With Ongoing Terror Fight Overseas, NORTHCOM Focuses on Homeland
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2006 As the U.S. military takes the fight against terrorism overseas, it’s also working double-time stateside to prevent another Sept. 11-type attack on the homeland, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command said today.
The goal of the U.S. national security strategy is to defend the country “as far from our shores as possible and in as timely a manner as possible,” Navy Adm. Timothy Keating said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
“That means an away game. We don’t want it to get in our airspace, on our land or close to our shoreline in the maritime domain,” he said. “So we are working very hard with the other regional combatant commanders so as to roll up the bad guys, capture or kill them and interrupt their attacks.”
That’s done largely through intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing “so it doesn’t come to a high-end kinetic attack,” Keating said.
He emphasized that the United States is prepared to respond militarily, if necessary, but strives to prevent those situations from arising. “Our efforts are concentrated in the early stages on detecting and deterring the attack before it becomes a kinetic option,” he said.
NORAD’s mission of airspace warning and control hasn’t changed since the Sept. 11 attacks, Keating said. What has changed, and now includes NORTHCOM, is the way the command achieves that goal.
“We don’t look just outside our airspace,” he said. “We look outside and inside our airspace now.”
In carrying out that mandate, NORTHCOM maintains instantaneous worldwide communications with combatant commands and almost 60 interagency partners and non-governmental agencies represented in its headquarters, he said.
Together, they ensure a near-immediate capability to respond to threats on the homeland, Keating said.
Alert bases throughout the United States and Canada can scramble jet fighters within 10 minutes. For example, after last month’s incident in which a plane piloted by New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle ran into a New York City apartment building, NORTHCOM had jet fighters in the air within 10 minutes over New York, Boston, Washington and several other U.S. cities, Keating said.
Meanwhile, NORTHCOM is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure security within the maritime domain, he said.
Keating emphasized the importance of smooth, uninterrupted commercial shipping operations and the supporting role DoD plays to DHS in providing safe, secure ports and cargo movement. “We are working very hard and taking advantage of developing technologies,” he said. “We are in very good shape in the maritime domain.”
NORTHCOM also supports DHS in its border-security mission, providing surveillance assets and other support, he said.
By focusing its efforts on air, sea and land, Keating said NORTHCOM has helped ensure that that the United States hasn’t suffered another terrorist attack since Sept. 11. “That is our job at NORAD and NORTHCOM: to do our level best (to ensure) that it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “Our job—and it is a sacred mission for us in the United States military—is to defend our homeland.”
Keating credits vigilance and careful attention with foiling attempts by those who want to harm the United States.
“All of us have to be aware that there are folks out there, hiding in the shadows, still,” he said. “I don’t think they are in the United States, but they are most assuredly our there. They mean us arm. They are murderous villains (who) will kill innocent men, women and children without a second thought.”
He encourages Americans, in and out of uniform, to recognize that “it’s a different world we live in” and to be alert and attentive, but not “on edge.”
“I wouldn’t want our folks to be that way, because we are on watch,” he said. “And we are going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen on our watch.”