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Northcom Commander Calls for 21st Century Tools to Defeat Current Threats

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The U.S. Northern Command is responsible for defending the homeland and is morphing to develop 21st century tools to defend against 21st century threats.

"Our adversaries have watched, learned and invested to offset our strengths while exploiting our weaknesses," Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy told the House Armed Services Committee today. "They have demonstrated patterns of behavior that indicate their capability, capacity and intent to hold our homeland at risk below the nuclear threshold."

A rocket fired from a military vehicle.
Arctic Fire
Marines fire an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System at Fort Greely, Alaska, March 3, 2020, during Arctic Edge. The exercise focuses on training, tactics and procedures for operating in an Arctic environment.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Diana Cossaboom
VIRIN: 200303-F-OG534-0001C

The security environment is changing. "The Arctic is no longer a fortress wall, and the oceans are no longer protective moats," the general said. "They are now avenues of approach to the homeland, which highlights the increase in adversary presence in the Arctic." 

We cannot defend the nation against 21st century threats with 20th century technology." 
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander, U.S. Northern Command

The country needs a capable, persistent defense that can deter adversaries, protect critical infrastructure, enable power projection forward and prevent homeland vulnerabilities, he said. "To deter, detect and defeat threats arrayed against the homeland today, Northcom and NORAD are transforming our commands and our way of thinking," the general told the House committee. "We cannot defend the nation against 21st century threats with 20th century technology." 

O'Shaughnessy called for a layered defense infused with the latest technology. The command will continue to partner with the U.S. defense and commercial industries a "to transform rapidly evolving scientific information into leading-edge digital age technology," he said. 

The command is building a SHIELD — the Strategic Home and Integrated Ecosystem for Layered Defense — to defend the homeland.

"Our layered defense needs to establish awareness in all domains; from below the oceans to the highest levels of space, including the unseen cyber domain, which are all at risk," he said. 

U.S. F-22 escorts Russian aircraft.
Flight Reconnaissance
The North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s and CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on March 10, 2020.
Photo By: Courtesy photo, North American Aerospace Defense Command
VIRIN: 200310-F-ZZ999-652C

The general called for a layered sensing grid in all domains which can detect and track threats from their points of origin. "In other words, it requires the ability to identify and eliminate the archers before the arrows are released," O'Shaughnessy said. "We need an adaptive architecture for joint all-domain command and control, capable of using a myriad of sensors across the globe into accurate decision quality threat information at the speed of relevance for effective command and control."

Finally, the command needs the ability to deploy "defeat mechanisms capable of neutralizing advanced weapon systems in order to defend our great homeland," he said. "We have put great effort into these areas such as Ballistic Missile Defense and the need also exists to aggressively defeat additional threats to include the ever growing cyber threat and the cruise missile threat."

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