Ohio, Washington to start Homeland Response Forces

Pentagon officials announced on June 3 that Ohio and Washington have been chosen as the first states to host new National Guard homeland response forces for responding to chemical and biological attacks.

The response forces will work in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide rapid response to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, officials said.

The Defense Department intends to create 10 homeland response forces that will be placed in each of the 10 FEMA regions. The Ohio and Washington forces are expected be established by September of 2011. The remaining eight will be created the following year, officials told the American Forces Press Service.

“The thing we all worry about is a terrorist with a weapon of mass destruction,” Navy Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service last week. “And, increasingly, we worry about terrorists who are realizing that they don’t need a big boom to make a difference.”

Although Winnefeld said he does not believe the U.S. is in imminent danger at ths moment, he did note that terrorist interests in obtaining weapons of mass destruction underscores the importance of the new forces.

“We are working very hard to ensure that we are as ready as we can be with as much lifesaving capability as we can have on as short notice as we can,” Winnefeld said.

The response forces will be comprised of approximately 570 National Guard soldiers and airmen that will include chemical and biological weapons specialists, command and control, and security forces.