WASHINGTON - President Bush authorized yesterday the call-up of 50,000 National Guard and Reserve troops to assist in cleanup operations at the scenes of Tuesday's terrorist attacks and to help provide security against possible future attacks.
The first units could be called up within days, officials said.
Pentagon officials said they have determined that 35,000 citizen soldiers will be needed immediately. No specific units have been designated.
Among the personnel needed are Air Force Reserve and Air Guard pilots to fly patrol missions over U.S. cities and to ferry cargo to New York City aboard C-130 cargo planes; Coast Guard Reserve personnel to inspect ships in U.S. ports; Marine Reserve engineers and heavy equipment operators; and Army Guard intelligence units to help the FBI track down terrorists.
Also needed are medics, chaplains, and Guard and Reserve personnel to perform search and rescue functions.
Maryland units possess many of the skills sought in the call-up, but top Guard and Reserve officers said they were uncertain which, if any, state units might be called.
"The process of selecting units is only beginning," said Craig Duehring, principal deputy secretary of defense for reserve affairs.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said military action might not be the only vehicle for retaliation against the terrorists.
"It may well be that the diplomatic efforts, political efforts, legal, financial, other efforts, may be just as effective against that kind of an enemy as would military force be," he said at a briefing.
Powell also backed off his positive identification of exiled Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks, saying, "We have not yet identified [bin Laden] as the direct perpetrator."
Under the national emergency declared by the president yesterday, more than a million Guard and Reserve troops can be called to active duty for up to two years. Duehring said the Pentagon wants to mobilize the smallest possible number of soldiers "for the shortest possible duration."
The Air National Guard and Reserve will provide the most troops, 13,000, followed by 10,000 from the Army, 7,500 from the Marines, 3,000 from the Navy and 2,000 from the Coast Guard.
The total Guard and Reserve force totals 1.3 million.
Bush said he declared the emergency because of the airborne terrorist attacks Tuesday at the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon as well as "the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States."
The president has the authority to order a "partial mobilization" of the nation's military reserves. That authority was last used Jan. 18, 1991, as part of the buildup for the Persian Gulf war, for which 265,322 part-time troops were called up for duties in the United States and in the gulf region.
Officials said about 10,000 Guard and Reserve troops voluntarily helping in the search and rescue efforts and flying combat patrol missions. But officials said that they expect more personnel and different skills will soon be needed.
Duehring said military leaders might deem it necessary to exceed the 50,000 Guard and Reserve troops that Bush authorized yesterday. If so, Duehring said, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will make that request of the president.
Officials said the large number of Air National Guard and Reserve personnel is needed to expand to other regions the combat air patrols being flown for security reasons along the New York-Washington corridor. Ground crews and pilots are needed, officials said.
Fighter planes from seven bases are conducting the air patrols. Thursday, Rumsfeld ordered an expansion to 26 bases. Officials declined to say which ones.
Rear Adm. Dennis Sirois, director of training for the Coast Guard Reserve, said port security will be the primary mission of his service's contingent. Sirois said the Coast Guard has specialized units equipped with armed, high-speed boats that can provide security to vessels at anchor and approaches to harbors.
The Coast Guard also expects to inspect ships and boats sailing in and out of U.S. ports.
Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver, Jr., director of the Air National Guard, said cargo and tanker planes will be required in addition to fighters. He noted that C-130J cargo planes are based at Warfield Air National Guard base in Middle River, next to Martin State Airport, as part of the 135th Airlift Group.
It is uncertain whether any Maryland units will be called up, he said.
Maj. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, pointed to the 629th Army Intelligence Battalion in Laurel as another unit with the necessary expertise. But Schultz noted that Guard soldiers from Maryland who serve in the 29th Light Infantry Division are deploying to Bosnia this month for a six-month peacekeeping mission.
"We've tapped Maryland plenty," he said. "I can't call them right yet."