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National Guard in the American Homeland Security Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2020


The National Guard unit (ARNG) has been mainly deployed around the world to support the active forces in wars and peacekeeping missions by providing medical and administrative personnel, as well as experts trained to work in chemically-soiled battlefields (Haskell 2017). As such, homeland security has not been its priority. However, the various security dangers that the U.S. has experienced since 9/11 have forced the Department of Defense (DoD) to modify its defense approach to prepare for these threats and to re-evaluate the role of the National Guard in homeland security. Consequently, the National Guard has been strategically positioned to assume the central military role in homeland security by acting as a first responder to the internal emergencies (Kahan 2013). In this paper, I assess the place of ARNG in supporting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), analyze the relationship between the two agencies, and suggest best ways ARNG can back DHS.

The Role of National Guard

The change in the security environment caused by international terrorist networks in the custody of sophisticated weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and means of shipping them over long distances has forced the US to modernize its military concept (Claus et al. 2015). The military must be equipped to protect Americans from attacks on home soil and overseas. The defense force structure must prepare for homeland security without overlooking the capacity of the armed forces to carry out international missions. The DHS, formed after September 11, was initially devoted to the challenge of terrorism and WMD (Kahan 2013). Nevertheless, the all-hazards approach was embraced after Hurricane Katrina occurred. Hence, DHS not only deals with terrorist threats, but also “major disasters caused by human behavior or cataclysmic mega-disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunami as well as pandemics and cyber-attacks” (Kahan 2013, 4).

The Guard members are the first responders in a national crisis and are well prepared to act when the homeland is under attack (Fronczak 2013). However, if the primary role of this reserve component is to reinforce active forces for international eventualities, the National Guard unit is not available to defend the homeland. Given the expeditiousness with which the country must respond to an attack, it is reasonable that the active forces reduce their reliance on the Guard so that citizen soldiers can focus on homeland affairs.

In addition, the National Guard links local communities and the federal government. With its units located everywhere in the country, it has the ability, legal mandate, and framework to counter attacks direct at domestic targets. National Guard State Area Commands trains state and local first responders to react to emergencies of various forms. For instance, it helps civil authorities by availing operational knowledge required to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear risks (Claus et al. 2015).

In operation Jump Start (2006-2008), the National Guard played a critical role in securing the U.S. -Mexico border by stopping illegal immigrants, some of whom were drug traffickers, criminal gangs or possibly terrorists (Haskell 2017). By the end of this mission, the Guardsmen had assisted in apprehending 176,721 illegal immigrants, captured roughly 320000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine, salvaged 1116 vehicles and rescued 102 undocumented foreigners (Haskell 2017).

The Cyber Warrior Act of 2013 mandated each state to create a Guard Cyber and Network Incident Response Team that could be called on to protect the critical infrastructure network and respond to cyber-attacks (Claus et al. 2015). The National Guard is a unique military force that is trained and funded by the federal government and shared by both the states and the federal government. This dual nature of ARNG forces makes them an exceptional defense asset with direct access to DoD confidential threat information and a countrywide level inter-agency collaboration network. The roles of this team in critical network protection include performing “vulnerability assessment, risk identification, incidence response and other actions related to the formulation of countermeasures to block future attacks” (Claus et al. 2015, 4). Overall, the National Guard’s homeland defense role involves supporting Coast Guard patrols, detecting and defending against air and missile attacks, protecting private infrastructure and responding to attacks with weapons of mass destruction.

ARNG – DHS Relationship

Apparently, there is cooperation between the National Guard and the DHS. As stated above, the ARNG is funded and trained at the federal level and then operates majorly at the state level. Therefore, to ensure there is no conflict in its operations, it has been endowed with exceptional ability to work within three legal platforms. Firstly, states can employ their own National Guard forces for state functions and at state liability (Claus et al. 2015). Secondly, the National Guard is funded by the federal government, but under the authority of the state’s governor for a homeland mission that is either shared between state and federal or solely a federal purpose – Title 32 duty (Claus et al. 2015). Thirdly, the Guard is mobilized by the president, in which case command and control rest primarily with the executive and the central government- Title 10 duty. This scenario makes the Guard the most multipurpose DoD force present to the national government for homeland safekeeping, homeland protection, and military aid to civil authorities.

Under Titles 10 and 32 duties of the U.S. Code, it is the responsibility of the federal government to fund the Guard members when they engage in homeland defense activities (Kahan 2013). Governors may request monetary assistance from the Secretary of Defense for the HLS activities of the state’s National Guard. However, such governors are required to provide proof that the engagement warrants the participation of the National Guard. In 2009, a relational conflict arose when a proposal to send additional ARNG troops to the U.S. – Mexico border was made (Haskell 2017). This situation generated a bureaucratic stalemate between the DoD and DHS regarding the military’s role in homeland security issues. The standoff involved high ranking officials and concerned which of the agency had authority to direct mobilization of troops and fund the mission.

The issue of establishing unity of command is a conflict that surfaces where the state and federal military assets work together (Claus et al. 2015). Both the governor and the POTUS are Commanders in Chief, one for the state and another for the federal government. Laws are instituted that enforce unity of command when both military agencies respond to a homeland security mission. In such a scenario, A Title 10 or Title 32 commander is in charge of both state and national armed forces concurrently but is answerable to both the POTUS and the relevant governor (Claus et al. 2015). However, this serves only to give an impression of the unity of command to subordinate forces doing the assignments but causes divisions at high ranks where bureaucracy and politics are central components of operations. Where various government agencies respond to the same disaster without coordination, the unity of command becomes complicated. Such a calamity may necessitate collaboration of all the agencies to protect and save lives, but what is witnessed is a tendency to duplicate effort, hoarding of vital data and loss of proficiency (Claus et al. 2015).

Best Ways ARNG can Support DHS

For the Guard to serve DHS effectively, it undergoes structural changes to form a joint task force to work collaboratively with other services (Haskell 2017). These structural adjustments are often mission-dependent. For better service delivery, the current phase of the National Guard (ARNG 4.0) should leverage incremental preparation towards a viable readiness to channel unit assets towards the most critical security needs (Haskell 2017). It can achieve this through initiating and maintaining decreased deployment schedules, boosting individual and collective training, availing more opportunity for professional development, structuring the force in a balanced manner, intensifying operations in high-priority areas, and participating in high-quality training exercises to equip the members with skills to fight, win, and stay safe (Haskell 2017). The ARNG 4.0 exploits scarce resources, lays out efforts, and boosts promptness in the Total Army Force. In this way, the National Guard will be prepared to quickly attend to the homeland security challenges of the 21st century.


The National Guard fortifies the security and resilience of the U.S. via ordered preparation in the face of threats that present utmost risk to the safety of the nation. Apparently, it plays an indispensable role in supporting the Department of Homeland Security. Citizen soldiers have played critical roles in the history of the US wars, and the expansion of their responsibilities to encompass homeland security has not changed their mission with military forces during wars. Additionally, despite few documented incidences of conflicts between DoD and DHS, the overall relationship between the Guard and DHS is mutually beneficial.


Claus, Brian, Robin A. Gandhi, Julia Rawnsley, and John Crowe. 2015. “Using the Oldest Military Force for the Newest National Defense.” Journal of Strategic Security 8(4): 1-13.

Fronczak, Dana. 2013. “Stunted Growth: Institutional Challenges to the Department of Homeland Security‘s Maturation.” Master’s thesis, Duquesne University.

Haskell, Bob. 2017. “Border Watch.” National Guards Magazine. Web.

Kahan, Jerome.2013. “What’s in a Name? The Meaning of Homeland Security.” Journal of Homeland Security Education 2(1):1 -18.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'National Guard in the American Homeland Security'. 17 September.

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