The mission of the Region III Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) is to partner United States Department of Defense (DoD) activities with other agencies conducting disaster response and / or Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) within Region III: DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, and WV in order to save lives, prevent human suffering, and mitigate great property damage.
Each FEMA Region has a permanently assigned active duty Defense Coordinating Officer and Element (DCO/E) for planning, coordinating, and integrating Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) with local, state, and federal agencies. The nine-person Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) is the entry for all local, tribal, state, and federal requests for DoD assistance. The DCO is FEMA’s single point of contact for DoD support.
Like any lead or supporting agency under the National Response Framework (NRF) / Emergency Support Function (ESF) construct, DoD provides support when requested by FEMA in support of local, State, tribal, and territorial response and recovery efforts when a Presidential major disaster or emergency declaration has been, or may be, issued.
Natural or man-made disasters and emergencies often demand greater capabilities than are readily available at the local, tribal, and state levels and the Robert T. Stafford Act provides the statutory authorities for federal agencies to assist, including DoD. Further, this process is defined within DoD Directive 3025.18 as “Support provided by U.S. Federal military forces, DoD civilians, DoD contract personnel, DoD Component assets, and National Guard forces (when the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Governors of the affected States, elects and requests to use those forces in title 32, U.S.C., status) in response to requests for assistance from civil authorities for domestic emergencies, law enforcement support, and other domestic activities, or from qualifying entities for special events.”
Within Region III, we use the 3R construct prior to having to Respond: Reconaissance, Rehearsals, and Relationships:
Reconnaissance: Understand capabilities, gaps, concerns, critical infrastructure in the operational environment. Provide Situational Awareness of emerging situations and during DSCA operations.
Rehearsals: Exercise plans and playbooks by participating in local, State, Federal, and DoD Homeland Defense and Civil Support exercises
- Relationships: Engage and build relationships with FEMA, State Emergency Management, Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), Private Sector, The State Adjutant General, Joint Force Headquarters, supported military commands
The DCE is also augmented by senior Reserve officers and Non-commissioned officers serving as Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers (EPLOs) from the united States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. These personnel are aligned to each state-level entity and work closely with state emergency managers and the state National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in providing the 3Rs. Additionally, a Reserve component team responds to FEMA’s regional cell which facilitates information sharing between DoD and FEMA Region III.
The DoD has a long history of supporting civil authorities during emergencies and for other special occasions. We bring unique and specialized skills and assets that can assist civil authorities to rapidly stabilize and improve the situation to the point where routine assistance processes are back in place and effective leading to long-term recovery after a disaster.