Pentagon Changes Course on Two Civil Support Teams

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers on Tuesday that the Pentagon has reversed course and will retain two National Guard weapons of mass destruction civil support teams that were slated for disestablishment this year. “They are important, and we have put the funding” in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2014 budget request to keep them, said Hagel in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on April 16. “I think Congress was informed of that the last few days,” he added. The two spared teams are the 24th WMD CST at Fort Hamilton, N.Y., and the 48th WMD CST in Clearwater, Fla. Hagel’s comments came in response to questioning initiated by Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla), panel chairman, who noted that the 24th WMD CST had members who responded to Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. The 48th WMD CST, he noted, is “the only maritime civil support team” in the United States.” In late March, Hagel had informed Congress that he intended to disestablish both teams. The nation-wide CSTs are full-time, federally funded Guard units meant to support civil authorities in events involving chemical or biological agents, or a radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive device.