Mattis Presides at Change of Command for NORAD, Northcom


Defense Secretary James N. Mattis presided at the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, today.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis provides remarks from behind a podium.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis provides remarks during the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., May 24, 2018. Northcom photo
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis provides remarks from behind a podium.
Secretary Remarks
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis provides remarks during the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., May 24, 2018. Northcom photo

Mattis thanked the families of outgoing NORAD and Northcom commander, Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, and the incoming chief, Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy.

O’Shaughnessy previously served as commander of Pacific Air Forces, air component commander for U.S. Pacific Command, and as executive director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

U.S.-Canada Security Partnership

NORAD was established 60 years ago as a joint and binational command – co-managed by the United States and Canada -- that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America.

“Across North America today, our militaries work in respectful concert,” Mattis said of the security relationship between the U.S. and Canada, “using dialogue in our joint search for solutions to the transnational problems that we must face together, recognizing that the security of our region, and stopping threats from affecting the development of our nations, of our democracies can only be accomplished by harmony and teamwork.”

Mattis lauded Robinson’s leadership in helping to safeguard North America, noting she’d “maintained 24/7 readiness in response to the ballistic missile threat from North Korea.” .

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“How many times did I hear your steady, clipped voice on the net, giving clear updates of missiles in flight and ensuring our team was ready for anything with only minutes for decision? And you stood the watch,” Mattis said to Robinson.

Hurricane Relief

During Robinson’s command of Northcom, she battled the elements of Mother Nature while “calmly manning the helm as three Category 4 hurricanes bore down upon our shores in rapid succession,” Mattis said.

“These storms spanned a range of 2,200 miles, impacting 30 million people from Texas to the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the secretary added.

Northcom’s support to civil authorities during those events showcased the command as having conducted the largest, most complex domestic deployment of the U.S. military in modern history, Mattis said.

“Under your leadership, Northcom deployed more personnel, flew more sorties, engaged more ships and delivered more relief supplies than any previous domestic response, including Hurricane Katrina,” he told Robinson.

Mattis told O'Shaughnessy the Defense Department has called him back from across an ocean to command once again, making him responsible for defending North America against many significant threats.

“I charge you with increasing our warfighting lethality and enhancing military readiness across both commands,” the secretary said.

Continuing to Evolve

“In a world awash in change, the threats to our homelands continue to evolve and so shall we,” Mattis said. “With Canada, we will jointly continue to modernize NORAD, ensure the greatest example of our U.S.-Canadian alliance, and [NORAD] can always accomplish its assigned mission at the speed of relevance.”

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The secretary said the threats North America faces today are more sophisticated and less predictable than those NORAD faced at its birth.

As your team deters adversaries and defends us from these threats in the days to come, General O'Shaughnessy, complexity will be your constant companion,” Mattis said. “You must embrace it and master it. Our nation has full confidence and is counting on you, and you have my full confidence, general, in your abilities. Now, you have the watch.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)