By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 7, 2008 - An integrated command center scheduled to become operational in May will improve the global situational awareness critical to U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command in protecting the homeland, the commands' top officer said yesterday. The new center, in the works since 2006, will help both commands confront threats posed by unpredictable adversaries who are increasingly networked and dynamic, Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Renuart commands both NORTHCOM, which protects the United States from enemy attacks and natural disasters, and NORAD, a U.S.-Canadian command that focuses on airborne threats to North America. The two commands work as partners in what Renuart called a "no-fail mission" of protecting the homeland.
"Our missions require a culture of anticipation," Renuart told the senators. He called the ability to anticipate events that may require a military response an essential element of success for both commands.
The new command center will go a long way in promoting global situational awareness and interconnectivity with key homeland defense and civil support partners, Renuart said.
"The NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center will provide a more efficient and effective means of executing homeland defense against threats coming from all domains," he stated in his prepared testimony.
The center will provide better coordination between defense activities and other stakeholders, especially Canada Command, to support defense activities, he said. It also will enhance the military commands' ability to provide defense support of civilian authorities.
As work continues in bringing the new center on line, NORTHCOM and NORAD continue bolstering their abilities to provide homeland defense for the United States and Canada, Renuart said. Both commands "are steadfastly committed to our mission of defending our homelands, and we know we cannot fail," he said.
Renuart described some of the top-priority efforts under way:
-- Building more capability to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives incidents, whether a deliberate terrorist attack or an accident;
-- Leading Defense Department preparations for a potential pandemic influenza, working to synchronize military efforts globally to minimize contamination and prevent further spread of the pandemic;
-- Strengthening preparations for and responses to natural disasters ranging from hurricanes to floods to wildfires in the United States;
-- Boosting U.S. homeland defense through continual improvements in the commands' operational missile defense program and maritime and air defense activities;
-- Strengthening partnerships at the international, interagency, state and local levels to improve homeland defense and civil-support capabilities; and
-- Improving situational awareness capabilities essential to predicting threats from space as well as the maritime domain.
"Through continued emphasis on anticipating and preparing for all-hazards response with our mission partners, strengthening relationships with our mission partners, improving our homeland defense and civil support capabilities and anticipating future impacts to our continent security, we are on the right path for a secure nation," Renuart said. "With Congress' sustained support, USNORTHCOM and NORAD will continue to protect and defend our fellow citizens and the freedoms they enjoy."