Letter to the Editor

Guard response process clarified

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

To the editor:

The Missouri National Guard is one of the largest organizations within the Department of Public Safety. The Guard has approximately 10,500 citizen-soldiers and airmen serving in 60 communities. The Guard has both a state and federal mission. Under Gov. Matt Blunt's direction, the Guard is constantly reviewing its homeland-security plans to better assist both the state and nation in the event of an emergency or disaster.

I would like to clarify the process for National Guard response to a catastrophic emergency or disaster in support of a municipality or agency.

A catastrophic disaster requires a coordinated response involving all levels of government. The Guard has many assets available to the governor, who is head of the Guard. Capabilities include military police, communications, transportation, engineering, aviation and logistical support.

The governor dispatches the Guard only in the event of a declared local or state emergency and after local mutual-aid efforts have proven to be insufficient. The only exception is the Civil Support Team, which can be deployed without such declaration. The adjutant general, Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, may also authorize a team to assess a situation.

If the local civilian authority determines that Guard assistance is required, the senior local elected official makes a request to the State Emergency Management Agency. After approval from the governor, the adjutant general plans and coordinates the response. The Guard serves as the liaison to local authorities and works under a unified command structure.

MARK S. JAMES, Director, Missouri Department of Public Safety, Jefferson City, Mo.