By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2015 – Four months into his tenure as leader of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, Navy Adm. Bill Gortney conducted a Pentagon press briefing today on priority efforts in homeland defense.
Currently the Defense Department’s only bilateral command, 58-year-old NORAD brings Americans and Canadians together, Gortney said. NORAD works in tandem with Northcom, established in 2002, to protect the homeland from external threats as well as respond to natural disasters, homeland extremists and cyberattacks, he explained.
“[The mission set] encompasses the traditional NORAD role of air defense, as well as … maritime warning,” Gortney said.
Northcom, the admiral noted, rounds out the mission set with its maritime defense and control elements and includes Operation Noble Eagle, U.S.-Canadian homeland security operations that have been ongoing since just after 9/11.
The commands’ responsibilities also include homeland ballistic missile defense and countering transnational criminal networks to thwart smugglers or others who engage in nefarious activity, he said.
Federal military forces provide defense support of civil authorities, which Gortney said has expansive functions across myriad mission requirements.
“Many people think [that support] involves Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy, an earthquake or a flood, but it encompasses much more than that,” the admiral said. “It’s helping our interagency … and law enforcement partners, predominantly homeland security, in their particular missions.”
Importance of Homeland Partnerships
Gortney described homeland partnerships as NORAD’s and Northcom’s “center of gravity,” with not only a large interagency and law enforcement presence, but some 60 senior federal and senior executive service employees whose tasks cross mission sets.
NORAD and Northcom, he added, also work with governors, the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, and the functional and geographic combatant commands. “[They all work] together to close those seams that the enemy will try and exploit to get after us,” Gortney said.
Gortney said that as the unified command plan directs, his people emphasize international partnerships with Canada, the Bahamas and Mexico to assess and solve shared problems.
DoD is also “the advocate of the arctic,” Gortney said, adding that he and his team are working to better define roles and doctrine by determining operational requirements, necessary investments and partnerships that will best inform DoD plans for the region.
Focus on Professionalism, Warfighters, Families
Along with professionalism and excellence, which Gortney described as full-time jobs, he told reporters NORAD and Northcom’s people focus on warfighters and their families.
“We rely on those who wear the cloth of our nation to defend our nation,” Gortney said. “It’s both an away game and a near game, and our families are the very stitches that hold [it] together.”