Thoughts from the Commander after recent trip

This past week took me to two very familiar spots -- D.C. and Atlanta, and one not so familiar but exciting destination - Iceland. I just wanted to provide you with a couple of my thoughts following visits and meetings at these locations.

Starting off at the Department of Defense Biometrics Conference 2009, my focus was to begin to build support for the use of biometric tools at our bases around the country. We are probably more advanced in this effort on bases overseas than we are here in the U.S. The benefits are considerable and too important to ignore. Biometric tools will enable us to identify and screen people at our stateside bases and enable us to protect our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, all of whom deserve nothing less than the best security biometric technology has to offer. I'm going to continue to push for these technologies to be implemented. The Biometrics Task Force, the organization that leads DoD activities in this area, has done exceptionally well in developing these tools and finding was to implement them; now it's time to leverage their fine efforts.
At Georgetown University, I spoke at the Center for Peace and Security Studies, and I highlighted that the establishment of USNORTHCOM was a transformational event for DoD and a direct result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our nation. We have redefined jointness to include full-time close partnerships and dedicated pre-planning by supporting civil authorities, not just happenstance response to disasters with a pick-up team but with operations based on anticipation of the needs that develop across the local, state and federal partners during contingencies. It is and will continue to be the focus of the men and women of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.
Next, we moved to Atlanta where I met with members of the National Guard and Active Duty personnel as well as people from various defense agencies assisting in our Weapons of Mass Destruction support operations. We spent time discussing the National Guard's Civil Support Teams (CSTs) supporting state governors. These teams have tremendous capability to support during a WMD event. If those assets are overwhelmed, the National Guard has another level of support called the CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages or CERFPs. Both CSTs and CERFPs are fully capable resources that states can use but we have to ask ourselves the question: When something is so big that it overwhelms those forces, what are the next steps? The next level of support comes from both Active Duty and National Guard assets that create the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force or CCMRF. Let's be clear: this force is an augmentation force for the CST and CERFP, and let me also say that the CCMRF is not the end-all solution either. It is with this combination of resources from the State National Guard units, from the Department of Defense, and from local and state first responders that provide a national response capability that can respond to help save lives, mitigate suffering and effectively meet the needs of our citizens during a catastrophic CBRNE event.
Finally, I spent some time in Iceland at the Security Prospects in the High North seminar. I'm grateful to Iceland for hosting this conference and for its leadership in calling upon NATO allies to explore the range of issues impacting security in the Arctic. We have to remember the recent increase in international interest in the opportunities in that region only reinforces the region's importance. We need to consider such things as how to best facilitate protection and opportunities for cooperation with Allies and partners in the Arctic, including Russia. Arctic issues offer the opportunity for positive action and deepen our partnerships along lines of mutual interest and benefit. There are many issues still to be addressed, such as access, oil, the environment and shipping, but with summits such as the one I attended this week, we can all continue to press forward with a common understanding of this largely unexplored region of the world.
My best to all of you.
Sincerely, Gene

Incident Awareness and Assessment - Inauguration

I'd like to take a moment to address a topic brought up in an LA Times article this past weekend. In the article, there was a reference to the military using surveillance systems to monitor the National Mall in Washington D.C. during the inaugural events.

I want to assure everyone that USNORTHCOM did not use any airborne platforms to monitor the inaugural events. USNORTHCOM had separate P-3 aircraft both on the ground in standby/alert and in the air with sensors slewed upwards, away from the ground on Jan. 20th. The assets were present to be activated only in the event of a catastrophic incident in order to provide potentially critical information in support of the local, state and federal emergency response to assist in providing search and rescue, medical aid and evacuation, and to assess damage.

Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies were responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all individuals attending the Presidential Inaugural events. The Department of Defense and National Guard received various requests from civilian law enforcement agencies for unique capabilities to assist them in their security role. In addition to those airborne assets belonging to civilian law enforcement agencies, both State and District of Columbia National Guard units provided airborne platforms to assist Federal and District of Columbia civilian law enforcement in their security responsibilities.

Additionally, the Department of Defense provided bomb dog detection teams and other capabilities on the ground to assist law enforcement where requested.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also provided overhead CAP support, as it always does to protect against any airborne threats.

Commander-in-Chief Transition

"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." Gen. Gene Renuart, Commander, NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

Presidential Inauguration Support

As you may or may not know, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command and its subordinate, Joint Task Force - National Capitol Region, are intimately involved in assisting the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service in planning and executing Department of Defense support for the ceremonial and non-ceremonial portions of the Presidential Inauguration. This is no easy task, as you can imagine, as recent press reports that more than 2 million people are expected to converge on Washington D.C. on this historical day. We don’t believe there is an imminent threat, but anytime you have a high profile event and a large number of people compressed into a small area --- you want to be prepared for any kind of event. As we approach any large scale event such as this regionally, we take a collective all-hazards approach to disaster planning, which includes planning for the possibility of a Weapons of Mass Destruction attack. We do have a number of capabilities we can use in chemical, biological, or medical disaster response. In the unlikely event of a large scale incident during the 2009 inaugural period, we have highly trained and specialized response teams standing by ready to assist first responders with consequence management operations, including responding to a WMD attack. They are ready and on alert and can respond very quickly. As part of an interagency team, we are prepared to assist in consequence management operations of any type to save lives and mitigate damage when needed. NORAD will be on alert and airborne throughout the inaugural period. Our active air presence will be combined with a variety of ground capabilities to provide the best possible air defense that we can. Now this active duty and National Guard presence can be misconstrued by some to mean that we have created a police state for this event…A question asked in the recent Time Magazine article at,8599,1871963,00.html.

Let's be clear. We are very careful to make sure that we don’t cross the line of the active-duty, federal, Title-10 military, conducting anything that is law enforcement. The National Guard, Title 32 military, has in its mandate, the authority to provide support to law enforcement when directed by the governor of a particular state or the district in which they operate. They’re trained for that. They have the relationships to do that. And General Schwartz, who is the Commander of the District of Columbia National Guard, is really working that support. So, the men and women in uniform providing what would be law enforcement such as crowd control, traffic control, support to local police, they are national guardsmen. And we really do watch that very carefully. The active duty, Federal military role - the Title-10 military’s role - is to provide the support to those other agencies such as medical support, consequence management planning and expertise, logistics support, military working dogs and approved ceremonial support through the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. There was some concern as we created this consequence management response force that it would sort of signal an attempt to push back the restrictions of Posse Comitatus. That’s absolutely not the case. We are providing assistance as requested by the inaugural committee and as directed by the Department of Defense. We are providing support to civil authorities. We have that capability everyday. We train in those skills. We’re good at those skills. Why would we not make those available to the American public if there was a real need. And so that’s really the change in our presence in states and certainly in the national capital region for this event. It’s to be there to provide assistance."