United States Department of Energy

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Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hostage Rescue Team.
Law Enforcement’s Tier 1 Counter-Terrorism unit.

The FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) is the counter-terrorism and hostage rescue unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The HRT is trained to rescue American citizens and allies who are held hostage by hostile forces, usually terrorists and/or criminals. The Hostage Rescue Team was founded in 1982 by Danny Coulson, former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, and completed its final certification exercise in October 1983.

It was originally composed of 50 operators. However, this number has since increased to well over 90 full-time operators. The HRT commonly functions as a high-level national SWAT team in extremely sensitive or dangerous situations. Today, it is part of the Tactical Support Branch of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) and is based at the FBI Academy at the Quantico Marine Corps Base, in Stafford County, Virginia.

The primary roles of the HRT are hostage rescue and counter-terrorism. Secondary roles of the HRT include:

- Apprehending barricaded subjects
- Executing helicopter operations and rescue missions
- Executing mobile assaults
- Performing high-risk raids, searches, arrests, and warrants
- Coordinating manhunt and rural operations
- Providing force protection for FBI personnel overseas

To a lesser extent, the HRT may deploy teams or individual operators to act as snipers, or to provide protective service details for certain high-profile federal witnesses or dignitaries. Teams provide support for missions overseas and support Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Teams at home and abroad perform typical law enforcement activities, such as making arrests, processing scenes for evidence recovery, and testifying in court.

The HRT has provided traditional law enforcement during hurricane relief operations, tactical surveys, and special events such as the Olympic Games, presidential inaugurations, and political conventions.

Prospective HRT operators are selected based upon their background and experience, as well as their demonstrated performance during the HRT selection course. The rigorous two-week selection process includes long-distance runs, forced marches, obstacle courses, and other tests of physical and mental stamina. Throughout the entire selection process, candidates are evaluated on their ability to think under pressure and to perform while physically exhausted. After a six-month initial training period known as “New Operator Training School” (“NOTS”), they are headquartered at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Both the selection course and NOTS are near mirror images of the 1st SFOD-D (“Delta Force”) selection and training courses, with some minor adjustments for mission differences. Experienced HRT operators assigned to observer/sniper teams are sent to the United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper Basic Course. After successfully completing the course, they receive further instruction from HRT snipers. Maritime platoon operators are sent to a variety of maritime special operations courses, including Phase II of U.S. Navy BUD/S at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California. HRT operators receive other specialized interoperability training from various U.S. Special Operations Command entities. HRT operators also conduct training with Allied nation counter-terrorism units such as the British SAS and German GSG-9.

When not operationally deployed, the HRT conducts full-time training for its members at various sites across the country. Two to three hours each day are set aside for physical training, a defensive tactics session, and combative training. One day a week is devoted to maintaining either perishable skills (such as fast roping, breaching, and photography) or specialized skills (such as mobile assaults, manhunt and rural operations), maritime operations, helicopter operations, parachuting, weapons of mass destruction training (provided by the United States Department of Energy), and cold weather operations. Three days are spent honing sniping or close quarters combat skills on the various training ranges available to the team. Biweekly, one day is allotted for gear maintenance. Discretionary time to be used by team leaders is built into the schedule. During a routine week of training, it is not unusual for HRT operators to fire 1,000 rounds of ammunition to keep their shooting skills honed. Every 12 to 18 months, the HRT also participates in at least one major combined exercise that may involve a variety of governmental entities, such as the FBI and the departments of Defense, State, Energy, and Homeland Security.

Three teams rotate through three 120-day cycles: training, operations, and support. During the training cycle, the team refreshes its skills and takes part in exercises, attends other courses, or trains with foreign and domestic units. During the operations cycle, the team is available for deployment (domestic or foreign). During the support cycle, the team works on special projects, maintains the HRT’s equipment, and conducts research.

The HRT is known to conduct joint training exercises and participate in exchange programs with US military units such as the US Army’s Combat Applications Group (otherwise known as 1st SFOD-D or Delta Force) or the U.S. Navy’s DEVGRU. The HRT routinely trains with other federal tactical teams such as the DEA’s FAST Team, the United States Border Patrol’s BORTAC unit or the United States Capitol Police’s CERT. Occasionally the HRT trains with French GIGN, British SAS and Special Boat Service, Irish Garda ERU, the Australian SAS, German GSG 9, and other international units. In addition to the HRT’s own facilities, the HRT routinely uses private and 1st SFOD-D Delta Force shoot houses and ranges. The HRT has also been known to train at Camp Peary and Harvey Point.

What the U.S. Gets for Defending Its Allies and Interests Abroad

By Max Fisher and Sergio Peçanha for The New York Times. January 16, 2017 [x]

President-elect Donald J. Trump has questioned the return that the United States gets for defending its allies. Here’s the current picture of what America puts in and gets out of global alliances.

Treaties with more than 30 countries help bring stability to the most economically and politically important regions for the United States.

Countries with mutual defense treaties with the United States, and trade in 2015 between the United States and major partners

More than 210,000 American military personnel are deployed overseas. Most are not in active conflict zones.

Countries with more than 1,000 American military personnel

EUROPE

The European Union is America’s top trading partner. Keeping Europe peaceful and unified has been a top United States priority since World War II.

What the United States puts in

→ Promise to defend NATO states

→ Deterrent against Russia

→ Sixth Fleet based in Naples, Italy

→ Military training and exercises

What the United States gets back

→ NATO states promise to defend the United States

→ $699 billion in trade with the European Union, America’s largest trade partner

→ Bases near Russia, the Middle East and Africa

→ Counterterrorism and intelligence sharing

→ Allies cover 34 percent of the United States’ basing costs, worth $2.5 billion annually

NORTHEAST ASIA

The United States keeps a large footprint in Asia to counter the influence of China and to support allies against North Korea.

What the United States puts in

→ Promise to defend South Korea and Japan

→ 28,500 military personnel in South Korea

→ 45,000 military personnel in Japan

→ Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan

→ Military training and exercises

What the United States gets back

→ Bases near China and North Korea, and allies against them

→ $194 billion in trade with Japan, the fifth-largest American trading partner

→ $115 billion in trade with South Korea, the sixth-largest American trading partner

→ Japan covers 75 percent of the United States’ basing costs there, worth $4.4 billion annually

→ South Korea covers 40 percent of the United States’ basing costs there, worth $843 million annually

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thirty percent of global maritime trade runs through the South China Sea. The United States is competing with China to lead in that fast-growing market.

What the United States puts in

→ Promise to defend the Philippines and Australia

→ Military personnel fluctuate up to a few thousand

→ Military exercises in Thailand with several regional states

→ Freedom-of-movement exercises in the South China Sea

What the United States gets back

→ Basing rights in Singapore

→ Region friendlier to the United States and better able to unify against China

→ Protect South China Sea trade worth $5.3 trillion, about 30 percent of global maritime trade. Includes $1.2 trillion in trade with the United States

→ Philippines and Australia promise to defend the United States

PERSIAN GULF

In the Middle East, the United States wants to maintain access to oil and gas, and partners against terrorism and Iran.

What the United States puts in

→ About 28,000 military personnel in the Persian Gulf’s kingdoms

→ Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain

→ Pledge to defend free flow of oil and gas, known as the Carter Doctrine

→ Implicit promise to defend allies against Iran

What the United States gets back

→ Counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing against Islamist terrorists and Iran

→ Access to 34 percent of the world’s oil exports and 16 percent of natural gas exports

→ Allies cover 60 percent of the United States’ basing costs, worth $658 million annually

→ Bases near, and allies united against, Iran

Sources: United States Department of Defense; BP Statistical Review of World Energy; Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Note: United States cost-offsetting estimates for expenses to maintain a military presence in regions mentioned in this article are as of 2002, the last date for which data is available. Experts confirm that the numbers are still broadly representative.

Nuclear reactors at the Hanford Site line the Columbia River banks, with the N Reactor in the foreground and the KE and KW Reactors in the background.  

Photo credit: 1960, The United States Department of Energy footage (released to the public domain February 5, 2008).