Keep our historical balance between military and police powers
As you are aware, the Defense Department has recently proposed a series of “Homeland Defense” measures that would broaden the operational scope of the U.S. military to include operations on United States soil. The appointment of a Homeland CINC, or regional commander, would place a Pentagon official in charge of coordinating military operations in North America, including U.S. territory.
Historically, the United States has recognized the importance of keeping its military discreet from domestic affairs. The 1878 Posse Commitatus Act is the legal fire-wall that prevents the military, specifically the Army, Navy, and Air Force, from operating domestically in a law enforcement capacity. Although enacted after the Civil War, the act calls upon a long-held understanding, dating from the founding of the republic, that the military has no place in the internal workings of a free society. While necessary for national defense, the methods of the military are profoundly inappropriate for domestic deployment.
The military is trained to use overwhelming, lethal force to destroy enemy opposition in wartime combat. Its actions are not governed by constitutional considerations, and its application of force does not need to be calibrated to match a given situation, as do the actions of civilian police officers. This is precisely what Posse Commitatus recognizes in its prohibition against using the military in a law enforcement capacity.
The establishment of a permanent Homeland military command would only encourage the entree of the military into domestic missions it is not suited for. Domestic threats, including terrorism, are most properly handled by civilian law enforcement authorities. For emergencies beyond the capabilities of law enforcement, such as hazardous material response, America’s National Guard units are already available for use. Effective terrorism response should involve sharpening and clarifying existing emergency response programs, rather than creating new Pentagon bureaucracies, and opening the domestic sphere to military “mission creep”.
Using the military in a domestic capacity has never been the long-term practice of the United States, and there is no reason why we should feel compelled, even in the face of recent terror attacks, to abandon that policy. A democracy does not survive by transforming itself into an impregnable garrison state. Please oppose the creation of a Homeland CINC, and vote down any legislation that threatens to amend or repeal the Posse Commitatus Act.