Reimagining Homeland Defense
A Need for an Integrated Approach
Col. Timothy Teague, U.S. Army, Retired
Maj. Duncan E. Braswell, U.S. Army
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What we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts, and capabilities—all woven together and networked in a way that is so credible, flexible and so formidable that it will give any adversary pause.
—Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Given the complexity of the current global environment and the expanding, holistic capabilities of our competitors, particularly the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia, the United States must approach deterrence in a new way. As a result, integrated deterrence has become the principal concept the Department of Defense (DOD) aims to implement against U.S. competitors across the competition continuum. The U.S. Army is a crucial component of integrated deterrence because, as the primary land force of the United States, it provides a bulwark of conventional deterrent. As the land component command for U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), U.S. Army North (USARNORTH) integrates the joint force and interagency partners for homeland defense to establish uninterrupted power projection, resilient critical infrastructure, and produce lethal multidomain effects.
An Integrated Approach to Deterrence in the Land Domain
The 2022 National Defense Strategy defines the United States’ new deterrence methodology as “integrated deterrence” and outlines how the DOD will evolve into a framework that directly alters the cost calculus of U.S. competitors. According to the National Defense Strategy, integrated deterrence requires “working seamlessly across warfighting domains, theaters, the spectrum of conflict, all instruments of U.S. national power, and our network of Alliances and partnerships.”1 Given our competitors’ propensity to operate within “gray zones” (below the threshold of conventional military conflict) and to avoid direct, overt conflict with the United States, the DOD needs a holistic approach to deterrence at a level less than or below nuclear strategic deterrence.2 Through integrated deterrence, the DOD seeks to deter the PRC, Russia, and other competitors by working across the whole of government and alongside allies and partners to deny potential U.S. adversaries the ability to seize territory (whether forcibly or fait accompli), by improving our ability to conduct multidomain operations (MDO) in contested environments to demonstrate U.S. resiliency, and through cost imposition to reduce the perceived benefits of aggressive action.
Conventional deterrence is a key component of integrated deterrence and is the main contribution of the U.S. Army to this concept. Army forces “contribute to conventional deterrence through their demonstrated capability, capacity, and will to wage war on land in any environment against any opponent.”3 The strategic value and responsibility of the U.S. Army is to provide joint force commanders with an MDO-capable force to deter U.S. adversaries during competition and to provide joint force commanders with a lethal fighting force during crisis and conflict. The U.S. Army’s responsibility as the primary force acting within the land domain makes it a critical component of integrated deterrence because regardless of the domain a threat or attack originated from, the effects will ultimately cause impacts to the joint force in the land domain.
Over the past twenty years, the Army became comfortable projecting combat power uncontested to foreign theaters from the safety and sanctuary of the continental United States. As we fought counterinsurgency operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, our competitors tested and refined new methods to compete against the United States, both directly and indirectly. The U.S. Army no longer has the luxury to assume future conflicts will occur exclusively in forward theaters, and we may call upon our soldiers to operate within a contested environment from home station to port of embarkation in future conflicts. To substantiate the Army’s contribution to integrated deterrence, it must be able to successfully project power from a contested homeland into a forward theater. The foundation of integrated deterrence relies on the ability to persevere through disruptions with collaborative mitigation planning that incorporates Army organizations, civilian agencies, and partners from the joint force, as well as international allies and partners at the point of debarkation.4 Day-to-day campaigning efforts, including programmed exercises that test and validate Army organizations within contested deployment environments, provide an opportunity to both improve and promote our resilient ability to project power and message potential cost impositions if provoked.
Additionally, the U.S. Army’s ability to persevere through disruptions and project combat power to forward theaters to meet its adversaries in crisis and conflicts is reliant on its ability to harden, protect, and sustain the protection of defense infrastructure and national critical infrastructure. In his statement before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, stated, “The ability to deploy forces overseas, support allies, deliver humanitarian assistance, and provide presence and reassurance around the globe relies on our ability to safeguard our citizens, as well as national critical infrastructure, transportation nodes, and leadership.”5 This is directly in recognition that our competitors will seek opportunities and execute operations to disrupt or degrade our capabilities from the homeland to a forward theater.6 As the theater army to USNORTHCOM, USARNORTH seeks to reduce infrastructure challenges by partnering with entities across the federal, state, local, and tribal levels. As an example, USARNORTH, in partnership with federal and state agencies, should refine collaborative initiatives to harden critical infrastructure from cyberattacks while decreasing the effectiveness of such attacks through demonstrated resiliency to project combat-ready forces despite a degraded or diminished operational environment within the homeland.7 Additionally, continued partnerships with state and federal agencies provide an opportunity to establish formal processes to share intelligence and classified information rather than USARNORTH serving primarily as consumers of information from state and federal agencies.
The Army’s role in providing assurance to U.S. allies and partners should be a part of a whole-of-government approach that works seamlessly across instruments of national power and geographic boundaries.
Finally, our competitors continue to challenge U.S. interests through malign activities on regional and global scales. Therefore, the U.S. Army, in support of policy goals and threat standoff approaches, remains critical in assuring its allies and partners of the U.S. resolve to deter aggression against sovereign entities.8 The physical presence of American soldiers, whether stationed abroad or participating in a partnered exercise, increases the costs of aggression for U.S. competitors and reduces the perceived benefits associated with hostile or fait accompli actions that could lead to direct conflict with the United States. However, the Army’s role in providing assurance to U.S. allies and partners should be a part of a whole-of-government approach that works seamlessly across instruments of national power and geographic boundaries. Integrating the defense of the approaches to the U.S. homeland with allies and partners not only strengthens our deterrence effect on our competitors but also ensures cooperation initiatives developed in one geographic region do not hinder deterrence initiatives in another. This is in recognition that our competitors, particularly PRC and Russia, are exploiting seams in the geographic command boundaries through malign activities to expand their influence and domestic footprint.
During the first part of the twenty-first century, the DOD dedicated a significant number of resources and personnel to two lengthy operations and fixated on one type of warfare. As we relearned lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan that the military learned in Vietnam, our competitors were developing new capabilities and techniques to weaken the credibility of the United States and gain an advantage against the United States in crisis and conflict. To remain a credible threat and achieve the U.S. Army’s core function to the joint force, the Army must modernize capabilities and apply them across all domains in an integrated fashion with the remainder of the joint force, interagency, and our allies and partners.
Homeland Defense in Support of a Forward Theater
To further enable integrated deterrence, it is necessary to reimagine homeland defense in the era of great-power competition. The increasing potential for crisis escalation requires careful consideration in the application of the instrument of military power. In the scenario of near-peer conflict, the Army must fully understand the impacts of the use of this power in supporting efforts abroad and at home.
Adversarial actions in a forward theater change the Army’s defense posture in three significant ways. First, it requires the activation of some or all homeland defense plans in order to generate forces to protect critical defense infrastructure that support force projection of the forward theater. Second, goals of the forward theater must be integrated with homeland defense requirements to include timeline for activation of Reserve Component (RC) forces and prioritization of capabilities. Lastly, the sustainment of forces and buildup of the defense industrial base (DIB) must begin to ensure the necessary means are available to achieve long-term strategic objectives. These changes in the Army’s defense posture at home will prove critical to victory in the forward theater, while meeting and countering the threats that will occur within the homeland.
A conflict scenario with Russia demonstrates the potential impacts of supporting a forward theater on the U.S. homeland. Russia’s military actions indicate its propensity toward violence to achieve national objectives. In a prolonged invasion of Ukraine, the potential for escalation increases. After consolidating gains around the Crimea region, Russia once again calls for a national-level partial mobilization of forces. These forces begin with movement into Belarus within proximity of the Polish border, an escalating move that signals a clear response to Russia’s frustration with NATO support to Ukraine. Additionally, there have been several anonymous internet postings about the effects of a “dirty bomb” upon U.S. infrastructure. A dirty bomb-type of attack on the East Coast could delay and disrupt the employment of U.S. forces. Combined with a coordinated cyberattack, these actions could significantly impact a U.S. response. Cyberattacks serve as both a precursor and continuation of conflict abroad.
In such a scenario, it is likely the U.S. initial efforts would focus primarily on ensuring force projection to the European theater. Russian actions would likely seek to pre-empt and force the United States to focus internally. Over time, Russia would shift its attacks toward U.S. critical defense infrastructure through sabotage or other asymmetrical measures to counter U.S. force projection.
The United States must fight with the forces available today. Activation of a European crisis response plan would likely also trigger an activation of a series of homeland defense contingencies to meet these challenges. Such an activation will likely put additional demands on the limited force-pool to support both theaters of operation. Homeland defense force requirements will be allocated toward ensuring force projection and the protection of critical infrastructure. Additional force requirements would be generated to conduct consequence management, further impacting the available pool. Defense support of civil authorities has been the decisive operation in the homeland for the first two decades of the twenty-first century; however, the heavy emphasis on hazard response has limited DOD’s perspective and ability to posture for homeland defense mission requirements.9 Careful consideration must be given to integrate homeland defense force requirements into global contingency plans.
Forward theater requirements must be intentionally nested with homeland defense requirements. A deliberate attack on the homeland will create prioritization dilemmas. Does the United States shore up its defenses at home first or push forces forward? Critical enabling capabilities such as consequence management resources will be at the center of the struggle. These limited resources will be the main effort in a dirty bomb attack or other similar events. A multiple attack scenario, where there are attacks on both home and abroad, will drive a decision on priority. Given that several critical enablers reside in the RC, how quickly they can mobilize for homeland defense, consequence management, and forward deployment is a vital issue. The risk of being “late to need” in the homeland necessitates the need to drive policy options to overcome the risk. An immediate step to facilitate mitigation would be to conduct a United States Transportation Command transfeasibility conference integrating forward theater operation plans with homeland defense operation plans. This would illuminate friction points and facilitate the deconfliction of competing requirements.
Large-scale combat operations in the European theater would compel a full mobilization of forces and the DIB. Sustaining the effort in the forward theater will be fundamental to success. The United States must demonstrate and prove the capability to ramp up these efforts. The DIB is crucial in providing necessary material to the fight. Munitions and systems must be streamlined for development and production. Coordination on critical DIB site locations will be needed to ensure adequate protection measures are in place. For force generation, the RC will stand-up mobilization force generation installations to facilitate the need for trained and ready forces. Each of these efforts pose new challenges as Russia seeks additional opportunities to inhibit responses in the forward theater. The U.S. reliance on technology within domestic institutions makes those sites vulnerable to coordinated cyberattacks or third-party opportunistic activities. A potential mitigation to streamline force generation would be to align units against homeland defense mission sets. This would provide the Army better posture for rapid buildup, decrease training time, and facilitate homeland defense-specific knowledge within the responding forces.
To alleviate pressure in the forward theater, Russia will seek ways to dilute and shift U.S. focus. One potential is to conduct a series of force build-ups that threaten Alaska. Such moves would seek a U.S. response of opening an additional war front and drive security concerns of the U.S. populace. This direct confrontation to the homeland would have significant impacts, both physically and psychologically. The requirements to deter such an effort depend on having credible trained forces in place and the ability to operate in harsh winter conditions. Fundamental to providing the necessary support to any Alaska forces, Alaska theater posture requirements—such as base support installations—would require resourcing to facilitate the rapid setting of the Alaska region.
Resourcing these initiatives is crucial to mission success. In an environment of limited resources, it is vital that these competing requirements be prioritized within the context of the Army as a whole. A recommended solution would be to establish a homeland defense-focused program-objective-memorandum planning initiative that integrates homeland defense resourcing across Army priorities.
A U.S. response to these emerging and changing threats must be coordinated as part of a whole-of-government response. The ability to respond across the full spectrum of multidomain threats while concurrently developing and reinforcing integrated deterrence will be instrumental in defending the homeland from current and future threats. The impacts of the forward theater upon the homeland requires a renewed look into the Army’s defense posture and how best to support each theater. Understanding the threat and potential avenues of attack will better posture the homeland to ensure that critical infrastructure is defended, force generation is accomplished, and the homeland is defended.
The views expressed therein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army or any other agency of the U.S. government.
- Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2022 National Defense Strategy (Washington, DC: DOD, 2022), 1, accessed 15 February 2023, https://uploads.mwp.mprod.getusinfo.com/uploads/sites/23/2022/11/2022-NATIONAL-DEFENSE-STRATEGY-NPR-MDR.pdf.
- Kathleen H. Hicks et al., “Introduction,” in By Other Means: Part I: Campaigning In the Gray Zone (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2019), 3, accessed 15 February 2023, http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep22609.5.
- Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO], 2022), 1-2.
- The 2022 publication of FM 3-0 includes Appendix C, “Contested Deployments,” which extensively describes the Army’s role in contested deployments and critical planning requirements to continue to project combat power through our adversary’s attempts to disrupt, degrade, and deny our forces during every stage of deployment.
- National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in North and South America: Hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, 117th Cong. (2021) (statement of General Glen VanHerck, United States Air Force, Commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command), 8, accessed 15 February 2023, https://www.northcom.mil/Portals/28/USNORTHCOM%20and%20NORAD%20Posture%20Statement%2014%20Apr%2021.pdf?ver=3wi7sa3VRMCpXftYTnPPrg%3d%3d.
- Bert B. Tussing et al., Contested Deployment (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2022), 1, accessed 15 February 2023, http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep40644.2.
- Elbridge Colby, From Sanctuary to Battlefield: A Framework for a U.S. Defense and Deterrence Strategy for Space (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 1 January 2016), 26, accessed 15 February 2023, http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep06428.
- Ibid., 1–4.
- For more information, see Army Doctrine Publication 3-28, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, July 2019).
Col. Timothy Teague, U.S. Army, retired, is a strategic planner at U.S. Army North. He holds a BBS from Hardin-Simmons University and an MSSI from National Intelligence University. He previously served as a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Maj. Duncan E. Braswell, U.S. Army, is a strategic planner at U.S. Army North. He holds a BS from Northern Arizona University and an MBA from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary. Prior to becoming an Army strategist, he served as an infantry officer with 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Airborne), and 1st Infantry Division.
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