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Partnerships key in homeland defense says NORTHCOM commander

August 12, 2015

By Ms. Dottie K. White (USASMDC/ARSTRAT)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- One of the nation's top military leaders spoke on the importance of U.S. missile defense capabilities during the 18th annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Center here, Aug. 11.

Adm. William Gortney, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, and commander, U.S. Northern Command, discussed homeland defense with the nearly 1,100 attendees.

"As commander of NORAD and NORTHCOM, my primary task is to defend the homeland," Gortney said. "It's a team sport, and I rely on partnerships to accomplish this mission that include the COCOMS [combatant commands], the services and interagency."

For the missile defense community, threats are nothing new, he explained. As the types of threats and players may continue to shift, the threat remains constant.

"Because the ballistic missile threat is evolving, the U.S. must continue to develop more capable forces and broader options for effective ballistic missile defense," Gortney said. "And since we at NORAD and NORTHCOM are the consumers of the information and users of this capability, we are in a unique position. We leverage the capabilities from the services, our components and the specialty organizations to accomplish our BMD mission for homeland defense.

"We utilize the National Guard Soldiers stationed in Alaska and Colorado for the direct intercept mission, and we utilize Air Force satellites to develop solutions and our Navy's BMD patrol ships are underway and can detect and track missiles of all ranges including the ICBMs," he added.

The Soldiers in Alaska and Colorado that Gortney referenced belong to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, who is one of NORAD/NORTHCOM's partners to conduct homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests.

Looking to the future, Gortney discussed developing capabilities such as engagement of longer range missiles, improvements of existing early stage intercept capability, and enhanced terminal capability against short and medium range ballistic missiles.

Additionally he talked about the importance of building relationships internationally.

"BMD is not a U.S.-only challenge. Many of our allies and partners recognize the threat and have fielded or are considering fielding BMD forces," said Gortney. "The United States has already demonstrated interoperability with many of our allies' systems, and will continue to ensure that U.S. BMD forces can operate successfully with our partners in the future.

"This creates an environment in which potential adversaries lose confidence in the effectiveness of ballistic missile attacks," he added. "We have made incredible strides in missile defense, including the ability to seamlessly link together satellites, ships, ground-based radars and interceptors, and commanders across the globe. These linkages extend our vision and reach in ballistic missile defense."

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