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Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA): What Emergency Managers Need to Know Open Access

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Unlike other nations around the world, where the national military has a central role in providing assistance to civilian communities in time of emergency of disaster, the active component of the United States military prefers a role of capable supporter in time of great domestic need. The Department of Defense (DOD) is a supporting agency to 14 of the Emergency Support Functions in the National Response Framework (NRF, January 2008), and a primary agency for the 15th ESF. The military performs these missions, Defense Support of Civil Authorities, utilizing its military assets and personnel as best it can, but is generally prohibited by DOD policy from purchasing non-military equipment. The U.S. military has been called to support duty many times over the years to assist people in time of great need. The military has the organization, the training and discipline, usable assets, and in some cases critical supplies that can be quickly and efficiently brought to bear on a disorganized environment that disasters frequently create. The process of requesting and properly integrating military support into a civilian environment, in times of disaster and emergency, however, has at times been fraught with misunderstanding, awkwardness, and error. State National Guard support is common in most states, but DOD showing up in support is a much rarer occurrence. Many emergency managers desiring military support do not have an adequate understanding of the correct requesting processes, or an adequate understanding of proper response integration or employment techniques, as different from National Guard support. The research revealed a set of competencies, and a body of knowledge that should be incorporated into training classes or publications that the DOD could generate for working emergency managers, including first responders, and for students of emergency management. The qualitative research methods included case study (archive document review), interview, and survey.

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