US Readies 20,000 Troops Against Homeland Threats

Critics fear executive-power growth in major shift
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 1, 2008 9:41 AM CST
Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense Paul McHale, center, said the plan "would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable" before 9/11.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
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(Newser) – After years of planning, the military will have 20,000 troops stationed inside the US ready to handle domestic crises such as nuclear terrorism by 2011, the Washington Post reports. That’s almost seven times the number of domestic-response troops 5 years ago—a move that would have been “unbelievable” before 9/11, says a defense official. Critics worry that the assignment signals an executive-power expansion and undermines a 130-year-old law restricting domestic military deployment.

Three rapid-reaction forces will be prepared to confront chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive attacks that might overwhelm civilian authorities, the Post notes. The military began readying for a homeland WMD attack under Clinton, and operations picked up steam under the Bush administration, but funding and troop commitments were only made recently.