not only because of a Reagen-era fascination with continuity but also because the many exceptions rub up against the Constitution and the laws of our land. It’s not just that matters of emergency and extraordinary powers are sexy to study and write about, it is also that the secrecy surrounding so many of these missions – and the exceptions – confuses those outside the system, stymies good government, and undermines public confidence.

With coronavirus, NORTHCOM is out there working furiously to carry out its many missions, implementing at least five different operations plans simultaneously. Implementing might be too strong of a word, because even though these plans run in the hundreds of pages, most are thrown out the window almost as soon as they are taken off the shelf, useful in laying out how things should be organized but otherwise too rigid – or fanciful – to apply to the real world. Or so I say.

That why laying out what those operations plans are is so important, so that we can study them closer, to understand planning, forecasting, organization, mission and implementation. My assertion is that surely we can do better. And in the case of domestic operations plans, surely we can be more transparent as well. Is there any reason you can imagine that the pandemic response plan shouldn’t be public? Or the plan for Defense Support of Civil Authorities? And though we justify those plans, even some recounted below that are highly classified and even compartmented because they deal with special operations forces or weapons of mass destruction, even there I would argue that there needs to be greater transparency, that in order for NORTHCOM and the military overall to do its job in the United States, the Congress and Judiciary, the States, the local community and the public needs to have as much confidence as we can provide them that the military is operating lawfully, and that it knows what it’s doing.

The 19 plans described below are what I can piece together as the current and active operations plans of NORTHCOM. I say operations plans broadly, for all of them are actually CONPLANs, which is not an abbreviation for contingency plan but officially an “operation plans in concept format”.  Because of the exceptions I described above, INDOPACOM has parallel plans that deal with Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, not under the authority of NORTHCOM. And the first two plans listed, in the Joint Chief of Staff “Zero-series” are thought to be NORTHCOM plans but probably still reside within the purview of the JCS. The rest of the plans are all in the 3000-series, allocated to NORTHCOM.

CONPLAN 0300, Counter-Terrorism Special Operations Support to Civil Agencies in the event of a domestic incident (entire title classified) (Power Geyser)

  • Federal response to a terrorist event.
  • Implements the JCS charter for the counterterrorism (CT) joint task force, known as the National Mission Force.
  • Includes Joint Service EOD “Special Mission” support and specific weapons of mass destruction render safe support capabilities within the NCR.
  • Department of Defense provides military assistance to the lead federal agency and/or Federal Response Plan Emergency Support Function primary agencies during all aspects of a terrorist incident upon approval by the Secretary of Defense.
  • Often referred to as CJCS CONPLAN 0300; it unclear if it is solely a NORTHCOM plan or if NORTHCOM has a supporting CONPLAN 0300 to implement a JCS plan in the Continental United States and Alaska only.
  • Operating under the provisions of Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)-39, US Government Policy on Counterterrorism, 21 June 1995.
  • Compartmented plan classified Secret/Alternative Compensatory Control Measures (with the compartment Focal Point, referring to sensitive special operations).


  • CJCS CONPLAN 0300-14, 2014.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0300-04/NORTHCOM Draft CONPLAN 0300-04.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0300-00, 1 December 2000.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0300-97, 14 January 1997.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0300-96, 1996.

CONPLAN 0400, Counterproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Granite Shadow)

  • Special operations countering weapons of mass destruction “national plan”; formerly called the “counter proliferation” plan.
  • As dictated by PDD-39, a robust DOD plan, outlining the process by which agencies submit requests for DOD support in domestic terrorism related events, and the command and control structure that would be applied in domestic military employment in order to rapidly remove and destroy WMD in the hands of terrorists, when ordered to do so. Builds on the guidance contained in the PDD-39 Domestic Guidelines concerning DOD support to DOJ/FBI – the lead federal agency – during a WMD terrorist incident.
  • Domestic DOD assistance includes threat assessment, Domestic Emergency Support Team deployment, technical advice, operational support, tactical operations, support for civil disturbances, and custody, transportation and disposal of a WMD device.
  • Requires geographic combatant commands to create a Joint Task Force Command and Control Organization for consequence management within their areas of responsibility. The five-theater CINC CONPLANs were initially approved in August 1999.
  • Often referred to as CJCS CONPLAN 0400; it unclear if it is solely a NORTHCOM plan or if NORTHCOM has a supporting CONPLAN 0400 to implement a JCS plan in the Continental United States and Alaska only.
  • Operating under the provisions of Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)-39, US Government Policy on Counterterrorism, 21 June 1995 and the FBI WMD Incident Contingency Plan.
  • Compartmented plan classified Secret/Alternative Compensatory Control Measures (with the compartment Focal Point, referring to sensitive special operations). Previously Top Secret.


  • CJCS Instruction 3125.01B, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) for Domestic Consequence Management (CM) Operations in response to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or High-Yield Explosive (CBRNE) Incident, 19 August 2009 cancelled Annex T, Appendix 2, Military Assistance to Foreign Consequence Management Operations, upon reversion of regional combatant command responsibilities for CONPLAN 0400 duties in their areas of responsibility.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0400, Counterproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, September 2003.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0400-00, Draft, 2002.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0400-00, Countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, September 2001.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0400-97, 3 January 1997.
  • CJCS CONPLAN 0400-96, Counterproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 31 May 1996.

CONPLAN 3310, NORTHCOM/NORAD, Aerospace Warning, Aerospace Control and Maritime Warning for North America

  • Bi-National U.S.-Canada Plan. According to the Government of Canada: “Respond in times of crisis or to unauthorized airborne activities. The NORAD Contingency Plan (CONPLAN) is a binational plan that outlines flexible warning response options to deter, detect and, if necessary, defeat threats to North America, for both Canadian and American assets. … Processes and procedures in response to unauthorized civilian aircraft activity, in and within the approaches to North America are explicitly articulated in NORAD CONPLAN 3310 and are executed under Operation NOBLE EAGLE.”
  • Definitions
    • Aerospace Warning: Detect, validate, characterize, assess and warn of attacks against North America, whether by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles.
    • Aerospace Control: Detect and respond to unauthorized and unwanted air activity approaching or operating within North American airspace.
    • Maritime Warning: Process, assess and disseminate intelligence/information to warn of maritime threats or attacks against North America.
  • The Guidance for Employment of the Force (GEF) and Joint Strategic Campaign Plan (JSCP) provides limited guidance for NORAD CONPLAN 3310. It is the product of U.S. and Canadian negotiations and agreement.
  • See Terms of Reference, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), 21 February 2007 and Canada–United States Basic Defense Document (BDD), 8 July 2006.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) Campaign Plan 2525-02, Operation Noble Eagle (Campaign Plan for Homeland Security), 1 October 2002.
  • Replaced CDRUSELEMNORAD CONPLAN 3349-02, 15 January 1998, a U.S. only plan.


  • Plan undergoing substantial revision in FY 2019-2020.
  • CONPLAN 3310-17, 18 January 2017.
  • CONPLAN 3310-12, 2012.
  • CONPLAN 3310-07, Aerospace Defense & Maritime Warning, 5 March 2007.
  • CONPLAN 3310-07, 23 January 2007.
  • CONPLAN 3310-02, Combined US-Canada Aerospace Sovereignty and Aerospace Defense, 21 April 2004.
  • CINCNORAD CONPLAN 3310-96 (Change 2), Air Sovereignty and Aerospace Defense of North America, 1 January 2000.
  • CINCNORAD CONPLAN 3310-96 (as amended), 24 September 1999.

CONPLAN 3400, Homeland Defense

  • The Secretary of Defense approved Guidance for Employment of the Force (GEF) establishes “Homeland Defense” as NORTHCOM’s top priority.
  • Includes support for national Continuity of Operations and Continuity of Government, and protection of Defense Critical Infrastructure Program (DCIP).
  • Generates the Granite Shadow OPLAN within the United States (CONPLAN 0400 or the specific Granite Shadow plan).
  • Replaced CONPLAN 2002-05, Homeland Defense, last revision 29 July 2005. This was a legacy NORTHCOM (and early JFCOM) plan.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM CONPLAN 3900, December 2002.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM/EUCOM (and earlier JFCOM) CONPLAN 2222-98, Protection of the Area of Responsibility (AOR) Air-Sea Lines of Communication (ASLOC), 1 March 2001.
  • Replaced JFCOM Draft Campaign Plan 2525-01 (Draft), Operations to Support Civil Authorities in Securing the Homeland, 22 October 2001.


  • Plan undergoing substantial revision in FY 2019-2020.
  • CONPLAN 3400-15, 8 January 2015.
  • CONPLAN 3400-12, 2012.
  • CONPLAN 3400-08 Revision 1, 2010; contained a more detailed concept of operations for the maritime homeland defense mission.
  • CONPLAN 3400-08, 2 December 2008.
  • CONPLAN 3400-05, November 2005.

CONPLAN 3405, Department of Defense Nuclear Weapon Incident Response

  • Includes NORTHCOM’s theater geographic responsibilities for nuclear weapon recovery operations, the status of this CONPLAN is unclear, nor what it’s distinction with from COPLANs is.


  • CONPLAN 3405-12.

CONPLAN 3407, Defense Support to Prevent a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) Attack in the Homeland

  • AKA CBRN “Prevent Plan”.
  • Supports USG law enforcement agencies in preventing WMD (to include biologicals) entry into the US and search for WMD when cued by intelligence.


  • CONPLAN 3407-12, Defense Support to Prevent a CBRNE Attack in the Homeland (“CBRNE Prevent”), 29 March 2012.
  • CONPLAN 3407-11.

CONPLAN 3475, Regional Campaign for the War on Terrorism (WOT)

  • Sub-plan of SOCOM’s CONPLAN 7500, the Global Campaign Plan for the War on Terrorism, now officially called the Global Campaign Plan for Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs).
  • Includes counter-narcoterrorism and counter-drug (CN/CD) operations to address the threat of illicit trafficking to North America.
  • Replaced JFCOM FUNCPLAN 2707-00, Military Activities in Support of Counterdrug Operations.


  • CONPLAN 3476-08.

CONPLAN 3500, Defense Support of Civil Authorities for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Explosives (CBRNE) Consequence Management (CM) Operations

  • The first key assumption is, “There will be little or no warning before a CBRN incident.”
  • Includes Very Important Persons Protection Support Activity (VIPPSA), EOD support provided in coordination with the U.S. Secret Service. VIPPSA support can be provided for the President of the United States, the Vice President, cabinet members, foreign dignitaries, and others as directed by the Department of State.
  • Incorporated and replaced JCS (and later NORTHCOM) CONPLAN 0500-03, Military Assistance to Domestic Consequence Management Operations in Response to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or High-Yield Explosive Situation or Event, 11 February 2002.


  • Plan undergoing substantial revision in FY 2019-2020.
  • CONPLAN 3500-14, Civil Support, 30 September 2014.
  • CONPLAN 3500-14, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Response, 17 July 2014.
  • CONPLAN 3500-11, CBRN Response, 17 August 2011. As a result of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Secretary of Defense directed DOD to restructure the original CCMRF to increase its ability to respond more rapidly to an incident in the homeland with more robust critical lifesaving capability to assist the Federal response in reducing the impact of a CBRN incident.
  • CONPLAN 3500-08, Military Assistance to Domestic Consequence Management Operations in Response to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or High-Yield Explosive Situation (U), 29 December 2008.
  • CONPLAN 3500-08, CBRNE Consequence Management Operations, 22 October 2008
  • CONPLAN 3500-08, CBRNE Consequence Management Operations, Draft, February 2008.
  • CONPLAN 3500-07, 2007. JTF-CS anticipates, plans and integrates NORTHCOM Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Consequence Management operations and when directed, establishes command and control of DOD forces for a CBRNE incident to assist local authorities in saving lives, preventing injury, and providing temporary critical life support.
  • CONPLAN 0500 for CBRNE-CM, 1 February 2007. When directed by the Secretary of Defense, Commander NORTHCOM conducts consequence management (CM) in the 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, to support Civil Authorities in response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) situations.
  • CONPLAN 3500-06, Defense Support of Civil Authorities for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives Consequence Management Operations, 10 October 2006.

CONPLAN 3501, Defense Support of Civil Authorities

  • Develops an overarching complex catastrophe branch plan concept of operations that identifies initial actions to be taken by NORTHCOM and subordinate elements. This concept of operations is supported by a series of what NORTHCOM calls “playbooks” that identify the key elements of the federal military response to various types of complex catastrophes. These playbooks include a southern California earthquake, the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, an Alaska earthquake, an East Coast/Gulf Coast major hurricane, and a major emergency in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • Compatible with the National Response Framework (NRF) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • Describes DOD support to civil authorities during natural disasters and civil emergencies other than armed attack on the nation.
  • Contains a six-phase plan for DSCA operations: Phase 0, Shape; Phase 1, Anticipate; Phase 2, Respond; Phase 3, Operate; Phase 4, Stabilize; Phase 5, Transition.
  • Outlines NORTHCOM’s responsibilities and intentions for Phases 0-5, in order to “save lives, reduce human suffering, and mitigate great property damage;” directs service components to develop supporting plans.
  • Appendix 20 to Annex C, NORTHCOM CONPLAN 3501, Wildland Firefighting Operations, 24 April 2008.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) CONPLAN 2501, Defense Support of Civil Authorities.
  • Replaced JFCOM Draft Campaign Plan 2525-01 (Draft), Operations to Support Civil Authorities in Securing the Homeland, 22 October 2001.
  • Replaced JFCOM (and earlier REDCOM) FUNCPLAN 2501-97, Military Support to Civil Authorities (MSCA) in Responding to Natural or Man-made Disasters, 2 February 1998
  • Replaced SOUTHCOM FUNCPLAN 6175-98, Domestic Support Operations, 1 July 1998.


  • Plan undergoing substantial revision in FY 2020-2021, including a new prioritized list for developing approximately 30 additional playbooks and regional support plans.
  • CONPLAN 3501-09 approved by JFLCC (ARNORTH) CDR 4 May 2009.
  • CONPLAN 3501-08, 16 December 2008 (1st 9-month review, approved by SECDEF. Includes 6 Phases and new NORTHCOM structure.
  • CONPLAN 3501-08, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), 16 May 2008.
  • Secretary of Defense Memorandum, NORTHCOM CONPLAN 3501, Defense Support of Civil Authorities, April 2007.
  • NORTHCOM CONPLAN 3501-05, Defense Support of Civil Authorities, 11 April 2006.
  • NORTHCOM CONPLAN 3501-05, Defense Support of Civil Authorities, Draft, 22 March 2006.
  • CDRUSNORTHCOM, Civil Support Concept of Employment (CONEMP), 20 August 2004.

CONPLAN 3502, Civil Disturbance Operations

  • The JSCP directs CDRUSNORTHCOM to conduct necessary planning and coordination to prepare DOD forces to assist civil authorities in response to civil disturbances, when directed by the President and Secretary of Defense. US domestic civil disturbances include riots, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, group acts of violence, and disorders prejudicial to public law and order. Initial responsibility for the civil disturbance response rests with state and local authorities. This plan is implemented when the President determines that a civil disturbance situation exceeds either the capabilities or willingness of the state and local authorities to restore law and order
  • Replaced NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) FUNCPLAN 2502, Civil Disturbance Plan (Garden Plot), 25 June 2001.
  • FUNCPLAN 2502 (in 2001) replaced the earlier “Garden Plot” CONPLAN, U.S. Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan, 15 February 1991.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM FUNCPLAN 2707, Support to Law Enforcement for Transnational Threats


  • CONPLAN 3502, Civil Disturbance Operations, 31 July 2009.
  • CONPLAN 3502, Defense Support of Civil Authorities for Civil Disturbance Operations (CDO), 23 January 2007.

CONPLAN 3505, Nuclear Weapons Accident Response Plan (NARP)

  • NORTHCOM CONPLAN for response to an accident involving U.S. nuclear weapons in Department of Defense (DOD) custody in the USNORTHCOM-designated Operational Area, in accordance with guidance, policy and direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and the Secretary of Defense.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) FUNCPLAN 2505, Nuclear Weapon Accident Response Plan.
  • Supplements Air Force and Navy nuclear weapons accident/indent plans (these are the only military services that possess nuclear warheads)
    • AFSPC Plan 10- 1, ICBM Radiological Accident/Incident Response and Recovery Plan, 15 October 2004.
    • ACC Plan 32- 1, CONUS Radiological Accident/Incident Response and Recovery Plan, 11 September 2002.
    • Commander, Navy Region Southeast Instruction 3440.15, Regional Nuclear Weapon Accident Response Plan, 13 April 2005.
    • Commander, Navy Region Northwest Instruction 3440.1D, Nuclear Weapon Accident/Incident Response Plan, 31 January 2001.


  • CONPLAN 3505-08, USNORTHCOM Nuclear Weapons Accident Response Plan (NC-NARP), 4 April 2008.

CONPLAN 3551, Concept Plan to Synchronize DOD Pandemic Influenza Planning

  • DOD Global Response to Pandemic Influenza; CONPLAN 3351 directs “planning and synchronization of DOD’s global response to a potential pandemic.”
  • “The potential impact of pandemic influenza (Pl) on military operations is significant. Throughout a pandemic, United States (US) military forces must remain dominant across the full spectrum of military operations, preserving combat capabilities in order to protect US interests at home and abroad. The Department of Defense {DOD) Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza (DIP) directs DOD to prepare for, detect, respond to and contain the effect of a pandemic on military forces, DOD civilians, DOD contractors, dependents and beneficiaries.”
  • Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan Fiscal Year 2006, 1 September 2006 directed CDRUSNORTHCOM to prepare a concept plan (CONPLAN) to synchronize worldwide planning to mitigate and contain the effects of an influenza pandemic.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM CONPLAN 2591, Pandemic Influenza (FOUO with two Secret Annexes).


  • CONPLAN 3560, Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response, NORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560, Draft, 6 January 2017. This new plan seemingly never went beyond the draft stage.
  • DOD GCP PI&ID 3551-13, Department of Defense Global Campaign Plan for Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease, 14 March 2014.
  • NORTHCOM/DOD GCP-PI&ID-3551-13, 15 October 2013.
  • CONPLAN 3551-09, Concept Plan to Synchronize DOD Pandemic Influenza Planning, 13 August 2009.
  • CONPLAN 3551-07, DOD Global Pandemic Influenza Concept Plan, 1 October 2007.
  • CONPLAN 3551-07, Concept Plan to Synchronize DOD Pandemic Influenza Planning, 26 September 2007.
  • DOD Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza, August 2006.
  • DOD Influenza Pandemic Preparation and Response Health Policy Guidance, 25 January 2006.
  • DOD Guidance for Preparation and Response to an Influenza Pandemic caused by the Bird Flu (Avian Influenza), 21 September 2004.

CONPLAN 3591, Theater Response Plan for Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Diseases

  • USNORTHCOM Response to Pandemic Influenza; a supporting plan to CONPLAN 3351, focuses on support to the “national effort in response to a potential pandemic resulting from human-to-human transmission of an influenza virus.”
  • The plan addresses Force Health Protection (FHP) and civil support operations in the USNORTHCOM AO, as well as support to foreign humanitarian assistance (FHA) operations in the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility (AOR).


  • CONPLAN 3591-09, USNORTHCOM Response to Pandemic Influenza, 13 August 2009.
  • CONPLAN 3591, NORTHCOM Response to Pandemic Influenza, 17 December 2007.
  • CONPLAN 3591-07, Pandemic Influenza. 25 July 2007.
  • CJCS PLANORD 141224Z NOV 05 (14 November 2005) directs NORTHCOM to conduct execution-level planning for response to PI.

CONPLAN 3600, Emergency Preparedness in the National Capital Region (NCR)

  • All hazard NCR emergency preparedness, readiness for mass casualty incidents in the National Capital Region (NCR) by air or ground; support for National Security Special Events (NSSE) and high risks events.
  • Provide a mechanism to coordinate delivery of assistance, develop pre-scripted RFAs to ensure that JFHQ-NCR serves as the single point of entry to get USNORTHCOM support to the Pentagon in crisis management situations; sets the conditions under which JFHQ-NCR transitions to JTF-NCR and has OPCON of forces serving in the NCR.
  • Supporting plan JFHQ-NCR OPLAN 3600, Emergency Preparedness in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • Replaced NORTHCOM CONPLAN 2400, the legacy NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) NCR CONPLAN.


  • CONPLAN 3600-08, Emergency Preparedness in the National Capital Region, 7 November 2008.
  • CONPLAN 2400, Emergency Preparedness in the NCR, January 2007. Post 9/11 revisions that integrate operations in the NCR under a single combatant commander; synchronizes DOD activities and existing federal, state, tribal and local emergency preparedness efforts.

CONPLAN 3601, Continuity of Operations

  • Status unknown; believed to be the Headquarters U.S. Northern Command and NORAD continuity of operations plan, not a national plan, applicable only internally to NORTHCOM and NORAD.

CONPLAN 3729, International Disaster Response

  • AKA International Disaster Relief
  • Replaced NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) CONPLAN 2707, Caribbean Mass Migration.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM FUNCPLAN 2500-93, Military Support to the Department of State and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations, 15 June 2001.
  • Replaced NORTHCOM (and earlier JFCOM) 2503, Military Support to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) during a Mass Immigration into the United States (“Legacy Freedom”), 30 November 1997.


  • CONPLAN 3729-12, 2012.

CONPLAN 3768, Repatriation Operations

  • AKA Non-combatant Evacuation Operation/Repatriation (NEO/REPAT)
  • Replaced JFCOM CONPLAN 2100-98, Non-combatant Evacuation Operations, 1 February 2002.

CONPLAN 3800, Mobile Consolidated Command Center Operations

  • Status unknown.
  • Replaced USSPACECOM CONPLAN 3800-00, 12 April 2000.
  • Replaced (or supplemented) CJCS OPORD 2-98, Survivable Mobile Command Center Operations (SMCC Operations), J-3A 02592-97, 1 March 1998.

CAMPLAN 3900, Strategic Communication

  •  Campaign plan, status unknown.


  • CONPLAN 3900-02, December 2002.

Phase Zero: Last Week in Review 4.27.15

The following posts appeared on Phase Zero last week:

Will The Death of Two Hostages Finally Force Us to Face Drone Killing?

U.S. Inadvertently Kills Adam Gadahn, Saves $1,000,000

An Intelligence Vet Explains ISIS, Yemen, and “the Dick Cheney of Iraq” : An Interview with Malcolm Nance

The Blackwater Murders Aren’t Blackwater’s Fault. They’re Ours.

Is Germany Really The Heart Of America’s Drone War?

April 19 Has Become Everyone-Is-a-Threat Day

Phase Zero: Spying on the U.S. Submarine That Spies For the NSA and CIA

As many of you now know, last week saw the launch of my national security site, Phase Zero, with Gawker Media. We’ll be posting some great material on that platform, and I encourage all of you to create a Kinja account in order to comment, share and above all, discuss the stories I’m hoping to bring to the public attention. My goal remains the same as it has always been: to engage, expose and explain the shadow world of spying and killing.  

Today’s story, a piece written by myself and Adam Weinstein, is timely and unique.  We’ve discovered that the submarine USS Annapolis, one of the crown jewels of the US Navy, conducts missions on behalf of the NSA and the CIA, and that it’s voyage last year included spying on Israel, Yemen, and Iran, just to name a few countries.  The story is important because of more than just exposing the capabilities of this submarine to collect on (and hack into) wireless routers and cell phones.   It’s also important because it is so rare for anyone to report, in real time, on submarine activity- that is, what they actually “do” out there, other than make port calls and participate in exercises.  These “hunter killer” submarines, as they are often called, may or may not play an important role in counter-terrorism or cyber war; they play some role.  But to appreciate their value, and thus the value of submarines in today’s world, a lot more transparency and reporting would be required.  Take a look at the story to learn more about why the Silent Service is such an integral piece of the cybersecurity realm, and why there should be more reporting tracking their stealth movements.

You can contact me at, and follow us at @gawkerphasezero. If you are into the theater of being underground, you can anonymously deliver tips through the Gawker Media SecureDrop. I’ve got a book on drones coming out in July called Unmanned: Drones, Data and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare. I’m open to your input and your questions, tough questions.

Soft Power Becomes a Military-Dominated Counter-Everything…

Soft power, all the rage in the ivory tower, but ever so slowly being eclipsed in the Defense Department as mission excitement builds for China and that old foe Iran, is here to stay in that way that the Pentagon knows how to overdo everything: write the regulations and doctrine, open specialty institutions, build an internal constituency.  And of course, spend money, which in the military budget is a pittance but in comparison to other departments and agencies is a King’s ransom, which is why soft becomes hard, and everything that the U.S. government attempts to turn into non-military becomes military by default.

As Secretary Robert Gates nudged the rest of the government to do more so that the military didn’t have to do everything, and the commentators of everything-is-pathetic-except-for-the-military love to point out that the State Department can’t even find enough volunteers to man its hazardous posts in the perpetual warzone.  Come to think of it, I wonder if DOD could if their assignments were equally voluntary.

But I digress.  Institutionalized soft power a la Pentagon practice does take resources, and bodies, and pretty soon, hard power is compromised.  So there’s a double loss for America: Military priorities get distorted, and the distinction between what is military and what is civilian fades.

This week, European Command (EUCOM) announced the opening of a new Joint Interagency Counter Trafficking Center in Stuttgart, Germany; a kind of unremarkable and typical blah, blah, blah, even for the once important European Command constantly looking for mission and relevance.  The new center focuses on trafficking in drugs, weapons, humans and other illicit commodities.  Army Brig. Gen. Mark Scraba, the center’s director, told American Forces Press Service that criminal networks were increasingly able to operate across national borders and build alliances.  Among the greatest concerns, he said, is the convergence of drug and terror networks.  The fusion center, the director says, has fewer than 40 staff members, and includes representatives of the FBI, DIA and other U.S. government agencies.

Fewer than 40 staff members indeed, but you gotta ask: Why is this paid for out of the defense budget?  Why does the military have to take the lead for the interagency to work?  How many additional contractors and supporters are really expended?  How does this subtly impact and undermine core military missions?  How does it slowly turn the military into a global law enforcement entity?

When the U.S. government started trumpeting the term narco-terrorism after 9/11, I took it to be a cynical effort to rename the war on drugs and the activities of the left-out combatant commands like Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in the new mono-focus of terrorism.  The term in fact had been coined by President Fernando Belaúnde Terry of Peru in 1983, according to Wikipedia.  The adoption by DOD was in fact cynical, but soon enough they discovered that the most pressing narco problem was in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a mission that initially they relegated to the Brits and the NATO partners, but have been slowly taking over.  EUCOM’s center is really a product of endless fighting in Afghanistan.

EUCOM’s center joins the counter-narcotics and counter-narcoterrorism effort at Central Command (CENTCOM), which takes place in the Afghanistan and Pakistan Center (APC).   SOUTHCOM has their new Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) division.   Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has both a CTF [counter-threat finance] team and a TNT/CNT [transnational terrorism/counter narcoterrorism] division.  So does Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which has built up a whole group of Colorado Springs-based efforts fighting transnational criminal organizations (narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, weapons, money laundering/threat finance etc.), focused mostly on Mexico.

All of these field outposts feed into the counter-narcotics and counter trafficking intelligence efforts of the CIA – through its long-standing Crime and Narcotics Center — NSA, DIA, Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), etc.  Even the Navy’s Nimitz Operational Intelligence Center has a Transnational Threat Department (TNT).  This is not even to mention the two Joint Intelligence Agency Taskforces focused on the war on drugs: South (JIATF-S) in Key West and West (JIATF-W) at Camp Smith, Hawaii.  The Department of Homeland Security, of course, has gotten into the act, opening an ICE Bulk Cash Smuggling Center and other organizations.

None of this particularly surprises me, even when budgets are supposedly so strained.  But I can’t help continue to think that the entire effort is both cynical and ass-backwards.  If we want soft anything, we have to lead with non-military efforts.

The Obama administration, not surprisingly, has made it worse, contributing to the mission creep into organized crime and human trafficking, through its Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security, released in July 2011.

That Strategy called for DOD to enhance its support to law enforcement with the creation of the  Narcotics and Transnational Crime Support Center.  James Miller, the new Under Secretary of Defense for Policy called the Center “a dedicated DoD-led center that integrates military, intelligence, and law enforcement analytic capabilities to go after key nodes in global criminal networks.”  It reflects, he says, “the added value that the Defense department brings to whole-of-government efforts against transnational organized crime.”

Kathleen Hicks, who replaces Miller as Principal Deputy, told Congress:  “DoD should also consider how it can play a role in breaking the links among criminal organizations, terrorists, and insurgencies.  As the President’s strategy states, “terrorists and insurgents are increasingly turning to TOC [transnational organized crime] to generate funding and acquiring logistical support to carry out their violent acts.” As the Department continues with its counterterrorism efforts around the world, it will be important to account for the links between criminal and terrorist entities.”

I’d never heard of this Center, and Internet research turns up very little.  What I’ve pieced together is that it is located in Crystal City, Virginia, and the director reports to the Deputy Assistant Security of Defense for Counter Narcotics and Global Threats.  Camber Corporation is providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) expertise to link the Center to NSA.  Semper Fi Solutions, Inc. is providing CENTCOM liaison officers in Tampa to the Crystal City based center, as well as corruption and “predatory” analysts.

Other contractors providing intelligence support to the trafficking empire include: BAE Systems, Celestar, Delex Systems, Duer Advanced Technology & Aerospace (DATA), FedSys, Inc., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 STRATIS, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Prosync Technology Group, and SAIC.  Parsons Corporation is working on the methamphetamine/precursor chemicals problem set for the DIA.

Finally, one has to ask, with all of the enhanced intelligence collection and sharing and border control that is part of the post 9/11 world, why is this problem getting worse?  How is that possible, that borders are more porous?  So much for the war against terrorism.  No wonder they call it the forever war.

Special Operations Command Does What the CIA Does, or Does It?

The National Counter-terrorism Center (NCTC) was in the news last week, with the government’s revised guidelines regarding its ability to acquire and retain information on Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism.

Then Greg Miller had a vivid almost-hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-national-security profile of the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) in The Washington Post, an article that assaults the notion that NCTC is the epicenter of the terror war.  The CIA’s Center, in addition to commanding the drones that do the killing, actually gets out there while the NCTC is a northern-Virginia based bureaucracy.  They’re so far out there in fact, that their director “Robert” – we can’t know his real name – is a convert to Islam.  Just weird.

If I didn’t know that it takes weeks, even months, for a journalist to score such a profile, I’d think the Post piece was a direct response to NCTC getting all of the attention in the news. Bureaucracies do hate other bureaucracies getting credit.

But the same week that all of this was going down, I was trying to wrap my head around another organization: the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which is in Tampa, Florida.  They had a job advertisement for a new civilian chief of their “Exploitation Division” that said in part:

“As Chief, Exploitation Division, leads, plans and organizes the technical analysis and collaborative exploitation efforts of the Directorate’s six (6) divisions with a combined staff of military, active and reserve, civilian personnel, contractors and Interagency Partners (CIA, FBI, NSA, OGA, NCTC, DOS, USAID, DOJ, DHS, DEA, USCG, ASD-SOLIC, DIA and NCR….

Conducts strategic analysis and manages the evaluation of technical data associated with ceased digital media, cellular communications/equipment, documents, currency and weapons systems while concurrently writing and providing strategic and operational exploitation assessments to the IATF Director and USSOCOM Commander…”

The job announcement, besides being in a language other than English and replete with all sorts of errors (what the hell is “ceased digital media” and what’s OGA – other government agencies – the usual acronym for the CIA if the CIA is already mentioned?)makes it sound like something that I thought was just a coordinating Task Force is actually another action arm.  A little more digging and in fact IATF sounds redundant of both NCTC and CTC and whole bunch of other organizations and agencies; part intelligence analysis shop, part targeter, part planner, part doer.

SOCOM’s 2008 posture statement before Congress describes the IATF simply as “a catalyst to rapidly facilitate CT [counter-terror] collaboration within the U.S. government against trans-regional, functional and strategic level problem sets and opportunities.”  An official Defense Department definition of an IATF is a “full-time, multifunctional advisory element of the combatant commander’s staff that facilitates information sharing throughout the interagency community. Through habitual collaboration, it provides a means to integrate campaign planning efforts at the strategic and operational levels and throughout all U.S. government agencies. IATF bridges the gap between civilian and military campaign planning efforts for potential crises and irregular challenges.”

According to SOCOM’s FY 2013 budget, “SOCOM’s IATF quickly fuses knowledge from multiple sources and collection methods, and then rapidly disseminates essential information to theater SOF and/or agencies for operational planning or investigation.”

Delve deeper though, and like the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, almost synonymous to it in fact, the IATF is more than just another staff organization.  Ten of its contractors and their activities demonstrate that:

* A-T Solutions:  Senior operational planning and execution support contractor to the IATF Synchronization Division.   A-T Solutions support SOCOM’s core mission as the global synchronization of the U.S. government – minus the CIA and DNI, that is – for the global war on terrorism operations plan (CONPLAN 7500).  It organizes the regular Global Synchronization Conferences of the dozen or more agencies and departments involved in fighting terrorist networks.

* Blackbird Technologies:  Operational planning support contractor to the Counter-terrorism Branch.

* Circinus, LLC:   Document exploitation and cultural analysis in support of Exploitation Team.

* FEDSYS, Inc.:  Operational research and intelligence analysis support to the Counter Narco-terrorism (CNT) Branch and the counter-threat finance (CTF) Team.  FEDSYS assists in coordination of U.S. government agencies, partner nations and the private sector to accomplish SOCOM’s CTF mission, including finance-oriented assessments to support development of case files, evidentiary material, designation packages, to include actionable intelligence on finance-specific entities.   This includes data mining, data manipulation, and multimedia production to identify/detect, target and interdict terrorist, and/or illicit criminal finance activities.

* High Tech Crime Institute:  Designer and sole producer of the EDAS FOX series of forensics computers, which USSOCOM currently uses for cell phone and computer hardware and software exploitation.  The Institute supports IATF Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Branch.

* JACOBS Technology:  Analytical and language support to IATF Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Branch.

* OverWatch Technologies:   Technical support to the Science and Technology Directorate in development of special reconnaissance programs.

* Scientific Research Corporation: Cyber intelligence analytic support to the Special Projects Division.  SRC performs geospatial analysis of networks and effects-based cyber target characterization (EBCT) studies; and create and maintains specific EBCT studies consisting of continually-refreshed, fused, all-source intelligence assessments of target sets to expose vulnerabilities and Centers of Gravity (COG) in support operational actions.

* Special Applications Group:  Writing, editing and publishing support to the Special Project Division.  The Special Applications Group produces counter-terrorism propaganda for IATF and SOCOM, including “Argus” magazine.  The IATF Division works with intelligence and operations specialists, social scientists, geospatial analysts, and software engineers working with very large repositories of structured and unstructured multi-source data.

* Streamline Defense:  Analytical support contractor to the IATF Fusion Division.  Streamline Defense conducts operations and intelligence research, data collection, analysis, production, and dissemination in support of IATF’s efforts.  Its contractors interpret and analyze raw data in the production of intelligence from multiple sources along four separate and concurrent lines of investigation, compile, collate, analyze, and evaluate all-source information to produce intelligence and operational design products on terrorists, terrorist organizations/networks (al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliated groups), non-government agencies, state sponsors of terrorism, and potential links worldwide.

According to military documents, the IATF Exploitation Division additionally sponsors the Naval Postgraduate School’s work in the development of social analysis models for both current interdiction and forecasting political and social movements.  The IATF’s Counter Radicalization and Counter Facilitation Branch also works with national police agencies from Afghanistan to Africa and Australia to gain insight into and solve domestic and transnational problems.

After 9/11, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) informally established its standing interagency element comprised of military members and other departments of the U.S. government.  In 2006, according to a military study on interagency cooperation, the IATF was chartered to ‘serve as a coordinating activity within DOD and across the interagency that integrates … efforts while also “solving discrete problem sets that support the War on Terror.”  The SOCOM commander also assigned the IATF the command’s Time Sensitive Planning process and mission and with the responsibility to support host nation governments.

The IATF, the study said, became “one of the most substantially resourced staff elements within the command” with new state of the art facilities.   According to the study, as of 2009, the IATF consisted of nearly 100 interagency personnel and had established formal and informal relationships with nearly every element of the United States Government.  The IATF Executive director was originally a one-star general officer, but since late 2010, the head of the Task Force isn’t even a military man:  The current director is Frank Shroyer, a career Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) official.  Like so much about secret organizations and those developed since 9/11 to fight the forever-war (the new Africa Command’s deputy commander is a State Department officer), the whole-of-government approach is laudable, but I’m still uncomfortable with the obscuring of what is military and what is civilian, and I’m still opposed to the CIA targeting and killing with military means.  Our practice undermines the distinction principle in the law of armed conflict.

SOCOM, moreover, funds nearly all of its contractor, travel and activities from sources external to the IATF.  “The IATF budget is not a constraining factor in its functionality, the 2009 study concludes.

I’m sure that some special operations types will argue that the IATF is just a task force, an organization created (and necessitated by) the need for cooperation and coordination, for experience on the part of military people and others to work together.  They will equally argue that SOCOM is the military and not the CIA, and that unlike the National Center (NCTC) – which is part of the DNI – the SOCOM it is a combatant command and not some Washington PowerPoint palace.  So, on the one hand an explanation of the Task Force is that it doesn’t do anything – it’s just an interagency coordination group – and on the other hand the argument is that it is different than the intelligence organizations that don’t do anything.  The warrior bureaucrats want it both ways.

The evidence indicates that SOCOM’s IATF does do something though, that it is much more than just an advisory element.  But there is no denying that with its civilian director and its gaggle of contractor ex-military faux experts, it doesn’t command any forces or anything other than itself and its activities.  What exactly it does do though, and how much of what it does it just redundant to other organizations, is virtually impossible to determine behind all of the ad-hoc-ery and euphemism and secrecy.

This is the general problem with the scourge of post-9/11 secret organizations: Enough money is available for multiple organizations – DNI, NCTC, SOCOM, CENTCOM, EUCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, DIA, JIEDDO – to all develop task forces and special organizations that don’t actually fight, with ambiguous control over analyzing, targeting, and synchronizing.  SOCOM as a combatant command is no exception, because on the one hand it has an actual three-star warfighting command – the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – that actually goes out there and does the deed; and it had, until recently, a national Joint Task Force – the Center for Special Operations – that is supposed to do the staff coordinating of a global functional command.  But on top of that, SOCOM, like so many other organizations, including the CIA, has merely grafted bloated ad-hoc and staff organizations on top of what already exists, organizations that in many cases have neither proven their usefulness or outlived their usefulness.

Still confused?  That’s the way the bureaucracy stays in control and the money keeps flowing.

The Crisis of Our Military

What ruins it for me in Bob Scales’ eloquent op-ed – “Too many wars, too few U.S. soldiers” — in The Washington Post about the Afghanistan shooting and the state of our Army (and armed forces) is that retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales also makes an unsatisfying argument on behalf of his institution and a military solution.

“A succession of national leaders,” Scales says, “fail to recognize that combat units, particularly infantry, just wear out.”  Then it’s the media to blame for “trying to make some association between the terrible crime of this sergeant and the Army’s inability to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.”

Then, the conclusion: “the real institutional culprit is the decade-long exploitation and cynical overuse of one of our most precious and irreplaceable national assets: our close combat soldiers and Marines.”

I agree whole-heartedly with Scales, who I count as friend and colleague, that the young soldiers shoulder an “enormously disproportionate share of emotional stress.”  And I believe something is very wrong.

Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap also has something to say about the Afghan shootings.  I received this press release from Duke University, where the former deputy judge advocate general hangs his hat these days, offering up Dunlap for interviews:

The “news tip” extensively quotes Dunlap making an argument for a “major revamping of Afghan policy” and promoting his hobby-horse of what he calls the scourge of “lawfare.”  Dunlap concludes:

“… given that it is virtually impossible to root out every potential rogue from the millions who serve in uniform, military planners may want to rethink the manpower-intensive strategies that have come to dominate American military policy, and especially counterinsurgency doctrine in which winning hearts and minds is said to be essential.”

I imagine that retired Air Force major general Dunlap, whom I always enjoy, isn’t suggesting a rethink in the same way Scales is.  To the airmen, manpower-intensive means boots on the ground, in other words, an argument for more airpower.

So:  More Army?  More Air Force?  A new, new counterinsurgency doctrine to fight forever wars?  Those are our choices?

I come away hungry for a non-institutional, non-Washington oriented societal argument.  Dunlap calls for “military planners” to rethink, which in the inferiority complex of the air force institution is code for the dominant ground service officers, the Army; Scales seems to only be able to name “national leaders” and “the media” for what he calls “exploitation and cynical overuse.”

One area where Dunlap is inadvertently wrong and Scales is right though is that there are not “millions who serve in uniform.”  Well, not in the way Dunlap means that there are millions.

There are technically just over two million in the active duty and reserves; but the military is nowhere like it was during the draft days of Vietnam or the true mobilization of millions in World War II or the Korean War.  And within that two million who serve are a far smaller number of deployable military personnel.  And within that few hundred thousand who deploy into Afghanistan (or did into Iraq) are a far smaller number who leave the (relative) safety fortresses to fight.  I know out there somewhere are some facts to back me up – that only a scandalously small percentage of all people in uniform have even ever deployed once to those actual countries; in other words, most do in fact shoulder the majority of the burden.

No one has cynically created this circumstance, but the military institution is well aware of this now ten-year old reality.  Firepower has become so concentrated and networks have become so large and ubiquitous that only tiny numbers of soldiers are ‘needed’ on the front lines compared to Scales’ days.  But as Scales and Dunlap both know, firepower isn’t what is going to win these wars, any more than a larger military or an air force/special operations dominated head-hunting campaign would.

We all share the blame for this ethical quagmire.  We cede war-making to an increasingly isolated professional caste, we cede to them the design and makeup of  the military, we facilitate and tolerate what Scales calls “exploitation” of a few as long as the dangers are kept away from us, and we don’t pay attention until our well-oiled and distant machine has a breakdown or an industrial accident.  And once the breakdown occurs – the rogue soldier, the errant bomb, the Abu Ghraib – we expect the floor managers and professionals to fix the machine.  To paraphrase someone: We are the machine.

Jordan is Eager: But For What?

The U.S. and Jordan will hold their largest military exercise ever in May, according to the state-run news agency Petra.

Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of the Marine component of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is in Amman this week meeting with Jordanian military officials to prepare the 17 nation exercise.  One of those participants will be Iraq, sending its military outside the country for the first time.

The theme of the exercise, officials say, is guerrilla warfare and “strategic threats.”

As one Arab commentator asks: “So who exactly will be this “Eager Lion” target?

“Strategic threats”?  “Guerrilla warfare?”

The first Eager Lion exercise in this series – Eager Lion 11/Infinite Moonlight 11.2 – was held last year from June 11-30, and involved 14 other countries spread operating at six locations inside Jordan.  This exercise also focused, according to CENTCOM, on “irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency.”

But behind the scenes, the Army’s 20th Support Command from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland participated.  The official name of the 20th is Support Command (CBRNE) for chemical biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives.  The unit was activated in 2004 to consolidate Army WMD response and search capabilities, and in Eager Lion last year, it held biological warfare identification exercises and radiological and nuclear response and civil defense training.

Military exercises happen all the time – check out my list of exercises – and some might just dismiss all of them and this one as well as routine, opportunities for militaries to get together, familiarize themselves with each other, practice basic skills.  But every exercise of this size also includes so-called “strategic” purpose, a scenario that is generally made up to guide decision-making.  Some country is made up – say Irandia, fighting with another made up country, say Israelandia – and they fight a nuclear war, or some external event in say a place like Syria spreads to Jordan.

Just because Iran, Israel, and Syria are in the news right now, and just because WMD are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean that this exercise is intended to mimic an actual real world scenario.  After all, if the focus of this year’s exercise is also counter insurgency, one has got to mention the Palestinian population of Jordan or even the Jordanian people themselves, who might just spring into action someday.  What “skills” do you think the U.S. is sharing?

The reality is that despite all of these questions, Eager Lion is also just an exercise, scheduled each year in the late spring/early summer, one that takes a year to prepare, to schedule the units to participate, to agree on all of the rules and complete all of the paperwork, etc., etc.  In some way, however, it is also the making of foreign policies and the subtle steering of the future.

It once was the case, during the days of Saddam that these U.S.-Jordanian exercises were highly secret, proving cover for preparations for U.S. forces to deploy to Jordan in order to fight Iraq (which they did in 2003).  Saddam is gone now, but the neighborhood is ever more complicated.  I wonder what they are cover for now?

Wonder Who They’re Shooting Now?

Virtually everything about the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Navy component of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the home of the famed SEAL Team 6, is secret.  Other than the movie and the books that purport to tell the story of their killing of Osama bin Laden, the military is loath to officially even acknowledge the existence of the unacknowledged team or of so-called black special operations forces.

What makes them so special is the rigorous and meticulous training, and the resources devoted to their care and preparation.  So a small government contract asking for 400 3-D shooting targets for DEVGRU, as it’s informally called, caught my eye.  The targets – “vacuum formed hardened plastic … airbrushed and/or painted by hand” – are requested as:

  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a standing male sniper, with head dress, holding a rifle w/scope to his right eye.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a man, with head dress, aiming a RPG from his right cheek.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a young male with small hat, RPG launcher in his left hand, RPG in his right hand, and a shoulder satchel slung on his back with 5 additional RPGs.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a male drawing a pistol from his waist band.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a white skin tone male holding an AK47 to his right cheek.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a dark skin tone male holding an AK47 to his right cheek.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a male standing with a RPG over his right shoulder, the RPG shall be pointing towards the ground.
  • 50 torsos molded and painted to resemble a white skin tone male, holding a weapon to his right shoulder.

Why so many RPGs?   How white is the white skin tone?