By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service 9-23-04

Fort McNair, DC (AFPN) - A new headquarters here concentrates the military mission to help defend the nation's capital. “The Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region will guard America's “center of gravity,” said Army Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman, the new organization's commander.

The command unites all Defense Department elements and the Coast Guard. The Army Military District of Washington, the Naval District of Washington, the Marine Corps National Capital Region Command and the Air Force's 11th and 89th wings are the major component commands in the new joint force. Normally, there will be between 3,000 and 4,000 people in the command, officials said.

The command is the latest manifestation of the trend toward joint response in the military… given a boost by the experiences of Sept. 11, 2001. There was no joint headquarters to coordinate military support to lead agents at the Pentagon, General Jackman said. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered the creation of the command in Washington in June 2003. The command formally activated with ceremonies at Fort Myer, Va., on Sept. 22.

As the commander, General Jackman will report to Gen. Ralph E. “Ed” Eberhart, commander of U.S. Northern Command. Joint Force officials will plan and coordinate for military assistance to homeland defense and civil support in the District of Columbia and the Maryland and Virginia suburban counties. A major portion of its mission is to coordinate and liaison with local law enforcers and first responders. The command also will work with state and federal entities, ranging from the White House Military Office to the U.S. Park Police.

Joint Force officials will help form plans in the event of attacks and will support national-level ceremonies. In the past year, the command has been activated six times, General Jackman said. It participated in cleanup after Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, was involved in security and logistics for the president's State of the Union address in January, and responded to a February incident on Capitol Hill. More recently, the command coordinated the National World War II Memorial dedication ceremonies, the Reagan funeral and a homeland-defense exercise.

“We learned from each of these,” General Jackman said.

The new command is not new to the component members, said General Jackman and his second-in-command, Navy Rear Adm. Jan Gaudio. On the ceremonial side, the various service components have had to work closely together for years. During the Reagan funeral, for example, General Jackman was in charge of the ceremonies, while Admiral Gaudio was in charge of the military contributions to the logistics and security efforts.

“The nation goes to war as a joint force,” Admiral Gaudio said. “It's logical to respond in the National Capital Region as a joint force.”

The command also has responsibility to sift through threat reports and respond accordingly. It will support other agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security or one of the local jurisdictions. It will head the military assistance to the presidential inauguration in January. Planners in the command will work out contingency plans and procedures with local, state and federal authorities.

The Joint Force will stop the ad hoc nature of past operations. In the aftermath of the plane hitting the Pentagon, the services joined to support first the Arlington Fire Department and then the FBI. Had a joint command existed, “there were forces we might have brought to bear more quickly,” General Jackman said.