Commander: Northern Command Vigilant, Prepared
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
TACOMA, Wash., March 11, 2006 The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks weren't the first attacks the U.S. has experienced, but officials at U.S. Northern Command are resolutely committed to making sure they are the last, the combatant commander said here yesterday.
"That's what we go to work to do: to deter, prevent and defeat attacks on our citizens and our infrastructure," Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, chief of Northern Command, said at the Pacific Northwest National Security Forum.
The war on terror will be a long struggle against a changing, sophisticated, extremist enemy that has perverted Islam to meet its own violent goals, Keating said. To win this war, the U.S. has to understand the way terrorists fight and develop irregular warfare capabilities to counter them, he said.
The military has already begun to adapt and develop new strategies, Keating said. Every branch of service is transforming to become more relevant to the war on terror and to work together more efficiently, he said. "We are revolutionizing the way we fight, the way we configure, the way we train, and equip and recruit, even while we are engaged in a significant battle in the global war on terror," he said.
While the military transforms, Northern Command continues its work to combat terrorism in the U.S. and keep its citizens safe, Keating said. Northern Command has 12 deliberate plans to deal with a variety of situations, from emergency preparedness for the national capital region to nuclear weapons response to noncombatant evacuation, he said.
Northern Command incorporates private, local, state, tribal, federal and international participants in its exercises, Keating said, because they often have valuable input and ideas about dealing with different situations. "We are getting out of the straight-stick military and getting into these other agencies who can provide significant capabilities to us in time of crisis," he said.
In its headquarters, Northern Command has 60 interagency partners that work with the command to ensure homeland security, Keating said. Also, the command's education consortium has more than 175 members from intellectual institutions around the country and overseas, he said. "We want to capitalize on the intellectual prowess resident in 175 institutions of higher learning," he said. "There are good and great ideas out there across the spectrum of our educational institutions."
Northern Command also works closely with Canada and Mexico to ensure security not only at the borders, but across the entire continent, Keating said. "They get it in Canada; they get it in Mexico. ... They're willing to commit a significant portion of their gross domestic product to help maintain their sovereign security and to help all of us, as a coalition, fight and win this long asymmetric war," he said.
U.S. citizens can do a lot to help Northern Command, whether it's by supporting the troops who dedicate their time to the mission of homeland security or by staying vigilant and reporting anything out of the ordinary to the proper authorities, Keating said. If Northern Command does its job, the public shouldn't hear about it in the media, he said, but it is important for the American people to know that dedicated people are there, working to ensure their safety.
"We want you to understand how seriously we take our mission," he said. "We want you to be confident that there are good, hard-working young men and women who are dedicated to their mission. We want you to go home and feel confident that we're dedicated to our job."