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Rumsfeld: NORTHCOM's Progress 'Truly Impressive'

By Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2006 – The progress U.S. Northern Command has made since its inception Oct. 1, 2002, to defend the homeland from natural or manmade disasters is "truly impressive," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here yesterday.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses local, regional and national media during his May 31 visit to U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad McNeeley, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rumsfeld visited NORTHCOM the day before the official start of hurricane season for an update on how the command is postured to support civil authorities in a disaster.

"The kinds of capabilities the Department of Defense is able to bring to problems are unique and distinctive, and we are part of a complicated network of responders," Rumsfeld said. He noted that DoD acts only in a support role assisting first responders -- state and local governments, and if necessary, the Department of Homeland Security -- once they assume lead responsibility.

The secretary was briefed on the NORTHCOM plans in place to respond to a natural or manmade disaster and the command's coordination efforts with other federal, state and local agencies.

He also received an update on some of the plans NORTHCOM is revising following its recent Ardent Sentry '06 exercise to ensure the command is ready when the nation calls, regardless of the circumstances.

In a continued effort to test NORTHCOM readiness, command officials said, Ardent Sentry '06 required simultaneously battling terrorist attacks on the ground, providing military assistance to civil authorities in the case of the human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 "bird flu" virus, and responding to a Category 3 hurricane striking the already devastated southeastern United States.

Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, NORTHCOM commander, praised President Bush and Rumsfeld on their vision of creating the command following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"America is safer today because of their vision, which led to the creation of United States Northern Command - a fully functional regional combatant command responsible for the defense of our nation," Keating said.

As for the upcoming hurricane season, the admiral stressed that NORTHCOM is prepared.

"We are ready to respond when (Rumsfeld) or the president direct us to participate in the efforts to save lives, reduce human suffering and help restore critical infrastructure," Keating said.

Rumsfeld said his trip to NORTHCOM capped off a "terrific day." The secretary began his day as keynote speaker for graduation ceremonies at the nearby U.S. Air Force Academy. He shook hands with the nearly 900 newly commissioned officers, whom he said were "stepping up and volunteering to serve our nation and help defend freedom."

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher is assigned to U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs.)

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, USN

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