Active-duty dual-status commanders for civil emergencies lacking, says GAO

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The Defense Department lacks active-duty officers able to serve as a dual-status commanders whenever the National Guard and the armed forces are simultaneously deployed in a domestic emergency, says the Government Accountability Office.

The fiscal 2012 national defense authorization specified that dual-status commanders should be the norm whenever active duty military and National Guardsmen both deploy in support of civil authorities, such that one commander has authority under U.S. Code Title 10 and Title 32. (Title 10 outlines the role of the armed forces, while Title 32 is the federal law governing the National Guard. The former makes it generally illegal for active duty military to enforce civilian laws. But, should the guard be called out under Title 32 authority by state governors, its troops can enforce civilian laws.)

Defense officials told auditors they've used dual-status commanders since 2004, but as of May 2012, no active duty officer has been trained and certified as a dual-status commander, the GAO says in a report (.pdf) dated Oct. 24. All 54 states and territories have at least one certified dual-status commander--but they're all members of the National Guard.

Auditors say that's problematic, since there's a limited number of Guard officers who can become dual-status officers, and some of those have other responsibilities that might make them unavailable during an emergency in which civil government requires support. During Hurricane Irene in 2011, for example, a certified dual-status commander from one of the affected states--the GAO doesn't say which one--was at a training exercise and unavailable. Other certified dual-status commanders serve as airplane pilots, auditors say, which could also cause them to be unavailable during an emergency.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-12-128 (.pdf)

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