U.S. Army North Stands Ready in Event of Disasters, Attacks
Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, who’s the commander of U.S. Army North, told reporters that he agrees with a previous commander’s statement that “if you weren’t paranoid when you came to this command, you certainly will be when you leave.”
Buchanan told reporters at the Defense Writers’ Group here today, that it’s his job to paranoid. The general commands 5th Army -- the Army component to U.S. Northern Command -- from his headquarters in San Antonio.
The command’s job is to prepare for the worst. It is charged with defending the homeland in the event of a natural disaster or an act of war, Buchanan said. But it is different than most Army commands, he said, in that it always will work in support of other federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Hurricane Matthew is approaching, and we are already working in support of FEMA,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said his command coordinates with federal, state and local governments and agencies. He provides manpower and equipment, if asked by civilian leaders.
One example he gave was with clearing roads in the aftermath of a hurricane. U.S. Army engineer units, he added, could open the roads for first responders and recovery assets.
Or maybe not. “There could be some people there with equipment, who could do it and then the money would stay in the community where it will do the most good,” the general said.
“If we are going to operate successfully in this environment, we’ve got to focus on what our overall purpose is, which is … really just supporting the American people,” Buchanan said. “To be successful, we have to bring unity of effort to the wide array of agencies and organizations that would help us accomplish our central purpose.”
Buchanan said his biggest concern is a number of events happening at the same time. For example, he said, a hurricane making landfall in the United States, while a cyberattack occurs originating from a nation-state, a terror group, or an individual.
“What concerns me is if we are in the middle of responding to a natural disaster, and our focus is completely there, and we are trying to help others, then all-of-a-sudden, we get a manmade threat and [it] takes us from the back,” he said.
“It’s scary,” he continued, “but it is always helpful to be paranoid about what might be out there to use that mindset to secure the American people.”
Buchanan also works closely with military organizations and other agencies in Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas. Twenty years ago, he said, military-to-military contacts between the United States and Mexico were sparse. But, Buchanan said, that has changed, and U.S. relations with Mexico are getting better.
U.S., Mexico Contacts
U.S. and Mexican leaders have invested a lot of effort in improving relations between the two militaries, Buchanan said. He said his contacts with the Mexican military are “very good.”
“We work together to solve mutual problems,” Buchanan said. “We are doing a lot to help the Mexican military with foreign military sales, with mobile training teams to help them develop expertise in a number of different areas, and really to help them achieve their major military missions.”
The Mexican military has been focusing on fighting the transnational criminal gangs that have caused so much death and destruction, Buchanan said.
U.S. contacts with Mexico run the gamut, Buchanan said. Accompanying U.S. military officials are representatives from civilian agencies who can interact with Mexican military commands across the border, he said.
Buchanan said there are full-time Mexican liaison officers at U.S. Army North’s headquarters.
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