WASHINGTON --- Geographic limitations are found nowhere in the official U.S. Air Force mission statement -- the service's inherent capabilities make it a truly global force.
That said, it is the job of one Pentagon organization to ensure the Air Force does not overlook what is perhaps the most important location in the world -- the United States itself.
"The Homeland Security Task Force was established to provide forces to prevent, protect (against) and respond to incidents in our own homeland," said Brig. Gen. David Clary, Air Force director for homeland security.
In order to prevent, protect against and respond to both natural and man-made disastrous incidents, Clary has tasked his team with developing scenarios to look at the service's capabilities, shortfalls, requirements and programming.
"What we're trying to do is (give) the Air Force the opportunity to begin to debate, discuss and examine whether we should change the way we resource things in our own country," he said. "In other words, pay for things to do at home, as opposed to paying for things we do abroad."
That goal fits in with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper's goal of having the service's planning and procurement activities evolve into a capabilities-based process, rather than maintain the current programs-based acquisition process, Clary said.
To test the service's ability to meet homeland disasters, the task force has developed a number of scenarios.
Examples include, domestic retaliation to an overseas conflict, a national-security special event, attacks from small aircraft, the use of a "dirty bomb"-type of radiological device, and an isolated biological warfare attack.
"When we look at these scenarios, we'll ask 'what capabilities do we need to get the job done?'" he said. "In the end, we'll (know if) we have these capabilities already, or if we need to develop them."
According to Clary, the team selected scenarios that will examine the service's competencies, and will identify shortfalls and seams in capabilities and protection plans.
"We're trying to figure out, as we look at each of the scenarios, if the Air Force could have played a significant part to prevent (the incident)," he said. "I think we're going to find that, within a lot of the scenarios, the Air Force has a world-class capability to prevent these kinds of things. We can be anywhere in the world in 18 hours with a B-2 Spirit bomber. In the cyber arena, in information operations, we can be anywhere in eight seconds.
"If we had the right kind of information -- actionable, attributable information -- the president could call on the Air Force," Clary said. "In other words, if we can find the people who are perpetrating the plan, we have the capability to reach out and touch them."
Obviously, it is better to prevent an incident than to protect against one, but that is not always possible. Sometimes prevention may prove impossible, Clary said.
"If we can't prevent, we want to protect ourselves, (but) you can't protect against everything," he said. "It's way too expensive to protect, and it just can't physically be done. The last level is, if we can't prevent, we at least want to be able to smartly respond (to a homeland security disaster)."
The top capabilities Clary said he sees as essential to homeland security include being able to collect, fuse and act on information, defend the homeland through air and space operations, exercise operational and emergency preparedness, and to protect forces and critical infrastructures.
Other items on Clary's Homeland Security Task Force agenda include establishing homeland security in professional military education curricula, examining continuity of operations, and integrating the total force into the homeland security construct.
"At the installation level, we have a lot of concerns about how we tie in with local communities, and the Air National Guard and the Reserves have a big play in that," Clary said. "The Civil Air Patrol is another organization that has potential in the homeland security area."
The good news, the general said, is that a lot of the required homeland security capabilities already exist.
"About 70 percent of the USAF does have applicability in homeland security," Clary said. "Those are the same capabilities that allow you to be a warfighter anywhere. We're just a little more focused on warfighting in our own homeland."
-ends- Task Force Examines AF's Ability To Defend Homeland