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