Joint Publication 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities July 2013

The following publication was released by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 31, 2013.

Joint Publication 3-28: Defense Support of Civil Authorities

  • 123 pages
  • July 31, 2013


This publication has been prepared under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). It sets forth joint doctrine to govern the activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States in DSCA operations, and it provides the doctrinal basis for interagency coordination during DSCA operations. It provides military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders (JFCs) and prescribes joint doctrine for operations, education, and training. It provides military guidance for use by the Armed Forces in preparing their appropriate plans. It is not the intent of this publication to restrict the authority of the JFC from organizing the force and executing the mission in a manner the JFC deems most appropriate to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the overall objective.

1. The Nature of a Catastrophic Incident

a. A catastrophic incident, as defined by the NRF, is “any natural or man-made incident, including terrorism, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, and/or government functions.” Catastrophic incident is the same as catastrophic event as defined by DOD. A catastrophic event could result in significant nationwide impacts over a prolonged period of time. It almost immediately exceeds resources normally available to state, territory, tribal, local, and private-sector authorities in the impacted area, and it significantly interrupts governmental operations and emergency services to such an extent that national security could be threatened. These factors drive the urgency for coordinated national planning to allow for accelerated federal or national assistance.

b. The catastrophic event becomes complex (complex catastrophe) when it causes cascading failures of multiple, interdependent, critical life-sustaining infrastructure, in which disruption of one infrastructure component (such as the electric power grid) disrupts other infrastructure components (such as transportation and communications). Cascading infrastructure failures could magnify requirements for DSCA in the immediately impacted zone and outside affected areas in the region, and complicate the operational environment within which DOD would be asked to provide assistance.

c. Recognizing that federal or national resources are required to augment overwhelmed state, interstate, territory, tribal, and local response efforts, the NRF—Catastrophic Incident Annex establishes protocols to pre-identify and rapidly deploy key essential resources (e.g., medical teams, search and rescue [SAR] teams, transportable shelters, medical and equipment caches, and emergency communications) required to save lives and contain incidents.

complex catastrophe: Any natural or man-made incident, including cyberspace attack, power grid failure, and terrorism, which results in cascading failures of multiple, interdependent, critical, life-sustaining infrastructure sectors and causes extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage or disruption severely affecting the population, environment, economy, public health, national morale, response efforts, and/or government functions.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum, 19 February 2013

d. When a situation is beyond the capability of an affected state or territory, the governor may request federal assistance from the President. The President may also proactively direct the federal government to provide supplemental assistance to state, territorial, tribal, and local governments to alleviate the suffering and damage resulting from disasters or emergencies.

3. Department of Defense Immediate Response and Emergency Authority

a. Immediate Response. Under DODD 3025.18, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), federal military commanders, heads of DOD components, and responsible DOD civilian officials have immediate response authority. In response to an RFA from a civil authority, under imminently serious conditions and if time does not permit approval from higher authority, DOD officials may provide an immediate response by temporarily employing the resources under their control, subject to any supplemental direction provided by higher headquarters, to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage within the US. Immediate response authority is not an exception to the PCA, nor does it permit actions that would subject civilians to the use of military power that is regulatory, prescriptive, proscriptive, or compulsory.

(1) IAW DODD 3025.18, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), a DOD official directing immediate response authority shall notify, through the chain of command, the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Center (NJOIC) as soon as practical. The NJOIC will inform United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and/or United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the appropriate DOD components.

(2) Immediate response ends when DOD assistance is no longer required (e.g., when there are sufficient resources and capabilities available from state, local, and other federal agencies to respond adequately) or when a DOD authority directs an end to the response. The DOD official directing a response under immediate response authority makes an assessment, no later than 72 hours after receipt of request for DOD assistance, as to whether there remains a need for the continued DOD support.

(3) Support provided under immediate response authority should be provided on an incremental, cost-reimbursable basis, where appropriate or legally required, but will not be delayed or denied based on the inability or unwillingness of the requester to make a commitment to reimburse DOD.

(4) State officials have the authority to direct state-level or local-level immediate response authority using NG personnel serving in state active duty or Title 32, USC, status if this is IAW the laws of that state. As not all state officials have immediate response authority, there may be delays in obtaining approval from the governor.

(5) The distance from the incident to the DOD office or installation is not a limiting factor for the provision of support under immediate response authority. However, DOD officials should use the distance and the travel time to provide support as a factor in determining DOD’s ability to support the request for immediate response.

(6) The scale of the event should also be a determining factor for whether or not to provide support to incidents that are several miles or hundreds of miles away from the installation under immediate response authority. In some cases of a catastrophic incident, the demands for life-saving and life-sustaining capabilities may exceed both the state’s and USG’s ability to mobilize sufficient resources to meet the demand. In these circumstances, installations and facilities that are not directly impacted should be prepared to provide immediate response support if they are able to save lives, prevent human suffering, or prevent great property damage.

For more information on immediate response authority, see DODD 3025.18, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA).

b. Emergency Authority. In extraordinary emergency circumstances, where authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, involved federal military commanders are granted “emergency authority.” Emergency authority enables the involved military commander to engage in temporary actions to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and to restore governmental function and public order. When duly constituted federal, state, territorial, or 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. Responsible DOD officials and commanders will use all available means to seek presidential authorization through the chain of command while applying their emergency authority.

For more information on emergency authority, see DODI 3025.21, Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies, and DODD 3025.18, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA).

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