Planning Group Weighs Value of 'Maritime NORAD'
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2004 A U.S.-Canadian planning group is studying whether the two countries should adopt a maritime equivalent of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the binational command that has watched the skies for aerospace threats since 1958.
The Canada-United States Bi-National Planning Group, based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is evaluating maritime as well as land-based threats against the United States and Canada, according to Canadian Army Capt. Daryl Morrell, a spokesman for the group.
Morrell said the group, established in December 2002, is expected to soon release a report recommending how the two countries' militaries can work together more effectively to counter these threats. In many cases, he said, the recommendations will involve formalizing cooperation already taking place on an informal basis.
Both the U.S. and Canadian leadership would need to approve the group's recommendations before they are put into effect, Morrell said.
The binational planning group was formed in December 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States. Morrell said the group is independent of both NORAD and U.S. Northern Command and comes under the command of Canadian Forces Lt. Gen. Rick Findley and his American deputy, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge.
The concept of a "maritime NORAD" has a large group of endorsers, who envision an automated, oceanwide, vessel-monitoring surveillance network.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, who acts as the planning group's liaison with the U.S. government, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last March that he's "a big proponent."
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark shares Eberhart's enthusiasm. "What we need in the maritime domain is similar to what we have in the air-defense domain," Clark said during a speech last year in Cambridge, Mass. "Fundamentally, we need a maritime NORAD."
That October, Clark repeated this call at the 16th International Seapower Symposium at the Naval War College. There, Clark called for an international maritime coalition to create "a global force, operating as one to defeat terrorism wherever it may fester."
"I'm looking for a maritime NORAD so we share, globally, information and intelligence, and we optimize our resources," he told the participants, representatives from 75 countries, who included about 60 navy and coast guard chiefs.
The concept has supporters in Canada, too. The September issue of Canadian American Strategic Review calls a maritime NORAD "a logical next step" in increasing intelligence and surveillance data sharing between the two countries' maritime-security forces.
Author Philippe Lagasse called the concept "a win-win opportunity," noting that the United States' providing Canada with access to U.S. satellite and radar data increase continental maritime security while saving Canada the cost of building its own comparable capabilities.
The United States has made big strides in shoring up its defenses against air and land attacks. But defense leaders have long recognized America's continued vulnerability to seaborne attacks.
Eberhart told reporters touring the Northern Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., in September that he believes it's "just a matter of time until the terrorists try to use a seaborne attack, a maritime attack against us."
He ticked off examples of how terrorists might launch such an attack: by sailing into a harbor with high explosives or weapons of mass destruction or by delivering them with an unmanned aerial vehicle or cruise missile from a distance, among them.
"I believe terrorists are looking at that avenue of attack," Eberhart said. "Our maritime domain awareness is not as secure as our monitoring of our airspace."
Eberhart noted that the United States has made strides in beefing up its maritime defenses since Sept. 11, 2001, but still has "a long way to go."