Guard Vital to Northcom, Commander Says
By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Mar. 12, 2010 The National Guard is critical to U.S. Northern Command’s mission, Northcom’s commander told a congressional committee yesterday.
“National Guard and Reserve forces are critical to [Northcom’s] ability to carry out our assigned homeland defense and civil support missions,” Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. said in his 2010 posture statement presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He also commands North American Aerospace Defense Command.
“We recognize the National Guard as a fundamental partner in the Total Force and essential to the security and defense of our nation,” Renuart said. “The Air National Guard provides the bulk of NORAD’s operational force for air sovereignty alert missions and is developing additional capabilities in support of domestic requirements.
The Army National Guard, Renuart noted, provides “all of the manning at our ground-based interceptor sites in support of missile defense requirements.
Additionally, he said, the Army National Guard provides the bulk of personnel for ground-based defense capabilities protecting the national capital region.
Stood up in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Northcom is – in Renuart’s words – “inextricably linked” with NORAD at their shared Colorado Springs, Colo., headquarters.
Northcom is responsible for homeland defense, sustaining continuous situational awareness and readiness to protect the homeland against a range of symmetric and asymmetric threats in all domains. Its area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, French territory off the Canadian coast and three British overseas territories.
“We are focused on deterring, preventing and defeating attacks against the United States,” Renuart said. “We also stand ready to support primary agencies … in responding quickly to natural or manmade disasters.”
Northcom’s missions are intertwined with National Guard missions. The command has personnel from every branch of the armed forces and many civilian agencies assigned to Colorado Springs. The command has the largest concentration of Title 10 National Guard officers in a joint organization outside the National Guard Bureau, and its most recent deputy commander has been Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, who was the chief of the National Guard Bureau until late 2007.
“Our ongoing partnerships with the National Guard have increased our ability to coordinate and integrate joint and interagency operations,” Renuart said. “I am pleased to report our collaboration … has never been better, and the experience gained by Guard members serving throughout [Northcom] ensures we have a strong foundation for enhancing this relationship.”
Among missions with heavy Guard involvement is Operation Noble Eagle, a post-9/11 initiative to protect U.S. and Canadian airspace that has seen Air National Guard members and reservists fly more than 80 percent of its more than 55,000 missions.
Other examples include National Guard contributions to the command’s chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives consequence-management response forces; joint exercises; Guard contributions to the joint Haiti response; and the Guard’s role in contributing to the team effort to improve the interoperability of communications between the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and numerous state and local partner agencies.
Other Northcom missions also have a National Guard nexus, including cyber security, H1N1 flu operations and inland search and rescue.
In November, Northcom used the National Guard’s Muscatatuck facility in Indiana for a field training exercise that simulated an improvised nuclear device detonation. In January, the command teamed with the National Guard Bureau for a hurricane planning workshop in Tampa, Fla., where hundreds of representatives from 30 states joined senior homeland security and Federal Emergency Management Agency leaders to plan emergency preparedness.
“Next year, we plan to expand the scope of the planning conference to include all hazards,” Renuart reported to Congress.
The hurricane workshop was the latest in a series of collaborative efforts. Renuart has met individually with 37 of the adjutants general and addressed all commanding general collectively.
“Working with our mission partners is essential to ensuring the American people receive assistance during times of need,” Renuart said. “Our nation’s governors take very seriously their role as commanders in chief of their states, and we respect that authority. Our job is to support our nation’s governors in responding to emergency situations and threats to their states.”
(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)