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NORAD: No 'gaps and seams' secures North America

by Capt. Johnny Rea
1st Air Force/Continental NORAD Region Public Affairs

11/23/2005 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Identifying and eliminating “gaps and seams” within North American Aerospace Defense Command is key to preventing future terrorist attacks, the command’s director of operations said.

“Since 9-11, the operational environment is much more complex,” said Canadian Maj. Gen. Brett Cairns, during a visit to 1st Air Force here Nov. 22.

“There’s an increased requirement to cooperate on a bi-national perspective, sharing information and intelligence between the two countries (Canada and the United States),” he said.

The command operates under a bi-national agreement between Canada and the United States. The agreement defines the combined command relationship between the two countries and requires common procedures and architecture.

General Cairns said both countries continue to improve their relationship, as well as with civilian organizations. This is to fulfill the command’s vision to create a fully integrated operational aerospace picture and develop programs and processes to improve bi-national information sharing.

The agreement, conducted within the framework of the North American Treaty, is up for renewal in 2006.

“We’ve established a number of working groups -– particularly through NORAD and the NORAD construct -– to identify gaps and seams, and we’re working actively to eliminate those.”

The 1st Air Force, in its role as Continental NORAD Region, or CONR, is responsible for ensuring air sovereignty and air defense of the continental U.S.

Since 9-11, CONR has been one of the lead agencies for Operation Noble Eagle, an ongoing mission to protect North America from further terrorist aggression from inside and outside its borders. Alaska NORAD Region and Canada NORAD Region have the same mission in their areas.

The general said that before Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD’s mission was to look outward. Since then, it has increased its emphasis and ability to look inward, while maintaining the capability to monitor and respond to outside threats.

“For decades, we obviously had a different focus,” General Cairns said. “Initially, we had a strategic focus, looking at three different threats: the ballistic missile threat, air-breathing threat and cruise missile threat.

“Now we are engaged in countering the asymmetric threat to North America,” he said.

Irregular air patrol sorties have been the norm over the United States and Canada in recently years. Since 9-11, NORAD has flown more than 40,000 sorties and diverted irregular air patrols or scrambled fighters in response to more than 2,000 events.

NORAD forces are trained, equipped and prepared to execute their missions, the general said. He also said Canadians and Americans can be confident NORAD is carrying out well-established actions to ensure the air sovereignty of North America.

“We’re involving a great number of interagency partners today from both countries in executing our mission effectively,” General Cairns added. “We’ve made a lot of strides since 9-11, and working with our interagency partners is making North America more secure.”

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