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Emerging Threats are Shaping Future of Homeland Defense

Climate change, cyber vulnerabilities and malign state and non-state actors abroad are posing threats that challenge U.S. homeland defense, Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command said today.

Speaking at a forum on the future of homeland defense, VanHerck said the United States' ability to demonstrate resilience in the face of these challenges to the homeland is key to Defense Department's ability to deter threats and maintain stability abroad.

A man in military uniform is seated at the head of a table surrounded by men and women in uniform and civilian attire.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure
Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, speaks with members from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as well as industry leaders at the NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters on Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., Aug. 22, 2023.
Photo By: Joshua Armstrong, DOD
VIRIN: 230822-F-NH566-1003

The changing climate, he said, ranks among his top concerns as an increase in extreme weather events and wildfires and the opening sea lanes in the Arctic tax U.S. resources and strain readiness.

"Really what we're seeing is the environment, especially in the Arctic, creating opportunities and vulnerabilities for our competitors to take advantage of," VanHerck said as he kicked off a panel discussion during the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington.

In addition to a changing climate, VanHerck highlighted the United States' growing exposure to cyberattacks.

"I would tell you that we're under attack every day in the cyber domain and the information space," he said.

An airman directs community members who are authorized to return to their residences.
Giving Directions
Hawaii Air National Guard Senior Airman Brock K. Aganos facilitates access to select community members authorized to return to their residences in the initial stage of reentry operations in Lahaina, Maui, Sept. 25, 2023. In support of Maui County authorities, JTF 5-0, composed of the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, Army Active Duty and Reserve and Navy, is dedicated to the safety and recovery of affected Maui residents, coordinating with local first responders and adhering strictly to local, state and federal guidelines and laws.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster, Army National Guard
VIRIN: 230925-Z-YU201-1099

VanHerck also underscored the impact that global instability posed by Russia and China is having on U.S. homeland defense.

"The bottom line is the [People's Republic of China] is the pacing challenge and a long-term existential threat," he said, while also highlighting the significant challenges posed by Russia.

"If you look back since February of '22, when Russia invaded Ukraine illegally, immorally and unethically, they've been more active around the globe, specifically focused on our homeland in the air domain [and] undersea in the maritime domain on a routine basis," he said. "I expect to see that continue as we continue moving forward and I expect to see that more with the PRC."

VanHerck also highlighted the threats posed by North Korea, Iran and transnational criminal organizations — all of whom pose a threat to the U.S. homeland.

Service members in uniform stand near a military cargo plane.
Cargo Assistance
Airmen assigned to the 734th Air Mobility Squadron assist with cargo of Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 26, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Divine Cox
VIRIN: 230527-F-ZP572-1070C

He said the current threat landscape represents the most challenging he has witnessed in more than three decades of service.

Meeting the challenge, VanHerck said, will require innovation and integration across DOD and the interagency.

"We're talking about the future of homeland defense," he said. "I don't think the future looks anything like the past."

"I think the future of homeland defense is more autonomous," he said. "It's more unmanned. It's non-kinetic effects that can generate effects that can impact the precision navigation and timing of potential cruise missiles or other threats to our homeland. But it doesn't look like it does today."

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