USA — Threats to United States Remain, Northcom Commander Says

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2010 — Laud­ing suc­cess­es with­in North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand and U.S. North­ern Com­mand aimed at pro­tect­ing the home­land, the out­go­ing com­man­der empha­sized today that the threats con­fronting the Unit­ed States – both nat­ur­al and man­made – will con­tin­ue.

“It is impor­tant for us to under­stand that the threats have not gone away,” Air Force Gen. Vic­tor E. “Gene” Ren­uart said dur­ing his last news con­fer­ence before leav­ing the com­mands he has led for the past three years.

North­com was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks to over­see the military’s role in home­land defense. NORAD is a bina­tion­al U.S.-Canadian Com­mand that pro­vides aero­space warn­ing and con­trol for North Amer­i­ca.

“Moth­er Nature, she is going to con­tin­ue,” Ren­uart said at his Peter­son Air Force Base, Colo., head­quar­ters. “But even more impor­tant­ly, the threats to the defense of our nations are not going away. You need only to read the papers to under­stand that ter­ror­ism is still alive and active out there. Ter­ror­ists are focus­ing their atten­tion on the Unit­ed States, on Cana­da, and on oth­er West­ern nations as a place to tar­get future activ­i­ty.”

Ren­uart also cit­ed the chal­lenges posed by cyber threats.

“Cyber con­tin­ues to be an extra­or­di­nary threat, not just to the mil­i­tary, but to our eco­nom­ic struc­ture [and] our edu­ca­tion sys­tems,” he said. “The abil­i­ty of cyber experts to infil­trate the net­works we use and extract data or put mal­ware in place is sig­nif­i­cant, and the nation has to con­tin­ue to work that.”

Just as cyber threats affect the entire nation, con­fronting them requires a whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach, he said. Cit­ing “huge capa­bil­i­ty” with­in the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty domain, Ren­uart said the chal­lenge now is to ensure agen­cies work togeth­er to elim­i­nate gaps.

“We have to learn to inte­grate that in a way that looks across the spec­trum of diplo­mat­ic, mil­i­tary, eco­nom­ic issues for our nation,” he said.

Ren­uart praised the mem­bers of both NORAD and North­com and their demon­strat­ed com­mit­ment to the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty and defense of the Unit­ed States and Cana­da. “The mis­sion of home­land defense is the most impor­tant mis­sion we have for our nation,” he said.

Both com­mands have become increas­ing­ly inter­op­er­a­ble, inter­de­pen­dent and com­ple­men­tary as they car­ry out their unique but inter­re­lat­ed mis­sions, he said. Mean­while, they have focused on build­ing part­ner­ships with inter­a­gency part­ners, states and oth­er nations to ensure they are pre­pared to respond to short- or no-notice mis­sions.

As he pre­pares to leave his post next week, Ren­uart cit­ed aging sys­tems that sup­port the NORAD mis­sion as one nag­ging area of con­cern. While some radar sys­tems have been mod­ern­ized and some tem­po­rary fix­es are in place, he said, the issue needs to be addressed for the longer term.

“The answer isn’t just to fix radar sys­tems,” he said. “The answer is real­ly an inte­grat­ed sys­tem of sen­sors that allows us to look from space to air to the mar­itime, even to the land and our bor­der secu­ri­ty areas, in a seam­less fash­ion to cre­ate a com­mon secu­ri­ty pic­ture.”

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