Bigger NORTHCOM Role

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The head of Colorado-based US Northern Command says a series of devastating hurricanes this fall show that the role of active-duty military personnel could be broadened, to help fill gaps in local and state-level activities.

Admiral Timothy J. Keating says civilian agencies and the National Guard ought to retain their lead role in responding to disasters.

But he says those agencies should be able to take advantage of some of the unique capabilities of active-duty troops -- during disasters on the scale of hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma.

Keating says he recently spoke with President Bush about creating an active-duty force to help the National Guard respond to disasters, when Bush visited NORTHCOM headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base.

Keating spoke during a three-day conference of the National Homeland Defense Foundation.

The Colorado Springs-based group seeks to bring military leaders together with businesses and civilian officials to improve security and defense.