Northcom Prioritizes Homeland Defense, Cyber, Partners

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2012 — Pri­or­i­ties for U.S. North­ern Com­mand include expand­ing part­ner­ships, keep­ing eyes on air, space, cyber­space, land and sea domains, and out­pac­ing all threats, the North­com and the North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand com­man­der said today.

Army Gen. Charles Jaco­by, Jr., tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on the fis­cal 2013 defense bud­get request for the first time as North­com com­man­der. North­com was estab­lished after the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks to defend­ing the home­land and help civ­il author­i­ties respond to nat­ur­al and oth­er dis­as­ters. Its area of respon­si­bil­i­ty includes Cana­da and Mex­i­co.

Jaco­by said his pri­or­i­ties include advanc­ing and sus­tain­ing the U.S.-Canada part­ner­ship of NORAD, mon­i­tor­ing the unique and fast-chang­ing domain of the Arc­tic, and tak­ing care of the men and women of North­com.

“This past year has been busy. We’ve syn­chro­nized our activ­i­ties with many part­ners and done our part to real­ize effi­cien­cies that we’ve worked through the bud­get process,” Jaco­by told the sen­a­tors.

As part of the bud­get, he said, North­com trimmed its work­force by 141 full-time posi­tions this year, and for fis­cal 2013 has request­ed reduc­ing its oper­a­tions and main­te­nance fund­ing by about 6 per­cent.

“But with the resources and author­i­ties at hand and main­tain­ing our vig­i­lance,” the gen­er­al added, “we’ll be able to con­tin­ue to defend and sup­port the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Out­side its pri­ma­ry home­land defense mis­sion, some of Northcom’s most imme­di­ate con­cerns include cyber secu­ri­ty, transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions that threat­en the Unit­ed States from the bor­der with Mex­i­co, and secu­ri­ty issues that arise from the pre­dict­ed melt­ing of Arc­tic sea ice, open­ing parts of the Arc­tic over the next decade to human activ­i­ty.

Northcom’s main respon­si­bil­i­ty in the cyber domain, Jaco­by said, “is con­se­quence man­age­ment in the event of a cat­a­stroph­ic cyber attack on this coun­try. North­com could cer­tain­ly be called upon to pro­vide sup­port to civ­il author­i­ties in the recov­ery. But we think our role is broad­er than that.”

North­com has “some work to do in defin­ing what [con­sti­tutes] an attack in the cyber domain,” he said. “It’s a very col­lab­o­ra­tive process we’re doing as com­bat­ant com­man­ders along with [the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand] and its … Cyber Com­mand. That’s a work in progress.”

Jaco­by said he believes “it will be a mat­ter of pol­i­cy to clear­ly define what is an attack or what isn’t an attack,” and he hopes such a pol­i­cy can be put in place over the next year.

Until then, Jaco­by said, he con­tin­ues to work close­ly with Cyber Com­mand com­man­der Army Gen. Kei­th Alexan­der “to ensure that we have ample warn­ing to under­stand if there is a cyber­at­tack or mali­cious cyber activ­i­ty that … could com­pro­mise the defense of the home­land.”

To achieve that end, Jaco­by said, North­com has good coop­er­a­tion across DOD and with part­ners in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty.

Some aspects of transna­tion­al orga­nized crime are anoth­er pri­or­i­ty for North­com. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in July released a strat­e­gy for com­bat­ing such crime, and North­com and the U.S. South­ern Com­mand are the main enti­ties through which the Defense Depart­ment engages in the West­ern Hemi­sphere.

The man­date increas­es as more nations ask their own mil­i­taries to take on inter­nal secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties, Jaco­by said.

“What we do on the bor­der [with Mex­i­co] as the Depart­ment of Defense is to pro­vide sup­port to the lead agen­cies — the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, pri­mar­i­ly, and the Jus­tice Department’s orga­ni­za­tions, as well,” he said. “We’re eager to pro­vide that sup­port.”

Part­ner­ing with U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion gives sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines good train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, he added.

“It is a great rela­tion­ship that’s grown stronger and stronger over time,” Jaco­by said. “Just this month, we’ve con­duct­ed Op[eration] Nim­bus II in the Tuc­son sec­tor, where 1st Armored Divi­sion sol­diers feel they got bet­ter train­ing than they’ve got­ten pri­or to a deploy­ment at any time in the past 10 years.”

In that oper­a­tion, more than 500 sol­diers from Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas sup­port­ed the U.S. Bor­der Patrol with intel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance assis­tance.

“I think it’s crit­i­cal to con­tin­ue to strength­en and expand our part­ner­ships in the North­com head­quar­ters,” Jaco­by said. “We have over 32 agen­cies rep­re­sent­ed there and eight law enforce­ment agen­cies. We’ve nev­er had bet­ter shar­ing of infor­ma­tion across the inter­a­gency.”

Thou­sands of miles north, the Arc­tic is becom­ing an emerg­ing an area of inter­est for North­com.

The Navy’s Task Force Cli­mate Change and U.S. sci­ence agen­cies have pre­dict­ed that by 2020 or so, com­mer­cial ships may be able to tran­sit the Arc­tic, where sea ice is in long-term decline.

The region’s more than 1,000 miles of coast­line and poten­tial sov­er­eign rights to sev­er­al hun­dred thou­sand square miles of ocean gives the Unit­ed States a strong nation­al secu­ri­ty and home­land defense inter­est there.

“We have an oppor­tu­ni­ty, while we watch the Arc­tic begin to open up, to get ahead of poten­tial secu­ri­ty require­ments,” Jaco­by told the sen­a­tors.

To that end, he added, Northcom’s strate­gic frame­work is to work close­ly with the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and oth­er part­ners in the depart­ments of Defense and Home­land Secu­ri­ty, and stay close­ly tied to part­ners in Cana­da.

Jaco­by said the Defense Depart­ment sup­ports the Con­ven­tion of the Law of the Sea because it would give the Unit­ed States a role in long-term nego­ti­a­tions that will involve the Arc­tic and its resources.

In 2004, the U.S. Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee rec­om­mend­ed U.S. acces­sion to the treaty in a unan­i­mous vote, but a vote of the entire Sen­ate has not yet tak­en place. The Unit­ed States has signed, but not rat­i­fied the treaty.

“As the com­man­der respon­si­ble for the Arc­tic,” Jaco­by said, ” … it would be very help­ful to have a seat at the table as we begin the lengthy … process of deter­min­ing [the bound­aries of the] Con­ti­nen­tal Shelf and all the attrib­ut­es of the Arc­tic that com­pet­ing nations will be inter­est­ed in.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)