NORTHCOM is the US Department of Defense command for North America. It coordinates military involvement in homeland security operations, but is historically constrained by the US Posse Comitatus Act against doing anything within the domestic USA.

Defense officials continue to stress that they intend for the troops to play largely a supporting role in homeland emergency response, bolstering police, firefighters and other civilian response groups and even some community emergency response teams.

Admiral Timothy J. Keating is the head of NORTHCOM. Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, Northcom's chief operations officer, believes that "stress points" in some military capabilities probably would result if troops were called on to deal with multiple homeland attacks, though the two consider themselves prepared to deal with any crisis including that in New Orleans.

The Washington Post on August 8, 2005, reported that NORTHCOM had overhauled its "war plans" re the U.S. and was for the first time detailing plans for martial law nationwide, amid much debate/confusion as to Pentagon's new domestic role post 9/11. It was envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans.

The classified plans outline a variety of possible roles for quick-reaction forces estimated at as many as 3,000 ground troops per attack/incident/event, a number that could easily grow depending on the extent of the damage and the abilities of civilian response teams. The possible scenarios range from "low end," relatively modest crowd control missions to "high-end," full-scale disaster management after catastrophic attacks such as the release of a deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological device, several officers said. - according to the Post report

With the plans ready, what remains is to test them. Some critics of the Bush administration believe that the emergency response in New Orleans is being deliberately slowed in order to provide training and combat experience for the National Guard and other troops which would be expected to control U.S. cities, or to administer a US Selective Service "draft" in case the Iraq occupation requires many more troops.

Certainly the situation is typical of the kind of chaos caused by climate change. Combat operations are already underway on the streets "to take this city back" according to the US Army Times.

"This place is going to look like Little Somalia," Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard's Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. "We're going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control." - story

Military and police officials have said that, as of early September, there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy.

However, there is evidence that the fault is not in the DoD. According to the BBC World News as quoted quoted in some sources as saying that NORTHCOM "Lt. Commander Sean Kelly explained that NorthCom was ready to go well in advance of Katrina making landfall, but suggested the president didn't make the right call at the right time."

"Northcom started planning before the storm even hit. We were ready when it hit Florida, because, as you remember, it hit the bottom part of Florida, and then we were planning once it was pointed towards the Gulf Coast."

"So, what we did, we activated what we call 'defense coordinating officers' to work with the states to say, 'OK, what do you think you will need?' And we set up staging bases that could be started."

"We had the USS Bataan sailing almost behind the hurricane so once the hurricane made landfall, its search and rescue helicopters could be available almost immediately So, we had things ready."

"The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so. The laws of the United States say that the military can't just act in this fashion; we have to wait for the president to give us permission." See US Posse Comitatus Act.

"Apparently, that permission could have been given right away, but it wasn't. Bush was on vacation, sharing some cake with John McCain, and pretending to play some guitar."