The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terroristattack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.
The long-planned shift in the Defense Department's role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.
There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement.
But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Political scientist Dr. Steven Taylor writes about his concern on this subject:
Now the American Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian Cato Institute are troubled by what they consider an expansion of executive authority.
There are two key problems here. The first is that the function of the military isn’t domestic security and second, the military is already rather busy at the moment (and for the foreseeable future).
First, the military isn’t designed or trained for domestic responses. Training for a nuclear attack or an invasion is one thing, assigning an active-duty combat brigade to a specifically domestic task is yet another.
Domestic emergency deployment may be “just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority,” or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU’s National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of “a creeping militarization” of homeland security.
“There’s a notion that whenever there’s an important problem, that the thing to do is to call in the boys in green,” Healy said, “and that’s at odds with our long-standing tradition of being wary of the use of standing armies to keep the peace.”