05.28.09 - REMARKS BY GENERAL GENE RENUART at the 2009 Maritime and Port Security Summit Conference, Seattle, WA
Thank you Ann [Lesperance]. I appreciate the very kind introduction and the opportunity to be back in Seattle. This is a great place and a beautiful city, and you’ve got some the wonderful days of the year going on right now--which is pretty nice all in itself. Real pleasure to be here.
You heard Ann talk about some of the varied places I’ve been, and the things I’ve done, and I’m under huge pressure today because one of the early bosses in my career is sitting all the way in the back taking notes. Air Force Colonel retired, Jim Searle. He was a Lt Colonel when I worked for him. I called him Sir and Boss. And I think Jim is known to many of you. He has been a resident in the area here and actively involved in maritime homeland security. So it’s great to see him. It’s also got me a little bit nervous. So if I stutter a minute or two, you know--if he’s writing a note or paying attention to me.
Nice to be here after you’ve had Congressman Reichert in. Another former Air Force guy. He spent a little time in this Air Force blue uniform and I’m sure he had some good perspectives to pass on.
As I said, it’s great to be in Seattle--a spectacular city. You all know that. Emerald City. Gateway to Alaska during the Klondike gold rush. And even today, still Alaska’s most important link to “The Outside.” I noticed there’s a cruise ship out here, and it just happened that a couple of the wonderful guys who work in my security detail were on that cruise ship just a month or so ago, when they thought they were going to Cozumel and Cancun and other places in Mexico. And, you know, the H1N1 virus turned the ship around and brought Seattle a little business, as they diverted their attentions from south to north…and I know that’s well received here in the city.
We landed at Boeing Field, which is a historic airfield for many reasons. Many of us in the Air Force have flown Boeing products, and I know it’s a great part of the Seattle community. I’m addicted to Starbucks, and I take note that there is one on every other…well, no…every corner in Seattle. It’s a nice thing to come to the mecca of Starbucks. Amazon.com is from here. Nordstrom’s, Eddie Bauer, Jimmy Hendrix, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Now, I can’t really confess to you my relationship in the Jimmy Hendrix era. That was during those wild times in college when we swore we wouldn’t tell. Nirvana and Pearl Jam, I can’t…you know, it’s okay and I’m glad. I’m not sure I have that close personal relationship to the music or the era. But all call Seattle home. And, according to the U.S. Census, this is also the most educated city in America, and that scares me even more than having a former boss here--because clearly not only you all, but everybody else on the street out here, is going to be way smarter than me… and puts me at a little bit of a disadvantage.
This is also a city and a state that’s going to play a huge role in the winter of 2010. As the Vancouver Winter Olympics begin to unfold just north of here in a few months, and as you know that preparation is already underway, the focus of the globe will be on this part of the world; part of the United States, part of Canada. It’s a moment of great pride for the Canadians. And I think one that we can all take great pride in--since we are providing them all the support that they might need from their close neighbors to the south. My two commands will play a part in that. We, in our NORAD role, will maintain the air sovereignty both for the U.S. and Canada, the air security over the Olympic games, and our F-15s just down the road here in Portland, and our western air defense sector all will play a team role in ensuring that it’s a wonderful athletic event that is safe and secure. And we look forward to that. In our NORTHCOM role, we’ll probably provide some additional security and support…and consequence management response capability. The Canadians are still formalizing that request, and certainly we’ll be in a position to help them should that be required.
My second hat is a U.S. national hat [as Commander, USNORTHCOM] up through the Chairman and the Secretary of Defense to the President. And that is a mission of homeland defense, as the Defense Department’s single unified command focused on ensuring that our homeland remains safe and secure. A second USNORTHCOM mission is that of providing support to civil authorities. That will be an area that is maybe most germane to the group today. That is how we provide DOD capabilities and support to civil authorities, law enforcement, a variety of agencies who do rescue and recovery and disaster response, and all in the domains where we can be effective: air, space, land, maritime, and increasingly now cyber.
Defense support to our maritime partners is principally related to how we support the Department of Homeland Security, and through them our sea power partners in the U.S. Coast Guard. We play a key role in providing some enabling tools that allow our ports to be more secure, and there are not many ports more busy than right here in Seattle.
We support our partners up in Canada Command through something called the Bilateral Civil Assistance Plan. We signed that about a year ago. It got a lot of press and publicity because people were worried that we were somehow creating a relationship with Canada that would militarize our borders, would militarize responses to events, would provide undue influence on governments--and that can’t be farther from the truth. The reality is that this provides the technical avenue through which we can ask for things like Canadian medical evacuation aircraft to come to New Orleans on the eve of Hurricane Gustav--and evacuate critical care patients out of harm’s way as Hurricane Gustav was approaching. That was the first time we used the Civil Assistance Plan, and it worked extremely well. That will be one of the avenues through which we may provide assistance that might be required by our Canadian friends to the north during the Olympics.
Finally, our Security Cooperation Program extends to our close friends in the south, the country of Mexico that is undergoing its own changes and challenges--but with whom we enjoy the most well-developed set of mil-to-mil relationships that we’ve had in history with Mexico. They are working hard to fight those narcotics cartels, [facing] the challenges of narco-trafficking and narco-terrorism. We’re eager to continue to work with them--to help them build the capacity it takes to defeat these threats.
In our two commands, we operate in a variety of domains. We must think about homeland defense in each of those domains simultaneously: air and space, cyber and land, and maritime all can be threatened and certainly all can affect each other. For example, the maritime domain can be affected by threats from the air, by threats from cyber, and certainly by threats from the sea. So, as we strive to protect access to the lifeblood of our nation, our transportation systems, we have to ensure that we create defensive depth, that we create transparent information flow among all the partners, that we share intelligence in a way that can make law enforcement effective, and that we do that freely back and forth, in and out of the classified domain to our many partners.
If we can be attacked in each of those domains, then we have to be able to defend each of them. Our goal and our role is to ensure that the Department of Defense is properly positioned to do that. And certainly, while homeland defense is our number one job at NORTHCOM, we actually spend a great deal of time preparing for, and providing for, support to civil authorities including law enforcement--such as our friends in the Coast Guard and DEA, but really a whole variety of agencies--as they might have to respond to an event in our country…manmade or natural. We’re happy to support them. In fact, I spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill advocating to Congress for other federal agencies. You may have heard Secretary Gates talk a while back on the importance of soft power in our country. It’s important that we invest more in the State Department, and Agriculture, and Justice, and these other agencies of government that can provide the reconstruction capacity that we need in some of our overseas operations. Well, the same is very true for us in the homeland. It’s important to us that the Department of Homeland Security to be adequately funded, so that it can carry out its law enforcement roles, its maritime surveillance roles, its intelligence fusion roles--and ease the burden on the Department of Defense…especially in those areas where we’re really not suited to be the lead agency.
So I spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill talking about the need to resource our non-DOD partners, so that they can be more effective in their jobs. We in DOD are really a supporting agency for each of the emergency support functions within our National Response Framework. So we’re constantly focused on communication, coordination, collaboration, and integration. Command and control really don’t fit into this lexicon very well. For each of our partners is unique. They have their own authorities, and they operate independently with authorities given to them by law. Nowhere in law does it say that DOD is in command of the Department of Homeland Security or any of the law enforcement agencies. So our role is to build confidence with those partners and be there to support them, with the kinds of capability DOD can bring to bear that can make them successful.
We provide support to other agencies during operations that are unique and varied--things like the Presidential Inauguration, the United Nations General Assembly, the Super Bowl, Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Space Shuttle launches, and wild land firefighting in California. Fortunately, that wasn’t needed in the northwest. The states were able to deal with that—but we were prepared to provide that support last year during the fire season. Flooding in the Midwest. Bridge collapse in Minneapolis--DOD provided Navy salvage divers to go in and recover the remains of people killed in the bridge collapse in Minnesota almost two years ago now. That capability doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. DOD has a niche that we can offer to civil leaders when the requirement occurs.
When supporting civil authorities, we come into a state or into a region only upon the direction of the President and Secretary of Defense, and only when it has been asked for by a governor. I’ll use Minneapolis as a great example. Governor Pawlenty made a call to the Secretary of Transportation, and within four hours we had the approvals all done verbally--we were in the process of packing up our Navy salvage team. And within six to eight hours, they were in the air and starting to move. These things are done in what looks to be an administrative process from hell, but it turns out to be a pretty agile process that can respond rapidly. We practice and exercise that on a routine basis.
We support a variety of federal agencies. We’re very rarely designated the primary federal agency. In almost every case, we’re designated in support. It’s about a team effort. It’s about an effort that supports you. Not just you as an agency member of our federal government, but you as a citizen. You as a member of a community that has been struck by disaster. You as a family who have had your house demolished in a storm or wildfire. That customer is a pretty important one. It’s each of our families, and we pay a lot of attention to making sure we can be effective.
I want to give you a quick snapshot of how that all falls into place. If we could run that video, please. [Start of video]
Guarding what you value most. You know, that’s a slogan we use, but it’s probably never more meaningful than it is right in this room. This is a conference about resiliency planning in what I’ll call a stressed economic environment. It’s an especially important mission, but it is increasingly difficult as we see the economy continue to struggle a bit. But resiliency planning is a key element of what we do every day. That’s because we want to make sure that we put ourselves in the position to keep one of those events from happening again. Keeping that from happening is a big job. Ensuring that we don’t have a 9-11 attack by an aircraft again, ensuring that our ports are not held hostage by a terrorist use of a weapon of mass destruction, ensuring that our transportation system is resilient and can continue to function even under stress. Increasingly now, we must all plan for redundancy and islanding and resiliency within our energy grid, such that it can’t be held hostage. All of those things are critical for us. Your focus on resiliency, especially in the maritime arena, is something that we very much identify with in both of our commands.
It’s important to emphasize that everything we do is a matter of teaming with others. This begins with building a relationship. You do here, and certainly we hope to with many more of you. We work closely every day with our civilian partners, agencies like DHS, HHS, FBI, DEA, many that you’ve had here, and also with the private sector. Since she’s been in office, I’ve met with Secretary Napolitano four times, and we’ve spent a good bit of time with her creating a relationship that allows us to be successful--as will be needed when the nation comes under the stress of a natural or manmade disaster. We have a strong relationship with our partners in DHS, and we’ve spent a lot of time ensuring that we’ve created the unity of effort that’s necessary to support the kinds of planning and events that might unfold. We actively participate in Integrated Planning System, and in the National Exercise Program--always doing our best to integrate planning, training, exercises and responses--not only of DOD forces or the National Guard forces, but with all of our civilian partners. We have to be able to do that under stress. We often make the comment that it’s a bad idea to exchange your business cards at the scene of a disaster. And yet, we did that in Katrina. We can’t afford to do that again.
We added a word to our USNORTHCOM mission statement a couple of years ago, after I took command, and that one word has changed the culture of our command. It’s “anticipate.” If you walk into our command center, you’ll see about a 25-foot-wide banner, with 14-inch-tall letters, that says one word, “anticipate.” If we’re not thinking ahead, if we’re not planning in advance, we’ll not respond well. And the response will always be later than the need. Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll always preclude an event happening. Mother Nature has a tendency to have her own vote. But if you plan for those kinds of events, if you’ve built the relationships of the team members who will have to respond--much like we did here in Seattle just about a year ago during the VIGILANT SHIELD series of exercises, where we anticipated and thought about how we would plan together for a large-scale chemical attack. If you haven’t done that, you won’t be successful because you’ll literally walk onto a street corner and bump into somebody who’s also trying to respond, and you won’t know how to integrate what you’re doing. That is the core cultural change we’ve made in our headquarters. We’re working hard every day to better integrate our efforts--especially in the maritime domain. It’s an area that we’re probably least familiar with, although we’re growing that capacity at a great rate. We’re getting better every day, but we have to continue to work that together with our partners.
At NORAD and NORTHCOM, we have 52 different federal agencies represented in or near to our headquarters every day, in an Interagency Coordination Directorate with over 90 people. These are senior representatives provided by their agencies to work directly in our planning and our emergency operations. They include people from the FBI, DHS and many of its elements including FEMA and the Coast Guard. We have liaison officers from our other military combatant commanders who share maritime issues with us. We partner closely with EUCOM and PACOM to help build a common maritime picture. We have FBI representatives in our headquarters who brief me each day on operations that they are conducting, so that I can keep a reasonable sense of the pace of counter-terrorism operations, not only in our country but abroad.
Counter-terrorism operations don’t begin here. They begin in places like the federally- administered tribal areas in Pakistan. They begin in Somalia, and in other places where cells begin to build plans that can hold us at risk. And, make no mistake, they are trying to do just that. We may have them at bay for the moment. We have certainly thwarted a number of other events, but they still try, and will continue to try. Our ability to anticipate where they may go next, what avenue they may choose to approach us from, is critical to preventing those kinds of attacks from occurring. It also allows us to be prepared when Mother Nature throws us one of her curve balls and we have to respond.
In addition to our interagency partners, we have great international partners. We have over 120 Canadians in our headquarters, primarily focused on NORAD air and space and now maritime warning operations, but also integrated into our strategy and plans, logistics, policy, and intelligence cells. We have a senior Mexican Navy liaison officer. That’s a big step. We’re going to grow that to two--we’ll have an Army and Navy officer in the coming months.
We play a key role in integrated planning with the National Guard. You know, your TAG here in Washington, Tim Lowenberg, wears a number of hats. He wears an emergency management hat. He wears a National Guard TAG hat. He wears a state homeland security hat. So we work closely with Tim and his leadership within the state emergency management area to understand how a state might need support, and where they don’t need support. The last thing you need is DOD rolling in over the horizon when you really don’t need to the support. We also spend a lot of time partnering with our friends in the FEMA region. We have a Defense Coordinating Officer who works in an integrated way to help plan for the kinds of events that are most appropriate for that region, so that we can be prepared to provide the partnership when it’s required.
The relationship we’ve built with our sea service partners is spectacular. The operational partnership among NORTHCOM, the Navy and the Coast Guard provides a flexible and time-critical response capability--and immediate access really to the full spectrum of maritime capabilities that might be required--whether it’s for security or for defense. Routinely, we have Coast Guard officers aboard our Navy ships to provide law enforcement capability within our national waters. Routinely, we’ll move an FBI team aboard a Navy vessel outside of our U.S. national waters--in international waters if they have to conduct law enforcement operations. So we’ve built that team in a way that can train together, collaborate together, and be able to respond together. NORTHCOM, the Navy and the Coast Guard coordinate for operations in multiple national defense mission areas. Maritime intercept as I mentioned. Rotary wing air intercept. A little-known fact is that part of air defense of the National Capital Region is a Coast Guard helicopter, with a crew trained to do airborne intercept--who can help us vector people away who aren’t supposed to be within the restricted airspace of our National Capital Region. We partner in mine countermeasures activity. Port access surveys. You know, I’m an Air Force fighter pilot. I don’t think much about the bottoms of ports. But I found out that they sure change a lot. Tides, storms, other stuff all change the structure of the bottoms of our ports. It would be nice to know what’s there, so that if we do have intelligence that says there is a threat of a maritime IED--or naval mine for that matter--that we could understand what’s already existent in the ports so that you could quickly survey and find out what’s different. We’re conducting those port surveys across the country now, with the support of the Navy.
We talked about maritime security and defense, but counter-drug operations, migrant interdiction, theater security cooperation, and environmental response are also areas where DOD can play a role, not the principal role. We have to understand how the other partners operate, and how we can provide support to them. As an example, last year after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, we used Navy sonar towed behind their helicopters to help us survey the channels into the ports of New Orleans and Galveston--to allow us to ensure that we could very rapidly open those ports back up to traffic that is critical to the response and recovery effort. I mentioned our Coast Guard personnel. We have 27 Coast Guardsmen fully integrated into our staff. We’re engaged with the Pacific and the Atlantic area commands. We’re very supportive of the Coast Guard as it restructures itself into an operational command structure. And they are integrated into ours--and we into their maritime planning and execution process. Every day, our command center monitors 35 to 40 events around the country, including maritime events such as vessels of interest. We need to ensure that each of these events is visible to us, and that we anticipate the implications of any one of these going bad. Fortunately, very few do. But if it does, we have to be in position to provide response immediately. Our command center shares information with some 150 other command centers around North America. That’s a big business for us, and the sharing of information is central to everyone’s success.
We’ve established a private sector office inside our headquarters, which works closely with our DHS and FEMA counterparts. As you especially appreciate, the maritime industry plays a big role in national security, and the private sector is a huge part of the maritime security footprint around the world. So we’ve looked for ways to partner with private sector shipping companies, pilots’ associations, and others to help us create shared situational awareness of what’s in the domain so that we can, in my words, sort the friendlies. If you only have to look at two or three vessels of concern, it’s a lot better than if you have to look at 200. So the partnership of our commercial partners has been really valuable to allow us to share information transparently about who’s where, what are they carrying, what their crews look like, where they have been last, what companies are shipping aboard them--all of those things can lead us to the key that might allow us to prevent an attack.
We’re conducting liaison officer studies and expanding the current vessel of interest lexicon, which allows us to increase the number of vessels we can add into our situational awareness tools. Consistent with our homeland defense responsibilities, and as outlined in the Unified Command Plan, NORTHCOM has steadily assumed an increasing role in both maritime domain awareness and the national Maritime Operational Threat Response Plan, MOTR. When I took command, I had to beg my way into the MOTR call because people said, “Well you don’t need to worry about a ship that might be carrying bad stuff that’s coming through the Suez Canal. That’s an European problem.” I said, “Yeah, and where is it going?” “Well, it could be coming here to the United States.” So, when does it become my problem? I’d sure like to know about it a lot farther out. I’d like to find it and fix it. And if I have to target it, I’d like to know how to do that. We’ve now become a routine player in the MOTR process, and I think a valuable partner to all of the members of that process.
In support of the National Strategy for Maritime Security, NORTHCOM was the DOD lead, which is a huge change for us. The DOD lead teams with the Coast Guard as the DHS lead, in co-writing the National Maritime Domain Awareness Concept of Operation. NORTHCOM is teamed with the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command to develop a Maritime Domain Awareness Joint Integrated Concept. It describes how the joint force will conduct future operations to understand the maritime domain. It will also help identify requirements to achieve better maritime domain awareness. We intend to publish this Joint Integrated Concept this summer.
Supporting development of the Joint Integrated Concept, NORTHCOM is the lead operational manager for two technology demonstration projects aimed at providing improved capability for maritime analysts to identify, track, guide, and potentially interdict potential military threats. We support the Navy lead in the DOD Maritime Domain Awareness Campaign. Our naval component command, Fleet Forces Command, is our lead element in that. Two projects are part of this. The first is Maritime Automated Super Track Enhanced Reporting…which is called MASTER. Second is Comprehensive Maritime Awareness…or CMA. These complementary technologies will automatically fuse vessel tracks, people, cargo, and infrastructure intelligence into a net-centric system making the information timely, relevant, and easy to share. And I will say easy to share among all our partners--not just within the DOD classified world, but across the public and private partner sectors. This is being designed to replace a largely manual system--admittedly still a bit stove-piped--and we want to get away from this into a net-centric capability that’s easily transferable to a variety of partners in a variety of domains.
We know we can do this better. We’re well down the road to improving that technology. Sometimes, these technology demonstrations allow us to drive changes in policy as well. And we’re working hard to do that--to increase access to information, and opening-up maritime information-sharing like we really should--with many of the partners who need that key bit of information to ensure their success and to ensure the security of our two countries. We need to share appropriate information with maritime industry operators whose ships and port facilities we’re trying to help protect. We’re partnering in these demonstrations with Pacific Command, European Command, the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard’s intelligence coordination centers--and maritime intelligence fusion centers--many of which tie directly into the various port authority security committees that are meeting around the country each day.
These new tools that we already use in demonstrations are beginning to be put into small operational play. They’re changing the way users perform their daily intelligence tasks. I had a chance to visit the intel fusion center in Charleston, and we’ve piggybacked on some of their information fusion tools to roll into MASTER and CMA, so that we can make these more agile and more effective.
A little more on theater security cooperation: I want to make a few points related to the maritime drug smuggling challenge and its potential connection to terrorism. Some ask, might terrorists take advantage of the illegal drug smuggling market, including the maritime routes? The answer is: they already have. Terrorist groups like the FARC in Columbia and the Shining Path in Peru gain huge financial benefits from the illicit drug trade. There are Hezbollah-connected drug-trafficking organizations in Columbia, and in the tribal areas of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. You may not know, but in fact it’s true, that the leader of the 2004 Madrid subway bombings got the bulk of his money to buy explosives from selling 30 kilograms of hashish. And so, while drug traffickers generally don’t cater to terrorists, terrorists use that avenue to generate revenue in many cases, and certainly can move money around the world. There are elements also of al-Qaeda and the Taliban that have taken advantage of this. Michael Braun, the former DEA Ops chief, told the publication Homeland Security Today in November last year that drug monies allow the Taliban to flourish. He asserted that terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are becoming hybrids: one part terrorist group, one part drug-trafficking--because in effect it’s really all about money. A little over a year ago, our Joint Task Force North collaborated in an operation here in the Pacific Northwest, partnering with DEA and CBP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and others to provide surveillance of little-used approaches to both the U.S. and Canadian coast area up in this region. This collaboration allowed law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border to interdict and arrest drug trafficking that had come up from Mexico along the west coast of the United States into this region.
Drug trafficking is a tough challenge--one that we have get better at stopping. It’s one that we have to provide more resources against, and yet it’s one that has huge potential to continue a spiral in our country around our young people that is unhealthy, costs us money, and in the end has the potential to change the lives of many of our young people. Congress is trying to help us, with initiatives like the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act of 2008. They’ve made evasive operations of stateless semi-submersibles subject to extraterritorial federal jurisdiction and arrest on the high seas, with fine or imprisonment. Congress calls this a specific threat to the security of the United States, and this is a huge step forward. Our Coast Guard friends are working to intercept these vessels between South America and Mexico. They’ve partnered with nations like Columbia, like Mexico and certainly with other nations in the Caribbean to try to interdict these trafficking routes before they can be successful in bringing these drugs into our country. We avidly support the Coast Guard in each of these initiatives, and we feel like it’s an extremely important strategic step for our country.
Defending the homeland against illegal drugs is big team effort. We partner also with our friends in U.S. Southern Command, JIATF-South, which is as you know covers a huge maritime environment. We share information to be better prepared to interdict and, in fact, if needed we can use NORAD aircraft to help search for and identify drug smugglers, human smugglers, or other illicit trade operations. And we have done that on a couple of occasions. We’re proud to be the teammates of our friends across government and the hemisphere.
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