By Donna Miles
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."