Military reviews placing special ops on U.S. soil

by Rowan Scarborough, The Examiner
Jun 21, 2007 8:12 AM (4 days ago)

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - The U.S. military command in charge of protecting the homeland asked the Pentagon earlier this year for a contingent of special operations officers to help with domestic anti-terrorism missions.

Military sources told The Examiner that U.S. Northern Command, established at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado in 2002, requested its own special operations command similar to ones assigned to overseas war-fighting commands, such as U.S. Central Command.

A spokeswoman for NorthCom this week issued a statement to The Examiner saying, "This capability resides in every other geographical combatant command and would allow the commander of U.S. Northern Command to deploy these unique capabilities for homeland defense and civil support operations."

The request was approved six months ago by the then-commander of NorthCom, Adm. Timothy Keating, who has since moved to U.S. Pacific Command.

But now, the new NorthCom commander, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, is reviewing Keating's decision.

On Wednesday, Lt. Col. John Cornelio, a NorthCom spokesman, told The Examiner:

"U.S. Northern Command is currently reassessing our requirement for special operations forces to accomplish our homeland defense and civil support missions. While the initial request for a small element of SOF staff for planning and command and control purposes was requested under the previous commander, the new commander ... has not made a decision on this issue."

Keating's request to the Pentagon raised some eyebrows because of the sensitivity of deploying commandos domestically. Under U.S. Special Operations Command, covert warriors are playing a key role in fighting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas.

"The possibility for military operations in the U.S. is something that we have to plan for in the age of international terrorism," said Daniel Gallington, a former policy adviser to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Bush administration created NorthCom, one of the military's nine war-fighting commands, after the Sept. 11 attacks revealed deep flaws in the military's procedures for repelling an attack on American soil.

The idea of giving NorthCom a commando unit shows how the military increasingly looks at the U.S. homeland as a target for more terrorist attacks and how it may need elite counter-terrorism forces to deal with the threat.