voiceofsandieg.org readers know me as the person who writes “Married & Mortgaged” every other week. But I have a secret life as a freelance defense reporter – secret because I don’t write about the military for local publications.

I’ve been reading Daniel Strumpf‘s recent coverage of the military and I’m very concerned that our leaders are not doing enough to get lines of communication with the military in order so they know who to call in an emergency.

But I’m starting my blog off today by admonishing voiceofsandiego.org readers for not picking up on this and weighing in on Strumpf’s recent story about civil-military relations. It seems like the only thing people care about is the damn (can I say damn in this blog?) library (more on this subject later).

I’ve been covering the military’s policies, budgets and technology for nearly eight years, mostly as a Pentagon reporter in Washington, D.C., so I feel qualified to raise the issue.

Strumpf focused on whether the military’s presence makes us a huge terrorist target, but the story carried a much more important subtext about how our civilian leaders interact with the uniforms down the road. And apparently, it’s not very well. This is really significant because if terrorists do attack or a natural disaster leaves San Diego flooded or in rubble, it’s very likely that we’ll need military support to get a handle on things (they’ve got all the cool toys).

Both National City and Oceanside have so-called mutual-aid agreements with Naval Station San Diego and Camp Pendleton, respectively, in the case of fires. And the county coordinates with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and the California Department of Forestry on a hazardous material emergency response team, Strumpf reported.

All great. But, where is the city of San Diego? Jill Olen, the city’s lead thinker on public safety and homeland security, said the city has lost track of the agreements it has with various military commands.

“Right now I’m trying to get a better handle on what [agreements] exist and with who and what they cover,” Olen said. “I’m not entirely sure what they are or what the terms of them are or if they are still valid.”

Better get crackin’ Ms. Olen.

But National City residents ought not to get too confident about their agreement with the Navy base. Walter Amedee, National City’s homeland security manager, doesn’t even have the Navy’s phone number. Amedee told Strumpf that he would rely on the county’s Office of Emergency Services to contact Navy officials.

Does the county know that National City even has an agreement with the base? Does the county know the Navy’s phone number? And even if the answers to both questions are “Yes,” I think Mr. Amedee may be missing the point. Mutual aid agreements exist to remove bureaucratic layers.


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