When major disaster relief orders come down from the White House, the Department of Defense plays a key role because of its vast response capabilities, say experts.
But the reliance on military resources often is more expensive in disasters than using civilian contractors. And, the use of the federal military also can put a strain on the Pentagon's other plans, as was the case after the Trump administration put more resources toward Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
"When the president wants things done, people point to the DoD," said Todd Rosenblum, a former senior official at the Pentagon and now a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. "The military is in many ways the operational backbone of the federal assistance."
The more than $200 billion in devastation from hurricanes and California wildfires this year was a clear message that domestic disasters can take a heavy economic toll and require a combination of civil-military expertise.
Rosenblum said the federal military "has all the capacity and can go faster than anyone." He was quick to add that National Guard units around the country also are capable of handling emergency relief in disasters, though for large-scale events states often turn to the Pentagon for help.
Overall, some 67,000 DoD and National Guard personnel responded to help civil authorities during the three hurricanes that made landfall this year, according to Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.