WASHINGTON, April 6, 2017 —
The men and women of U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command are ready to defend the United States against adversaries and work with a range of partners to safeguard the homeland, the commands’ commanders told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.
Testifying before the panel were Northcom commander Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, who also commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Southcom commander Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd.
The men and women of NORAD and Northcom are ready to defend against adversaries who seek ways to extend their operational reach into North America and to hold the nation at risk, Robinson told legislators.
Northcom’s adversaries include North Korea, the general said, “where [North Korea’s leader] Kim Jong-un has conducted nearly three times as many ballistic missile tests as his father and grandfather did, combined.”
North Korea, she said, uses what it learns from each test to improve its missile capabilities, and Iran is developing a space program with potential dual-use technology.
“Northcom is prepared to counter ballistic missiles should North Korea attempt to launch an attack on the United States,” Robinson said, noting that Northcom can defend against such attacks today and must keep improving.
“Russian cruise missiles can reach us from greater ranges than ever before, she added, “… but I'm also confident in NORAD's layered approach to cruise missile defense. … We are working in close partnership with the Missile Defense Agency to improve our sensors and the reliability of our ground-based interceptors.”
Robinson described for the panel the “incredible variety of terrain along the Southwest border” and how transnational criminal organizations and their networks exploit the terrain.
To counter such networks, she said, Northcom partners with law enforcement agencies, Southcom, other combatant commands, the intelligence community and military partners such as the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy.
At the nation’s northern border, Robinson said, Northcom and NORAD -- the U.S.-Canadian binational organization charged with aerospace warning and control for North America -- are two distinct commands unified in a common purpose.
“The men and women of NORAD and Northcom … stand ready to face the threats of the United States and Canada today,” the general said, “and we are evolving to face the threats of tomorrow.”
In his remarks, Tidd said, “General Robinson and her team are directly responsible for defending our homeland … [but] Southcom extends that defense well beyond our borders throughout our southern approaches.”
Among Southcom’s most immediate adversaries are members of a threat network that move drugs through the Southcom area of responsibility and across the U.S. border, he said.
“On average, one metric ton of cocaine will kill 10 Americans every year and harm hundreds more. Last year we watched almost 450 tons pass freely toward our country [but] … these adaptive threat networks can move anything,” the admiral said.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have encouraged their followers to exploit the pathways leading directly into the United States to move weapons of mass destruction, he told the panel.
Addressing the Challenge
“To address this challenge we're changing our approach to better understand and disrupt the immediate threats,” Tidd said.
Southcom is working with partners to reduce vulnerabilities that allow the networks to exist and to expand information sharing and build the capacity of partners to better secure their territory against these challenges, the admiral explained.
Other issues include extremist networks like those of ISIS that are radicalizing and recruiting individuals to conduct attacks on the United States and on partner interests in the Southcom.
“Russia, China and Iran are actively engaging in Latin America,” he added. “While most of their activities aren't military threats yet, some do warrant examination. Even seemingly benign activities can build malign influence.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)