HeroVet: Paul McHale, Leads at the Front Line as the DoD's Chief of Homeland Security
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as an "ex-marine," and Paul McHale continues to prove that point, as the Department of Defense’s chief homeland security leader.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked Congress to create an assistant secretary position at the department for managing homeland defense. President Bush nominated McHale for the post in January 2003, and the Senate quickly confirmed the widely respected Pennsylvania Democrat and former congressman.
McHale, 53, oversees all military operations related to protecting the United States’ territory, population, and critical infrastructure against attack. He oversees Northern Command (NORTHCOM), the newly created command-and-control structure for military operations in the continental United States. From his office in the rebuilt section of the Pentagon that was destroyed in the 9/11 attack, McHale oversees all military support to civil authorities for homeland security. He also is a key player in defining the emerging relationship between the Defense and Homeland Security departments.
McHale’s service to his country dates back over 30 years. Following graduation from Lehigh University (with Highest Honors in 1972), Secretary McHale volunteered for duty with the U.S. Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He spent two years on active duty, including an overseas deployment as a rifle platoon leader in Okinawa and the Philippines.
Upon his release from Active Duty, McHale graduated from Georgetown Law School and entered private practice. But public service continued to beckon, as Secretary McHale began his civilian public service career with his election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1982. He served five consecutive terms.
The call of the Corps led him to resign his house seat in 1991 following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, volunteering for active duty as an infantry officer with the Marine Corps during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
In January of 1993, Secretary McHale returned to DC and was elected to represent the 15th Congressional district of Pennsylvania in the United States House of Representatives, where he served for three terms. He was an active member of the House Armed Services Committee, which has oversight responsibility for all U.S. military operations and training.
In 1996, then Congressman McHale co-founded the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus which advocates the interests of reservists and guardsmen world-wide. His leadership earned him several distinct honors, including the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association 1997 Frank M. Tejeda Leadership Award, the 1998 Reserve Officers Association Minuteman of the Year Award, and the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal.
And, of course, he is currently a Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.
At the Pentagon, McHale continues to advocate for the increasingly critical role of our nation’s Citizen Soldiers on the home front. When he was first tapped for his current position, he said: "If anything, the Guard will in some ways be coming back to its roots to defend the nation domestically."
A year later, he expanded on that vision with a "fused capability" strategy of bringing the Guard in to support local forces. In a speech before the Reserve Officers Association last year, he added: "We rely on our police officers, we rely on our FBI in the first instance to protect us from domestic activities related to foreign terrorists," McHale said. But he added that if the concept of operations to be employed by terrorists exceeds the reasonable capability of law enforcement, those police officers are going to need back up with superior firepower. "We find that (firepower) within the National Guard," he explained.
Another role for reserves would be in the nation’s maritime defense, he explained. McHale noted that if terrorists were to bring a weapon of mass destruction into the United States, it would likely be through a U.S. port. "And I believe it is likely that material would be brought into our country through the maritime domain that has been assigned to NORTHCOM."
HeroVet and marine, Assistant Secretary McHale, having given service in our military, continues to distinguish himself through his ongoing leadership and contribution to our society. Semper Fi!