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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Exercise Tests NORAD, NORTHCOM Cooperation, Communication

By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., May 16, 2007 – The commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command said he is "very pleased" with the federal agency interoperability displayed in Ardent Sentry/Northern Edge '07, an emergency-response training exercise that began April 30 and will continue through tomorrow.

"Because we had good participation from all of the federal agencies, it allowed us to not only stress them -- to put them in a position where they had to evaluate and make decisions based on a fluid scenario and a fairly catastrophic one -- but also to see how all of us interface," Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart said in an interview today.

The exercise helps NORAD and NORTHCOM identify any seams and gaps in their relationships with their agency partners, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and to then make any necessary improvements, Renuart said.

"It's also allowed us to validate the incredible amount of planning that has gone on since (Hurricane) Katrina, not only to respond to things like a hurricane, but also to ensure that the agencies responsible for homeland security and homeland defense really can work together under a series of demanding scenarios," he said.

The exercise began two weeks ago with a simulated Category 3 hurricane devastating the northeastern coast of the United States. At the request of the secretary of defense, NORTHCOM provided support to civil authorities in search-and-rescue and humanitarian-relief efforts in the area.

"We transitioned to a series of intelligence injects that had us think about things like terrorist infiltration across our borders, terrorist attacks against some of the national infrastructure in Alaska -- the pipelines and other things -- and tracking vessels at sea," Renuart said. "(The exercise) really does span the entire scope of the missions that we train for every day at U.S. NORTHCOM and that we execute every day, as well."

Exercise participants currently are dealing with the aftermath of a simulated nuclear explosion in Indianapolis. Each of the several Ardent Sentry/Northern Edge '07 scenarios is designed to improve interagency cooperation and strengthen existing relationships among the agencies and leaders who respond to actual crises in the homeland.

"It is certainly important to U.S. NORTHCOM to be able to test ourselves and really stress ourselves against not just one scenario, but multiple scenarios," Renuart said. "It allowed us to really, not just simulate, but to exercise the participation of senior officials responsible for homeland security and homeland defense in realistic scenarios."

All agencies with roles in the exercise will participate in a comprehensive review immediately after the exercise ends to determine what went well and what could be improved.

"Many of the lessons will be technical," Renuart said, "in that we've got to figure how to get local responders, the National Guard first responders and the federal forces connected more easily, more quickly, and in a way that is responsive to the governors of whatever state might be affected."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen is assigned to the Public Affairs Office for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.)

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