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U.S. Northern Command actively enlisting partners.

The U.S. Northern Command--established in 2002 to prevent a repeat of 9/11--is seeking assistance from a wide range of organizations to help it protect the United States, its territories and interests, said Army Col. Stover James, the organization's director of interagency coordination.

Among its growing list of partners are other military organizations; federal, state, and local agencies; academia; and industry, he said.

The command has set up a joint interagency coordination group (JIACG), with representatives from 46 defense and non-defense agencies, James told National Defense. The group includes other military units, such as the U.S. Pacific, Southern and Joint Forces Commands, as well as the National Guard and Coast Guard.

Also in the mix are the State and Transportation Departments, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Army Corps of Engineers, Geological Survey and Sandia National Laboratories.

Working with civilian organizations was a new experience for James, whose primary experience has been as an artillery officer. "The only federal agencies I ever worked with before was the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Service," he said.

Every combatant command has a JIACG, but it plays a particularly important role at NORTHCOM, because so many civilian agencies are involved in homeland security, James said. The command's JIACG facilitates close and rapid coordination, integration and information sharing between civilian and military organizations, he said.

Every year, James said, JIACG helps coordinate two large-scale NORTHCOM exercises. Dubbed "Determined Promise" and "Unified Defense," these exercises simulate air, maritime and port threats; consequence-management operations; bio-terrorist attacks; weapons of mass destruction events; and natural disasters. Participants, thus far, include officials from more than 57 state and federal agencies and observers from Canada and Mexico.

NORTHCOM is the first combatant command to be assigned fulltime responsibility for homeland defense and military assistance to civilian authorities. It was stood up in October 2002, and became fully operational a year later, following an in-depth evaluation of the command's capability to meet its responsibilities.

Its specific mission is to conduct operations to deter, prevent and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories and interests within the command's assigned area of responsibility. Also, as directed by the president or secretary of defense, it provides military assistance to civil authorities, including consequence-management operations.

NORTHCOM's area of operations includes all air, land and sea approaches to the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles. It also includes the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The defense of Hawaii and U.S. territories and possessions in the Pacific Ocean remain the responsibility of the U.S. Pacific Command.

NORTHCOM plans, organizes, and executes homeland defense and civil support missions, but has few permanently assigned forces, James explained. Its headquarters--at Peterson Air Force Base, in Colorado Springs, Colo.--has about 500 civilians and military personnel from all service branches.

Housed in a new, 158,000 square-foot building originally intended for the U.S. Space Command, which also is based at Peterson, NORTHCOM also includes the following:

* The Cold War-era North American Aerospace Command--another Peterson tenant--is a bi-national unit responsible for guarding the skies of Canada, Alaska and the continental U.S.

* Joint Force Headquarters, Homeland Security, based in Norfolk, Va., coordinates the land and maritime defense of the continental U.S., as well as the military assistance provided to civilian organizations. It is in the process of being reorganized as a Standing Joint Force Headquarters North, focusing on near-term trouble spots.

* Joint Task Force, Civil Support, at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., provides command and control for U.S. military forces deployed to assist the lead federal agency responding to an incident involving a weapon of mass destruction within the United States.

* Joint Task Force, Consequence Management Fast, at Fort Gillem, Ga., and Joint Task Force, Consequent Management West, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, deploy to assist at the scene of such an incident.

* Joint Task Force 6, based at Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, Texas, supports counter-drug operations by federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies throughout the continental United States. It is being transformed into Joint Interagency Task Force North to engage all transnational threats--including terrorists--not just drug smugglers.

* Joint Force Headquarters, National Capital Region, located at Fort Leslie J. McNair in Washington, D.C., is the newest of these units. It was stood up in October 2003 to coordinate homeland defense missions in the capital area.

JFHQNCR got off to a quick start, James said. In January 2004, it provided command and control of all military support to the State of the Union Address, including security, emergency medical, chemical and biological response.

In February, it deployed 145 troops from the Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force to assist U.S. Capitol Police in dealing with suspected ricin contamination in the Senate office complex.

The NORAD unit responsible for defending the airspace of the continental United States is the First Air Force, headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City, Fla. It consists of 10 Air National Guard fighter wings and three air defense sectors, and its primary weapons systems are the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Flying Falcon.

"Since the 9/11 attacks, NORAD has flown more 34,000 sorties and scrambled or diverted fighters more than 1,700 times, in response to potential threats all without a single mishap," said Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, who commands both NORTHCOM and NORAD.

NORTHCOM also has participated in other operations during the past year, Eberhart told a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

In August, at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center--a cooperative effort involving seven federal agencies and the National Association of State Foresters--the command deployed to fight forest fires in Montana. The task force included an Army battalion of more than 500 firefighters, a medical evacuation helicopter and a defense coordination team at the center's headquarters at Boise, Idaho.

In September, the U.S. Secret Service and State Department requested help beefing up security for the 58th United Nations General Assembly in New York City. NORTHCOM provided more than 200 personnel, including a command and control element and explosive ordnance specialists.

Also in September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency sought assistance in dealing with Hurricane Isabel, which plowed through North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland with winds in excess of 100 miles an hour. NORTHCOM deployed a task force from the First Army at Forest Park, Ga., and provided defense coordinating officers to the three states. Fort Bragg, N.C.; Pope Air Force Base, N.C., Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and the Defense Supply Center Columbus, Ohio, were put to use as mobilization, flight operations and emergency management storage centers.

In October, the command responded to another plea to assist with forest fires in Southern California. NORTHCOM deployed eight C-130 aircraft equipped with modular airborne fire fighting systems, six Marine Corps helicopters, a liaison officer and a defense coordinating Team.

NORTHCOM, meanwhile, is working to improve its relationship with the National Guard Bureau, which coordinates operations of the 466,000 members of the Army and Air National Guard. One proposal is to establish an information-sharing network linking the Guard and other military commands.

The idea is to "capitalize on existing NGB computer connectivity throughout the 54 states and territories," Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the bureau, told a congressional hearing. "If implemented, such a structure could be an important link between [NORTHCOM, PACOM], the office of the assistant secretary of defense, and other federal and state stake holders."

In his congressional testimony, Air National Guard Maj. Gen. John A. Love, an aide to Eberhart, listed these additional Guard initiatives to enhance NORTHCOM's ability to respond to national security threats:

* Joint state headquarters. In 2003, the Guard consolidated three headquarters units in each state and territory--one for each state or territory's overall organization, another for its Army Guard unit and a third for its Air Guard--into one. This, Love said, provides "well-placed command and control capabilities for situational awareness and immediate response throughout the United States."

* Emergency response. The Guard is organizing, equipping and training existing units to create regional response forces, similar to the Marines' CBIRF, to perform mass decontamination and rescue functions after major disasters, filling the gap between first responders and the arrival of more robust Defense Department forces.

* Communications Support. The Guard is evaluating the feasibility of a Joint Continental United States Communications Support Enterprise. This system, using existing communications capabilities, would provide NORTHCOM with access to near real-time information on state and local events, and would enhance the command's ability to identify potential requirements.

* Reaction Forces. The Guard plans to use its existing units to meet immediate requirements for military forces within each state. If required, it will provide quick and rapid reaction forces to NORTHCOM, Love said. The Pentagon has established several such teams, consisting of highly trained active-duty Army and Marine troopers who are poised to respond on very short notice.

Active-duty personnel, however, are in short supply because of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, and Guard forces "would alleviate part of the strain on the active-duty components," Love said.

"We envision these units would act under Title 32 (state control) while on alert and have 'hip-pocket orders' to convert to Title 10 status (federal control), if required," Love said.

NORTHCOM supports the Department of Homeland Security in protecting the nation's shoreline. The Coast Guard--now part of DHS--has primary responsibility for U.S. maritime security.

The command "is tasked with identifying and intercepting maritime threats as far from our shores as practical," Eberhart said. "In cooperation with interagency partners, we conduct maritime interception operations to degrade and disrupt terrorist acts, collect intelligence and prevent attacks against the United States and its allies."

Several proposals have been made to expand NORTHCOM's maritime operations. Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, has suggested creation of a "maritime NORAD," consolidating responsibility for coastal defense within a single command. The Defense Science Board has proposed expanding NORAD, as a North American Defense Command, and assigning it to protect both the nation's skies and its coasts (related story p. 18)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, meanwhile, has ordered a study that will explore whether NORTHCOM should be merged with SOUTHCOM, a move that would cream an Americas command. Headquartered in Miami, SOUTHCOM is responsible for all U.S. military activities in Latin America and the Caribbean south of Mexico and Cuba, encompassing 32 countries and about 14.5 million square miles of territory.

Proponents point out that SOUTHCOM already has moved most of its facilities from Panama to U.S. soil. In addition, it is noted, the command's primary concerns currently are illegal immigration and cocaine smuggling, which are issues for NORTHCOM, as well. The study, part of a routine review of the Unified Command Plan review, is due this month.

NORTHCOM's growth, thus Far, has meant new opportunities for the business and academic communities. In 2003, Swinerton Builders, of Arvada, Colo., won a $22-million contract for expanding the command's headquarters building to include a battle management center and force-protection improvements.

Thales-Raytheon Systems, of Fullerton, Calif., landed a $22.3 million award to provide NORAD and PACOM with an interoperable, open-architecture air-defense command-and-control platform to support NORAD's homeland-defense mission.

NORTHCOM and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs signed a memorandum of understanding linking the command and the university's network information and space security center.

It is important for NORTHCOM to build relationships with the civilian community, Eberhart told a 2003 homeland defense symposium co-hosted by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association.

"We can't be exchanging business cards at the scene of the incident," he said. "We need to know each other and know what each is capable of doing."
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Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:1984
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