El Paso – A U.S. Army War College report warns an economic crisis in the US could lead to massive civil unrest and the need to call on the military to restore order. Retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Freir wrote the report Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development, which the Army think tank in Carlisle, Pa., recently released.
â€œWidespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities … to defend basic domestic order and human security,â€ the report said, in case of â€œunforeseen economic collapse,â€ â€œpervasive public health emergencies,â€ and â€œcatastrophic natural and human disasters,â€ among other possible crises.
The report also suggests the new (Barack Obama) administration could face a â€œstrategic shockâ€ within the first 8 months in office.
Fort Bliss spokeswoman Jean Offutt said the Army post is not involved in any recent talks about a potential military response to civil unrest.
The report become a hot Internet item after Phoenix police told the Phoenix Business Journal theyâ€™re prepared to deal with such an event, and the International Monetary Fundâ€™s managing director, Dominique Strauss-Khan, said social unrest could spread to advanced countries if the global economic crisis worsens.
Javier Sambrano, spokes-man for the El Paso Police Department, said city police have trained for years so they can address any contingency, but not with the military.
â€œThe Quantcast police (department) trains on an ongoing basis as part of its Mobile Field Force Training,â€ Sambrano said. â€œAs a result, the police will be able to respond to emergency situations, such as looting or a big civil unrest. The police (department) does not train with soldiers.â€
Earlier this year, Pentagon officials said as many as 20,000 soldiers under the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) will be trained within the next 3 years to work with civilian law enforcement in homeland security.
Joint Task Force-North, a joint command at Biggs Army Airfield, which conducts surveillance and intelligence along the border, comes under NORTHCOM. No one was available at JTF-North to comment on the Army War Collegeâ€™s report. NORTHCOM was created after the 9-11 attacks to coordinate homeland security efforts. Soldiers under the former Joint Task Force-6 (now JTF-North) supported the Border Patrol in El Paso with its drug-interdiction operations.
In case civilian authorities request help or become overwhelmed, El Paso has several National Guard and military reserve units that can be called on. In 1992, National Guard and active Marine and Army units were deployed to help police control riots and looting in Los Angeles.
Charles Boehmer, political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, was skeptical about the Army War College report.
â€œThe military was not called out during the Great Depression, and I donâ€™t think our economic problems are as bad as they were then,â€ he said. â€œThe military always has contingency plans. Itâ€™s a think tankâ€™s job to come up with scenarios, but that doesnâ€™t mean it represents an active interest on the part of the (Pentagon).â€