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American Forces Press Service

U.S., Canada Expand Joint Planning, Operational Options

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2012 – Agreements signed last week in the Canadian capital of Ottawa set up a roadmap for U.S. and Canadian officials to work together in the event of a natural disaster or attack, the director of strategy, policy and plans at the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command said this week.

Army Maj. Gen. Fran Mahon said the agreements allow the two countries’ militaries to work more closely together and to plan for support to civilian agencies.

U.S. Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of NORAD and Northcom, and Lt. Gen. Walter Semianiw of the Canadian army, commander of Canada Command, signed the documents Jan. 25.

One is a combined defense plan that lays down a planning framework for defense cooperation following a natural or man-made disaster or attack. The military leaders also signed a continuation of the civil assistance plan that allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.

“We have a long-standing relationship with Canada,” Mahon said in an interview. “We’ve been partners for more than 70 years in a very close sense. The agreements really enhance our relationship and improve the process of coordinating our combined military resources in a time of crisis or emergency.”

While the civil assistance plan provides a framework for the military forces of each nation to support those of another nation, the general said, it’s really about providing military assistance to civilian authorities. This will facilitate cooperation on man-made or natural disasters or the response to large-scale planned events, he explained.

“The initial civil assistance program was approved in February 2008, and since then, Canada Command and Northern Command have worked together to provide support for each other in short-notice events and planning for major events,” Mahon said. “It really recognizes the role of each nation’s lead federal agency for emergency preparedness. In the United States, that is the Department of Homeland Security, and in Canada, it is the Department of Public Safety.”

The civil defense plan looks at the combined defense of Canada and the United States, Mahon said. “It facilitates our planning and operations for bilateral defense effort and provides guidance leading to interoperability, and thus [promotes] better integration at the operational level,” he added.

The operations under the plan could occur in multiple domains and could be executed when there is a common perceived threat or when one or both nations come under attack.

The United States and Canada cooperated on the Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010 and during hurricane season, Mahon noted.

“We’ve captured some of the lessons learned from the Games and from other experiences and put it in the plan,” Mahon said. “Now for the next event, whether it be a crisis or a planned event, we’ll have a bit smoother execution.”

Sharing information between the United States and Canada should be even easier than in the past, the general said, and both sides understand how to work within each other’s bureaucracies.

Northern Command and Canada Command will exercise through the year to “roll these new documents into play,” Mahon said. “We will undoubtedly learn more from these exercises, and again, we will work on smoothing the rough spots.”

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