US Northern Command

by JASON | 6:01 PM in |

A lot has gone on in the last couple of weeks around NORAD and USNORTHCOM. We have been tracking the progress of H1N1 very closely, and stand ready to support the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security should they request military support in response to an outbreak.

Our planners have been working closely with our interagency partners to make sure that, should our assistance be requested by the Department of Homeland Security and approved by the Secretary of Defense, we will be ready to provide whatever services we can while maintaining the health of our forces who stand ready to defend this nation.

On April 17, 2002 Defense officials announced the establishment of U.S. Northern Command as part of the changes in the Unified Command Plan. At a Pentagon press briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the plan the most sweeping set of changes since the unified command system was set up in 1946.

U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) stood up Oct. 1, 2002, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The NORTHCOM commander is responsible for homeland defense and also serve as head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a U.S.-Canada command. The current NORAD commander also is the commander of U.S. Space Command, also at Peterson. NORTHCOM's area of operations includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, parts of the Caribbean and the contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The commander is responsible for land, aerospace and sea defenses of the United States. He will command U.S. forces that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for natural disasters. NORTHCOM takes the homeland defense role from the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). JFCOM's Joint Task Force-Civil Support and related activities report to NORTHCOM. The NORTHCOM headquarters has established liaisons with the homeland security directors of each state, and has working ties with related federal and state agencies.

USNORTHCOM consolidates under a single unified command existing missions that were previously executed by other DoD organizations. This provides unity of command, which is critical to mission accomplishment.

USNORTHCOM plans, organizes and executes homeland defense and civil support missions, but has few permanently assigned forces. The command is assigned forces whenever necessary to execute missions, as ordered by the president and secretary of defense.

The commander of USNORTHCOM also commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a bi-national command responsible for aerospace warning and aerospace control for Canada, Alaska and the continental United States.

The new command was given responsibility for the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, portions of the Caribbean and the contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans up to 500 miles off the North American coastline. NorthCom's mandate is to "provide a necessary focus for [continental] aerospace, land and sea defenses, and critical support for [the] nation's civil authorities in times of national need."

Rumsfeld boasted that the introduction of NorthCom – with all of North America as its geographic command – "is part of the greatest transformation of the Unified Command Plan since its inception in 1947."

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — U.S. Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, and Canadian Air Force Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, commander of Canada Command, have signed a Civil Assistance Plan that allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.

“This document is a unique, bilateral military plan to align our respective national military plans to respond quickly to the other nation's requests for military support of civil authorities,” Renuart said. “Unity of effort during bilateral support for civil support operations such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and effects of a terrorist attack, in order to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate damage to property, is of the highest importance, and we need to be able to have forces that are flexible and adaptive to support rapid decision-making in a collaborative environment.”

“The signing of this plan is an important symbol of the already strong working relationship between Canada Command and U.S. Northern Command,” Dumais said. “Our commands were created by our respective governments to respond to the defense and security challenges of the twenty-first century, and we both realize that these and other challenges are best met through cooperation between friends.”

The plan recognizes the role of each nation's lead federal agency for emergency preparedness, which in the United States is the Department of Homeland Security and in Canada is Public Safety Canada. The plan facilitates the military-to-military support of civil authorities once government authorities have agreed on an appropriate response.

U.S. Northern Command was established on Oct. 1, 2002, to anticipate and conduct homeland defense and civil support operations within the assigned area of responsibility to defend, protect, and secure the United States and its interests.

Similarly, Canada Command was established on Feb. 1, 2006, to focus on domestic operations and to offer a single point of contact for all domestic and continental defense and security partners.

The two domestic commands established strong bilateral ties well before the signing of the Civil Assistance Plan. The two commanders and their staffs meet regularly, collaborate on contingency planning and participate in related annual exercises.

Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other’s borders during an emergency, but some are questioning why the Harper government has kept silent on the deal.

Neither the Canadian government nor the Canadian Forces announced the new agreement, which was signed Feb. 14 in Texas.

The U.S. military’s Northern Command, however, publicized the agreement with a statement outlining how its top officer, Gen. Gene Renuart, and Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, head of Canada Command, signed the plan, which allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.

The new agreement has been greeted with suspicion by the left wing in Canada and the right wing in the U.S.

The left-leaning Council of Canadians, which is campaigning against what it calls the increasing integration of the U.S. and Canadian militaries, is raising concerns about the deal.

“It’s kind of a trend when it comes to issues of Canada-U.S. relations and contentious issues like military integration. We see that this government is reluctant to disclose information to Canadians that is readily available on American and Mexican websites,” said Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians.

Trew said there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines.

“Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?” he asked.

Trew also noted the U.S. military does not allow its soldiers to operate under foreign command so there are questions about who controls American forces if they are requested for service in Canada. “We don’t know the answers because the government doesn’t want to even announce the plan,” he said.

January 20, 2009

From Gen Renuart: "Today marks an historic event and we view the inauguration of our new Commander-in-Chief with hope and purpose. Our mission continues … Our task clear …Our leadership resolute. The people in our commands commemorate this historic transition with renewed focus on the families we protect, on the communities we protect and on the Nations we protect. We are the defenders of our Democracy and of the Democracy of all in this Hemisphere … as Canadians and Americans today we are proud of the efforts of our two militaries and proud of what we do each day. We are looking forward, anticipating our Nations' needs and ready to respond at a moment's notice. We are honored to participate as just one of myriad local, state and federal agencies working hard to make today's events safe and secure."

January 28, 2009

Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum took over as Deputy Commander, United States Northern Command, and Vice Commander, U.S. Element, North American Aerospace Defense Command (USELEMENORAD), from Army Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr. Jan. 16.

“I’ve had the opportunity to have about five-and-a-half years of perspective looking back at NORTHCOM,” Blum added. “The NORTHCOM that I join and am the Deputy Commander of today is a much more mature organization and a much further developed organization than it was in 2003.

“This organization has continually moved forward and evolved. It hasn’t reached its full potential yet, but it is much further along.”

Blum added that he believes that, as an organization, if the personnel of USNORTHCOM begin to believe that the command has reached its full potential, the potential to lose ground on the growth of the command is there. “We need to work every single day to make sure [that] we’re more capable tomorrow than we are (today).”

USNORTHCOM is responsible for defense of the homeland and defense support of civil authorities in the event of a disaster.

Working as a homeland security specialist means living life a little paranoid. The nature of the job requires you to find threats, where everyone else sees safety. The question is: How much fear is too much? The other day, word leaked of a knee-knocking report from U.S. Northern Command, warning that Canada could becoming a terrorist sieve. Some might see the brief as a dose of healthy precaution. To one informed source, it's just "the latest of a steady drumbeat of fear mongering coming out of Northcom."

When all else fails, make like the South Park moms, and blame Canada.

The 51st State, with its liberal immigration policies, is letting in all kinds of scary people from "Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt," according to a briefing from U.S. Northern Command. And that "large population" of so-called "special-interest aliens" presents the "greatest potential for foreign terrorists' access to the homeland."

The eastern Great Lakes region -- the part of Canada above New York and New England -- is particularly creepy country, the presentation says. That's where the "largest presence" of "support networks and extremist organizations" exist -- the ones that create "foreign terrorist opportunities," or FTOs.

On a more serious note...

As I mentioned last week on my blog, I had the opportunity to participate in the first many joint hurricane planning workshops. This workshop gave us an opportunity to pull together the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Northern Command, civilian first responders, state emergency managers, and a variety of federal agency partners as we prepare for the upcoming season.

Planning workshops like this are important because we don't want to repeat the lessons we learned from the Hurricane Katrina response.

Here's a few lessons from Katrina...

Three federal civil-rights lawsuits charge that a group of New Orleans police officers gunned down unarmed, innocent citizens in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina.

The lawsuits focus on an incident that happened on a bridge in east New Orleans. Two people were killed, including a mentally retarded man shot in the back; two others were maimed.

The police say they were firing in self-defense. Now, a grand jury has begun looking into the shooting.

It's come to be known as the Danziger Bridge incident.

Follow up...

The Really Big Picture

Former Cold War hawk and CIA analyst, Chalmers Johnson, has written:

“As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some thirteen naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage. . . .We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another.”

Johnson also explains how the U.S. military economy not only directly profits private corporations and their sub-contractors, by developing and producing weapons for the armed forces and servicing the needs of military personnel, but also in more indirect and unexpected ways.

“On the eve of our second war on Iraq, for example, while the Defense Department was ordering up an extra ration of cruise missiles and depleted-uranium armor-piercing tank shells, it also acquired 273,000 bottles of Native Tan sunblock, almost triple its 1999 order and undoubtedly a boon to the supplier,...and its subcontractor, Sun Fun Products of Daytona Beach, Florida.”

Noting that “official records on these subjects are misleading,” Johnson in 2004 estimated that the Pentagon maintains more than 700 overseas bases in about 130 countries, with an additional 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. He concludes:

“These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally.... If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people’s countries, but no one -- possibly not even the Pentagon -- knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years.”

When establishment of the new United States Northern Command was announced in April 2002, one of several changes to the Unified Command Plan, the official press release declared, “For the first time, commanders’ areas of operations cover the entire Earth.” The United States military dominates the globe through its operation of 10 Unified Combatant Commands. Composed of forces from two or more armed services, the Unified Commands are headed by four-star generals and admirals who operate under the direct authority of the Secretary of Defense, accountable only to the President. Six of the Commands are responsible for designated regions of the world, and the four others for various operations. It is a mind-numbing exercise just to list them all, but in order to comprehend the breadth and depth of U.S. militarism, it is absolutely essential to be aware of their existence.

A 1993 Congressional Research Service (CRS) study of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Historical Center records identified “234 instances in which the United States has used its armed forces abroad in situations of conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes” between 1798 and 1993. As the author noted, “The list does not include covert actions or numerous instances in which U.S. forces have been stationed abroad since World War II in occupation forces or for participation in mutual security organizations, base agreements, or routine military assistance or training operations.”

In a 2006 review of this study and two other surveys of U.S. military interventions, journalist Gar Smith found that “in our country’s 230 years of existence, there have been only 31 years in which U.S. troops were not actively engaged in significant armed adventures on foreign shores.” He concluded:

“The arithmetic is daunting. Over the long course of U.S. history, fewer than 14% of America’s days have been marked by peace. The defining characteristic of our nation’s foreign policy for 86% of our existence would appear to be a bellicose penchant for military intervention.

As of 2006, there were 192 member states in the United Nations. Incredibly enough, over the past two centuries, the United State has attacked, invaded, policed, overthrown or occupied 62 of them.”

The three legs of the new strategic triad are designed to work together, to enable the United States to project overwhelming military force. A 2000 Air Force planning documents states that a long-term goal of the U.S. military is to “enable an affordable capability to swiftly and effectively deliver highly effective weapons against targets at any required global location” in order to “affordably destroy or neutralize any target on earth.…” This objective is now referred to as “Prompt Global Strike” capability.

Some argue that “Stockpile Stewardship” and “Complex Transformation” are merely a “make work” program for scientists and engineers, or that the nuclear weapons we already have are not “useable.” But, as documented by author Joseph Gerson, every U.S. President, Republican and Democrat, has prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear attacks. This has happened on more than thirty occasions during international crises, confrontations and wars, primarily to reinforce U.S. hegemony in the East Asia and the Middle East. Consider also the following passage from an August 2006 Pentagon planning document:

“Within Global Strike, US nuclear forces contribute uniquely and fundamentally to deterrence -- through their ability to threaten to impose costs and deny benefits to an adversary in an exceedingly rapid and devastating manner. Nuclear weapons provide the President with the ultimate means to terminate conflict promptly on terms favorable to the US.” (emphasis added)

Very recently, StratCom Commander General Kevin Chilton told reporters:

“As we look to the future – and I believe we are going to need a nuclear deterrent for this country for the remainder of this century, the 21st century – I think what we need is a modernized nuclear weapon to go with our modernized delivery platforms.” (emphasis added)

“Atomic Audit,” a study by the Brookings Institution completed in 1998, found that, as a conservative estimate, the United States spent $5.5 trillion dollars on nuclear weapons alone, from 1940–1996 (in constant 1996 dollars.) The Brookings study found that nuclear weapons spending during the 56 year period it examined exceeded the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development, including disaster relief; law enforcement; and energy production and regulation. On average, the study estimated, the United States spent $98 billion a year on nuclear weapons.

The NNSA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 budget request for nuclear weapons research, development, and testing activities is $6.6 billion, more than 5% over the prior year’s appropriation, Even after accounting for inflation, this is more than one-third higher than the average annual spending on nuclear weapons during the Cold War. However, this figure does not include delivery systems or command and control technologies, which are funded separately through the DoD. Many of the Pentagon programs are “dual use,” meaning shared with conventional weapons systems, which complicates assessment of the total budget.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that the United States currently spends approximately $54 billion annually on all nuclear-related programs and activities including offensive and defensive capabilities, Department of Defense and Department of Energy activities, strategic and theater forces, as well as associated command, control and communications capabilities. That is more than the entire military budget of nearly every individual country in the world. In 2006, only China ($121.9 B), Russia ($70.B), the United Kingdom ($55.4B), and France ($54.B) spent $54 billion or more in total on their militaries.

What else could $54 billion a year be used for? According to the 1998 United Nations Development Program report, the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all, and clean water and safe sewers for all would amount to roughly $40 billion a year.

USNORTHCOM has become the object of concern among civil libertarians and others that it could be used to implement martial law in the United States during an actual or perceived emergency.[1] The Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively nullifies most restrictions placed on the military to support civilian administration by the Posse Comitatus Act, while the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" H.R. 5122 (2006) effectively nullifies the limits of the The Insurrection Act [2].

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."