NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
A 2010 Pentagon directive on military support to civilian authorities details what critics say is a troubling policy that envisions the Obama administration’s potential use of military force against Americans.
The directive contains noncontroversial provisions on support to civilian fire and emergency services, special events and the domestic use of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The troubling aspect of the directive outlines presidential authority for the use of military arms and forces, including unarmed drones, in operations against domestic unrest.
“This appears to be the latest step in the administration’s decision to use force within the United States against its citizens,” said a defense official opposed to the directive.
Directive No. 3025.18, “Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” was issued Dec. 29, 2010, and states that U.S. commanders “are provided emergency authority under this directive.”
“Federal military forces shall not be used to quell civil disturbances unless specifically authorized by the president in accordance with applicable law or permitted under emergency authority,” the directive states.
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“In these circumstances, those federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” under two conditions.
The conditions include military support needed “to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and are necessary to restore governmental function and public order.” A second use is when federal, state and local authorities “are unable or decline to provide adequate protection for federal property or federal governmental functions.”
“Federal action, including the use of federal military forces, is authorized when necessary to protect the federal property or functions,” the directive states.
Military assistance can include loans of arms, ammunition, vessels and aircraft. The directive states clearly that it is for engaging civilians during times of unrest.
A U.S. official said the Obama administration considered but rejected deploying military force under the directive during the recent standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his armed supporters.
Mr. Bundy is engaged in a legal battle with the federal Bureau of Land Management over unpaid grazing fees. Along with a group of protesters, Mr. Bundy in April confronted federal and local authorities in a standoff that ended when the authorities backed down.
The Pentagon directive authorizes the secretary of defense to approve the use of unarmed drones in domestic unrest. But it bans the use of missile-firing unmanned aircraft.
“Use of armed [unmanned aircraft systems] is not authorized,” the directive says.
The directive was signed by then-Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn. A copy can be found on the Pentagon website: https://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/302518p.pdf.
Defense analysts say there has been a buildup of military units within non-security-related federal agencies, notably the creation of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. The buildup has raised questions about whether the Obama administration is undermining civil liberties under the guise of counterterrorism and counternarcotics efforts.
Other agencies with SWAT teams reportedly include the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Education Department.
The militarization of federal agencies, under little-known statues that permit deputization of security officials, comes as the White House has launched verbal attacks on private citizens’ ownership of firearms despite the fact that most gun owners are law-abiding citizens.
A White House National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment.
President Obama stated at the National Defense University a year ago: “I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone or with a shotgun — without due process, nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.”
A Pentagon official who defended the directive said it was signed in December 2010 after four years of thorough consultations within the Pentagon and with other federal agencies The 2010 directive replaced several previously published directives in 1980, 1991, and 1993. The last time military forces were used to quell civil unrest was 1906 following the San Francisco earthquake to protect the federal mint and restore order in the city.
The official said: “I suppose that in a very extreme case, one can imagine a combination of natural and man-made disasters that result in the cascading failure of communication infrastructure, or some electro-magnetic pulse that shuts down all electronic communication.”
“In the event that it should happen in today’s day and age, we would want our senior military leaders in the field to do all they can to assist their fellow Americans to prevent significant loss of life or malicious destruction of property and to protect federal property or federal governmental functions,” the official said.
HOUSE HITS ONA DOWNGRADE
The House defense authorization bill passed last week calls for adding $10 million to the Pentagon’s future warfare think tank and for codifying the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) as a semi-independent unit.
The provision is being called the Andrew Marshall amendment after the ONA’s longtime director and reflects congressional support for the 92-year-old manager and his staying power through numerous administrations, Republican and Democratic.
Mr. Marshall’s opponents within the Pentagon and the Obama administration persuaded Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this year to downgrade the ONA by cutting its budget and placing it under the control of the undersecretary of defense for policy. The ONA currently is a separate entity within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Members of the House Committee on Armed Services objected and added the $10 million to the administration’s $8.9 million request, along with a legal provision that would codify ONA’s current status as separate from the policy undersecretary shop.
The committee was concerned Mr. Hagel’s downgrade would “limit the ability and flexibility of ONA to conduct long-range comparative assessments,” the report on the authorization bill states.
“The office has a long history of providing alternative analyses and strategies that challenge the ‘group think’ that can often pervade the Department of Defense,” the report says, noting an increasing demand for unconventional thinking about space warfare capabilities by China and Russia.
In addition to adding funds, the bill language requires the ONA to study alternative U.S. defense and deterrence strategies related to the space warfare programs of both countries.
China is developing advanced missiles capable of shooting down satellites in low and high earth orbits. It also is building lasers and electronic jammers to disrupt satellites, a key U.S. strategic military advantage. Russia is said to be working on anti-satellite missiles and other space weapons.
“The committee believes the office must remain an independent organization within the department, reporting directly to the secretary,” the report said.
Mr. Marshall, sometimes referred to as the Pentagon’s “Yoda,” after the Star Wars character, has come under fire from opponents in the administration, who say he is too independent and not aligned with the administration’s soft-line defense policies.
The ONA is known for its extensive use of contractors and lack of producing specific overall net assessments of future warfare challenges, as required by the office’s charter.
One example of the ONA’s unconventional thinking was the recent contractor report “China: The Three Warfares,” which revealed Beijing’s extensive use of political warfare against the United States, including psychological warfare, media warfare and legal warfare.
“‘The Three Warfares’ is a dynamic, three-dimensional, war-fighting process that constitutes war by other means,” the report says.
A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.
NO DENNIS RODMAN DEFENSE
Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the Pentagon is deploying more and higher-quality missile defenses to counter potential nuclear attacks from North Korea and Iran.
“This is about ensuring we can deny the objectives of any insecure authoritarian state that believes acquisition of deliverable weapons of mass destruction is key to the preservation of its regime,” Adm. Winnefeld said in a speech to the Atlantic Council. “The number of states trying to achieve that capability is growing, not shrinking, with our principal current concern being North Korea, because they are closest in terms of capability, followed by Iran.”
He added that missile defenses are needed “because we’re not betting on Dennis Rodman as our deterrent against a future North Korean ICBM threat.”
He was referring to the heavily tattooed and pierced former NBA star, who has traveled to North Korea as a guest of leader Kim Jong-un. Mr. Rodman calls the dictator his “friend.”
“A robust and capable missile defense is our best bet to defend the United States from such an attack and is, in my view, our No. 1 missile defense priority,” Adm. Winnefeld said.
North Korea is continuing to develop long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. It recently threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test, and analysts say signs from the closed communist state suggest the North Koreans may test a missile warhead.
• Contact Bill Gertz at @BillGertz.