Northern Command Hitting Full Stride, Inge Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2004 While U.S. Northern Command passed the October 2003 gate for full operational capability, "we must continue to grow and mature," said the command's deputy commander here Oct. 28.
Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge told attendees at the Fletcher Conference there is always something military officials can do to improve the defense of the homeland, so the command may continuously reach for that full operational capability.
NORTHCOM is responsible for the homeland defense of the United States. It is a warfighting command formed as a result of the terrorist-attack experiences of Sept. 11, 2001. The command has a dual mission: to defend the homeland and to provide civil support to civilian authorities in case of consequence management.
Inge, who arrived at the command three months ago, said the command is further along than he thought. He said members of the command link with officials in other government agencies the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, state and local officials and so on to ensure that communications among the entities are good and that necessary intelligence gets where it needs to go.
Inge said that while not totally satisfied with intelligence sharing, "I worry now more about what we don't know than what we know and someone doesn't share with us."
He praised this effort and said "it's too late to be exchanging business cards when you are at the scene of a disaster."
The command has been involved in alleviating many natural disasters, and that provides training and expertise to members of NORTHCOM as they move forward. This has helped also to exercise the cell at NORTHCOM that contains representatives from 50 different agencies.
The general said the joint task forces in the command are maturing and developing the necessary ties to accomplish their missions.
For example, Joint Task Force-Civil Support, based in Norfolk, Va., continues to grow its WMD detection capabilities and forge ties with states and first responders.
Also, the Joint Task Force North formerly known as the Joint Task Force 6 "now not only deals with narcotics trafficking, but transnational threats." The organization is adapting to the additional missions, Inge said.
Co-located with U.S. Northern Command is the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The command a joint Canadian-U.S. effort is not a part of Northern Command, "but is a partner," Inge said. The command has flown more than 38,000 sorties in protection of the homeland since Sept. 11, he said.
NORTHCOM works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard in protecting ports and the sea lines of communication. The command is also encouraging industry to develop new technologies to detect weapons of mass destruction and to improve biometric recognition.
Inge said the relationship with the Army and Air National Guard is excellent, and the command is working closely with state and territory adjutants general to make the system work even better.