The Council of Governors (Council) was created by the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 and formally established by Executive Order 13528, issued on January 11, 2010. The Council is intended to serve as a mechanism for governors and key federal officials to address matters pertaining to the National Guard, homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities.

The Council consists of 10 governors appointed by the President – five from each party – with two governors serving as co-chairs. The Executive Order specifically names a number of federal participants in the Council, including the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, the President’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, the Commander of U.S. Northern Command and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, among others.

To ensure that the Council appropriately represents all governors, the Council co-chairs, through the National Governors Association, share documents for review and discussion with all governors’ offices prior to their approval by the Council.

One of the first issues addressed by the Council was “Dual Status Command,” which was identified as the best solution to address governors’ long-standing concerns regarding the need to ensure coordination between state and federal military forces during disaster response. This issue – also referred to as “unity of effort” – arose out of past disasters during which state and federal military forces operated under separate chains of command that created confusion and duplication of effort during life-saving operations.

Over the course of two years, the Council developed a Statement of Principles for Developing Unity of Effort, followed by a Joint Action Plan for Developing Unity of Effort and finally a model Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to be signed by each governor and the Secretary of Defense to facilitate the appointment of a Dual Status Commander during an emergency response.

The Council also drafted legislation codifying the use of a Dual Status Commander as the “usual and customary” arrangement and granting the Secretary of Defense (DoD) the authority to call up Title 10 Reserve forces for disaster response.  On December 31, 2011, these proposals became law when the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY12. Now, when responding to a disaster within a state, a governor may appoint a National Guard officer as Dual Status Commander to command both state and federal military forces. Such an appointment is facilitated by a standing MOA signed by the governor and the Secretary of Defense for almost every state and territory.

Moving forward, the Council and NGA will continue to work on implementation of other components of the Joint Action Plan for Developing Unity of Effort, such as improving shared situational awareness and multi-state incident response. Also of importance is the implementation of the new defense strategy and the proposed reductions in equipment and personnel that have been put forward by the U.S. Air Force. If implemented, the Air Force’s recommendations could have a detrimental impact on the Air National Guard’s homeland defense and emergency response capabilities.

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