REMARKS BY GENERAL GENE RENUART The 2008 Combatant Commander Speaking Series The Atlantic Council, Washington, DC
October 24 , 2008
Thank you Sir. As I live and breath, I am not sure I ever expected to be introduced by General Scowcroft. What a great patriot and Air Force Officer, even though his college upbringing was a bit in doubt. Sir, it is really great to see you again. What Gen. Scowcroft mentioned about my job working for the Secretary of Defense, I actually worked for both Secretary Rumsfeld as he left office and Secretary Gates as he came into office and built a strong friendship with Secretary Gates. And I know the Secretary looks at General Scowcroft as a real mentor. I recall him saying something about you and how you kept drafting him into jobs he didn’t want, Sir. I don’t know what that meant.
Well it’s great to be here with you today and have this opportunity to speak to the Council. This is a terribly important venue for me to talk about homeland security and homeland defense, about support to civil authorities, and it’s especially neat to see the transatlantic nature of the audience and support from Saab and others who are keenly focused on providing security for the citizens of our nations across both sides of the Atlantic. I was privileged to be in Brussels about four months ago. I visited with both EU and our NATO friends to talk about the issues of the use of the military in homeland security; the support to civil authorities with military forces and described the way we operate here in the homeland. So, the chance to be here with you today is really a great one.
I’d like to start with an anecdote or two and General Scowcroft mentioned that people were trying to figure what NORTHCOM did, and how it fit together, and if you think back to where you were on 9-11, we’ll try to build that network, if you will, and that nexus of how NORTHCOM fits together. I was, as was mentioned, the Director of Operations at CENTCOM. I had recently left Saudi Arabia serving as a commander of Operation Southern Watch and I thought, well I’ll go to Tampa. It’s a wonderful location. Tampa Bay is there. I’ll buy a sailboat. Life will be okay. And 9-11 changed all that, and as it did for all of us in the world. As the dust began to settle, literally, on those events, it was clear to me in my location in Tampa that as you turn to the homeland there was not an organization that was established within the Department of Defense, that could fuse together all of the elements of national power to defend the home turf, if you will; to ensure that our communities were safe; to ensure that we had built relationships with the various agencies of government who had a part to play in this. And it was clear that we needed something more in this nation in order to ensure that we could maintain security in our homeland. A lot has happened since then. As mentioned, NORTHCOM came into existence in October 2002. General Ed Eberhart and Admiral Tim Keating, my two predecessors, had the difficult and challenging task of creating a headquarters and organization of command where none had previously existed, not unlike the challenge of the Department of Homeland Security who was also formed in that same timeframe. A really unique situation occurring because you’ve taken, within our government, 22 organizations on the one hand and put them under the banner of the Department of Homeland Security and told them to be effective. In some cases, those organizations hadn’t worked together at all before. In some
cases, the intelligence necessary for them to be effective wasn’t shared before. In some cases, there was institutional friction among the players that was very difficult to overcome. At the same time, General Eberhart who was the commander of U.S. Space Command and NORAD was told to create an amicable divorce, move Space Command to STRATCOM and establish this new thing called NORTHCOM. And it too had to take a group of disparate agencies and interests and mold them together into a military command that could be effective in the homeland. It took time. It took effort. And I think we saw over the five years since that occurred; now almost six years since that occurred, that it was not always successful. There were fits and starts and you can look to a number of events in our past and see just how difficult that job really was. But I believe we’ve made great success and I believe we’re on the road now to effective interagency integration at the operational and tactical level to ensure that some of those things that we didn’t think about before September 11th and some of the things we didn’t think about before Hurricane Katrina have now been thought about in great detail and have been put in a proper planning construct such that we can actually anticipate some of those threats. And I’ll talk about those in a few minutes.
No good fighter pilot can standup in front of an audience without either talking with their hands or showing a video. I won’t talk with my hands. My wife says I do too much of that. But I would like to run a short video clip just to give you a bit of a teaser about the missions of NORAD and NORTHCOM. And I know there are some folks who didn’t pay as much for your seats over there, so if you would like to, work your way around quickly.
Okay, let’s run the video if you please. [Start of video]
General Scowcroft mentioned to me that he’s a proud granddaddy and our job is to ensure that his granddaughter isn’t put at risk by some of the threats you see today. We take that very seriously in our Commands. It’s a mission of utmost importance to the nation. We want to ensure that if it’s possible to prevent one of those events from occurring, we can do that. So let me take a few minutes and talk about our roles and missions, and our challenges. Then I’ll spend a little bit of time talking about the potential changes that we see as we transition in government from one administration to the next in the coming days.
First, a bit about our commands. The bottom line upfront is the number one priority of both of those commands is to defend the homeland and in one case, NORAD, to defend the homelands of two nations; Canada and the United States. And the second, in the case of NORTHCOM, to ensure that the citizens of the United States are defended against natural and man-made threats that could occur, terrorist, peer-competitors whether they come from space or from the sea. Our role is to be prepared to respond to them. And the missions of those commands are complimentary. Because while one is focused primarily on warning, that of NORAD, the response to that threat has to be a national response. And so NORTHCOM plays an important role in the response. Similarly, in Canada, Canada Command is our counterpart and they take on the national response role for the government of Canada when that nation is threatened. Those two missions work well hand in hand.
First NORAD. We are celebrating our 50th anniversary. It’s the longest standing bi-national agreement in existence. We’ve got a great and tremendous relationship with our Canadian partners and this relationship continues to grow. In accordance with the NORAD Agreement, the Terms of Reference, we have three missions. First, aerospace warning, which is about detecting those threats. In the old days it was built around the Soviet long-range bomber. Today, that threat is still there. And today we have missile warning and we have Space CAP Characterization. So we’ve expanded that warning mission to look not only in the
air surrounding and approaching our nation but also in space. In addition, we changed the perspective from looking outside our borders everyday to looking inside our borders equally. Today, as a matter of fact, we had a light aircraft enter the restricted area in the National Capital Region. We intercepted that airplane and had it land at an airfield. That pilot is talking to 50 of the closest FBI friends as we speak [laughter]. But on 9/11 we couldn’t have done that because we weren’t positioned to do that. We hadn’t integrated with the Federal Aviation Agency and the Transportation Security Agency hadn’t even been formed. We had no relationship there. Today we have the ability to identify those targets. Out of some seven thousand aircraft that are in the air right now as we speak, we maintain vigilance on all of them in a way that allows us to find that individual aircraft, or that crop duster. The crop duster that has been spraying his cotton fields just to the southwest of Crawford, Texas for the last 25 years, and it doesn’t matter who happens to be at their home in that particular area. He needs to spray those crops and he doesn’t carry a radio in that airplane. So who does he talk to? Well we, NORAD, have to go find and identify those kinds of fellows as well to make sure they understand that just picking up the phone and making a call can make his life a lot easier. So it’s those kinds of incidents that occur every single day that make the position of NORAD, both inside the borders of our country as well as outside.
In addition to the aerospace warning, we have a mission of aerospace control and that’s launching those fighters, and identifying that target, and being in a position to do something about it. Today we’ve created the apparatus that could allow for us to engage one of those targets and ones similar to 9/11 if we identify them soon enough and we know that they are a threat or we can determine they are a threat. We have the apparatus that allows us to potentially shoot those aircraft down. Before, they would have the effect of creating mass casualties as we saw in some other locations. In fact, on 9/11, we were attempting to do that when flight 93 hit the ground in Pennsylvania as a result of some heroic efforts by individuals onboard. But we had launched airplanes and we were chasing that aircraft down. Today, our availability to identify, find, and watch those aircraft is much improved over what it was then. We would like for the mission of airspace control to be the sort of last resort. We’d like the security measures in those pesky airport security procedures that we go through to ensure that we don’t put the wrong people aboard those aircraft. But we maintain a capability everyday on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week at locations around the country so that if it is needed as a measure of a last resort we’ll be ready.
The final mission is one that is a bit unique. And it’s that of maritime warning. Two years ago the NORAD terms of reference were adjusted to give us the mission to look into the maritime domain, to look at sea, to look at intelligence that is gathered all over the world and determine if in there, there is a threat to either the United States or Canada. We partner with our friends in the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force, both Canadian military forces at sea, commercial cargo carriers to share information on cargo and on passengers and crew members, on ports of call so that we can create a common operating picture, if you will, of the maritime domain. We work at it pretty hard, but we’re not there yet. We have to continue to create more visibility on sizes of ships and ports of call but we are a long way down the road to creating a common maritime operating picture that will allow us to be successful. Some of that is evident in the successful work that that has occurred in the Joint Interagency Task Force South, down in Key West as they have captured and interdicted some of the drug smugglers that are operating in the Caribbean and in the southern pacific west of the Mexican coast. So that is kind of what NORAD does in a nutshell. It is a well-developed organization with a great history – two great partners that have worked closely together for over 50 years now, and one that we think is a great example of international partnership in the defense of our homeland.
Let me shift a little bit and talk about NORTHCOM. President Bush created NORTHCOM after 9/11 because it was time to have the unity of effort necessary to ensure that all military and civilian agencies tasked with the security and defense of our homeland were put together. So, we built this command, as I said, from an amicable divorce of some other organizations and created it in a way that would allow us to be more effective in supporting our civil authorities whether it is in security or in natural disaster response. But we always retain the mission for homeland defense. NORTHCOM operates in a changing and uncertain security environment across a variety of threats that span all the domains; land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. You need only to look to Estonia or to Georgia just a week ago to understand that the threat from the cyber world is equally significant. And what constitutes an act of war in cyber. Nobody’s really been able to come to grips with what that is. At some point we will have to define that threat and then organize to meet that. The enemies of yesterday were relatively predictable. When I was a young A-10 guy in Europe, I knew my area, the Fulda Gap, cold. I knew all the hills and valleys and I flew in there and I practiced and trained because by golly that’s where the threat was coming from. You can’t define that threat today. Certainly there are peer competitors but our threats today are unpredictable. They’re diverse. They learn as quickly as we do. They benefit from technologies and materials that are readily available because of the global economy. They’re not always military. In fact, they operate in the seams of our economy, of our military, or our information world and they don’t follow any of the conventional laws of war. How are you prepared to deal with that threat?
Globalization has become a tool of our industrial base. We can get supplies and parts from anywhere in the world. But it also creates opportunities. It creates opportunities to accelerate the spread of the proliferation of some of the very same materials that is takes to create a weapon of mass destruction. Globalization can help accelerate the spread of disbelief and so our planning for a pandemic influenza and how we integrate with DHS and Health and Human Services is a key part of our planning effort everyday. And yet the enemy is unpredictable. We don’t know yet if there is the ability to go human-to-human on some of these strains, but we have to be prepared in case it does. As I mentioned the ingredients to fabricate weapons of mass destruction can be moved in a global economy with ease.
Ideologies also move in that globalized world. Information moves across domains at the speed of light and some of our adversaries operate in that very same domain, moving information, moving ideology, moving command and control information through common web sites that we use everyday. So the relationship to terrorism and all of those areas is a possibility that we have to pay attention to. It’s imperative that everyone in our command understand the defense of the homeland isn’t monolithic. It’s not just air. It’s not just space. It crosses a number of domains and we need to pay attention to it. And the command understands that today.
Six years after its creation, we really do, we believe, provide as close to one-stop shopping for the Department of Defense for the military defense of our nation as we have ever had before. We operate across an interagency domain that encompasses what I call a “coalition village” of the many. When I was at CENTCOM, we were happy to create a coalition of the willing. About sixty-two flags stood out in the parking lot at CENTCOM that represented those nations that were committed to OEF or OIF. My “coalition village” has over a hundred and twenty flags in it. They’re the flags of Texas, and Florida, and Connecticut, and Vermont. Each state is unique and sovereign. And yet we have to be able to deal in each one of those state territories whether it’s in a defense role or security role. We have forty-five federal agencies that reside in our headquarters everyday, senior leaders that were provided to us by their agencies to work directly in our operations and plans cells. Each of them has a sovereign flag, if you will.
Certainly our friends in Canada and Mexico are international partners. But we also have entities that are a little bit different to work with. The National Guard is an entity of itself and it’s an entity of each of the states. And so how do you work in an environment where each of them has a different approach to the problems that they see each day. Through all of that, our role is to ensure that we can protect, and defend, and secure our country, and its borders against all of those interests.
One of the things that we did when I took command was add one word to our mission statement and that word was “anticipates” because if you’re not in front of some of these threats, you will never catch back up. Katrina is a great example. We had great military capacity from the Guard, the Reserve and the active component that was there ready to respond but we hadn’t figured out how to integrate all of that to be most effective. We have to be able to do that today. Everyday our command center monitors thirty-five or forty events around the country and we need to ensure that that pulse is visible to us and that we understand the implications of any one of them going bad.
You saw on the video some pictures of Navy divers in the water. Anybody recognize where that was? It was in Minnesota. That was the I-35 bridge collapse. The only place in the nation where that capacity exist to go into murky waters with a lot of current running with concrete and steel all through this with vehicles crushed underneath was the United States Navy. And we put divers in there and it took four phone calls. They were deployed. And they were there to support the local sheriff who was the on-scene commander in Minnesota.
So providing civil support in some of these events is equally important to providing missile defense to our nation. We’ve consolidated our operations centers and our headquarters for both NORAD and NORTHCOM into a single entity. One that has oversight of homeland defense and civil support as well as being responsible for providing an all-domain warning that is necessary to defend our homeland. Now this brings unique challenges with it. Our Constitution has some provisions in it that we have to pay attention to. And everyday my staff of sixteen lawyers follows me around and make sure that I don’t get out of my lane. But it’s important that we preserve for governors, for adjutants general, for emergency managers and for departments of our government the legal flexibility and the legal authority to be effective. We partner with law enforcement agencies, for example, along the southwest border. The military is not conducting border security or law enforcement. The military is providing assistance to them in a way that allows them to be more effective, whether it’s managing sensors along the border; whether it’s doing logistics work, whether it’s using tunnel detection equipment to figure out where tunnels may be that smugglers are using. All of those fit into our military support to civil authorities and have to be done in the context of the constitution.
So with that array of organizations, each with their own capabilities and their challenges, it makes our job pretty complicated. We go from very small to very large operations. Today we’re preparing to provide DOD support to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Denver and in St. Paul. We monitor and manage space launch support so that if something were to go awry we’d have a search and rescue capability to support that.
Recent wild fires in California were a great example of using both Guard and active duty military firefighting equipment – airborne firefighting equipment. We even use things that are innovative like use of the Global Hawk. We can fly the Global Hawk unmanned vehicle at 60,000 feet over the fires of California, use its multi-spectral and infrared imagery downloaded through secure gateways into unsecured networks, push right to the fire chief on the ground, who could then move a fire team around to get to the hot spot that was of most concern.
Those are the kinds of things that we bring into our coalition village and that we spend time, a lot of time, engaging with our partners to define that capability so that it can be effective for them when the time comes.
I mentioned our interagency team. I can’t say enough for those forty-five agencies that live with us everyday. They’ve not just given us a liaison officer. They’ve given us someone who can speak for the organization, who is senior enough that they bring great credibility from their organization, and we in turn have integrated into our daily operations process, into our daily planning process. We created an interagency coordination element that looks for ways to leverage those institutions in the midst of operations so that we can get the best effect. Whether its law enforcement or civil support, they participate fully.
We also have a unique outreach program that I am very excited with. It is our private sector cell. We have a group of people that reaches out to organizations, like BENS, to see what is available in large businesses around the country that could help when disaster strikes. We collaborate with the American Red Cross and share information on where their logistics supply areas are, where ours are, and how do we meet at the event in the most effective way. Let’s don’t have eight trucks all go to the same place with water. Let’s have eight trucks go to eight different places. We’re building that network of logistics support across agencies of government as well as the private sector, people like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Fed-Ex who are interested in being responsible partners in the communities. They’re all part of this private sector cell and this is an innovation that is really paying us great dividends.
Now all of this is great. It’s great progress. It shows a lot of hard work among great professionals. But we have a challenge coming up. We’re going to select a new government in our country. That will come and it will bring with it some challenges for us, and some risk for us in the country. Will a terrorist element or a an unsavory character out there choose to take advantage of that period of time as we transition to conduct something in our country? We don’t know that. I don’t see a threat there that tells me that’s going to happen today. But the minute you take your guard down, it could. And so we’re very focused on building continuity of operations across the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, our operational level players, the Coast Guard, FEMA, NORTHCOM and others so that we maintain vigilance during this period of risk. That we maintain awareness so that we’re sharing information with the right agencies as our nation transitions from one government to another. These are difficult challenges and ones that we have to work aggressively.
Now there are some other challenges that the new administration is going to have to work. And there will be some discussion about the right level of interagency. How do we create more? Should we have Gold-Water Nichols for the interagency? What are the funding levels that we ought to look for elements of the so called soft power? Secretary Gates talked about this a few weeks ago. We have got to commit as a nation to create the right funding for the State Department and for Homeland Security and for HHS so that we can ensure that the soft-power elements of our government are capable of also meeting the challenges of the future.
Immigration and border security will be a big topic with any new administration and certainly with Congress as it turns over. Our interest, of course, is to ensure that we are positioned as the Department of Defense’s lead role in that process to ensure that we can maintain the right kind of support to Customs and Border Patrol and ICE and others who have that tough job on our southern and our northern borders.
A relatively new development is Arctic preparedness. Increased access to this resource rich area and economically important region that it portends to be has security implications. It may be nothing more than how do you ensure that you have search and rescue capability in the Arctic when next year we see ten cruise ships instead of the five we saw this last year. Who takes care of that cruise ship when it’s in international waters? What is the definition of international waters? And so, support for programs like the Law of the Sea is critical to this and I hope we’ll continue to see support for that in our government. Our current U.S. Arctic Policy emphasizes environmental protection and sustainable development of human health in the role of indigenous peoples, and although those are important and will need to be maintained, we also have to ensure that we acknowledge that there will be competition for resources. Increasingly, the views from scientists are there are untapped resources in that region and certainly we all know there are a number of nations who have established some claim in that region. And there is a forum to work those. But we have to have a National Security Policy that acknowledges the importance of the Arctic region in the future and that we are properly positioned to support it. Our Unified Command Plan within the Department for 2010 is an ideal venue for us to address that and we’re working that with the Department.
A little bit closer to home is the concern about weapon of mass destruction threats. It is significant. We have created three force packages. The first of which will be operational on the first of October and designed to provide us a capability to respond to a catastrophic event, a ten-kiloton nuclear warhead, a chemical or biological event that threatens one of our cities or metropolitan areas around the country. I’m really pleased that we have funding and planning and equipping to evaluate them and certify them ready, as I said, on the first of October.
But that commitment to that force needs to continue. And so as we see a new administration come in, it will be important for us to explain to the new team the importance of a focus on homeland security in the years ahead.
The next administration will also have to look at our own hemispheric strategic policies. In my case, I’m interested in our great partner to the south. Mexico probably has the best relationship with the United States its had in many years. Our current partnership capacity building process with Mexico has allowed for improvements in their emergency preparedness. It’s allowed us to be more interactive along the border and that is a very positive effort. But it must continue. The Merida Initiative is a great start, 465 million dollars approved in the recent supplemental. We need to get that to the right organizations quickly. We are working that in cooperation with a partner state. But we have to continue that support. That will get some key capability into Mexican hands to allow them to be better at taking care of the narco-terrorism problem in their country themselves. The Mexicans are a proud nation. They should be. They have a great military leadership team who is working hard to help President Calderon to fight this challenge. We’d like to do that as a collaborative partner. And while we’ve made a lot of progress, we continue to encourage our congressional delegations to help us to support Merida in the next budget year.
There are, I think for all the combatant commands, challenges with creating partnership capacity among our friends. And hopefully we’ll get the funding, the support in section 1206 of the next National Defense Authorization Act that will allow, in our case, the opportunity to continue. But I know all of our combatant commands have an equal challenge there. As I said, our military ties with the Mexican Navy and Army are superb. They have been gracious to give me a Mexican liaison who works on my staff. I hope to add a second this fall. We have probably the best mil-to-mil to relationship we’ve ever had. We’ve hosted members of the parliament of Mexico, members of their interagency team at the assistant secretary level to our
headquarters at NORTHCOM. In all of those cases, the messages are clear. The government in Mexico wants to work more closely with the U.S. It needs to be a collaborative effort and we are very, very supportive of that.
Now we can’t neglect our northern border partner as well. As I said, Canada is a great partner in NORAD. But it’s also a great partner in homeland security through their Canada Command. A big event for Canada is coming, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. We’re collaborating very closely with the Canadian Olympic Organizing Team, especially their security team to ensure that NORTHCOM and Canada Command have created the relationships and the apparatus that could be used to provide support should either nation need it. And of course, as you know, Seattle and Vancouver almost become the same space when large tourist events occur and certainly that will be one. So we need to make sure that we are working closely with our partners.
I mentioned cyber defense earlier and then I’ll start to get off stage because I know I’m speaking probably longer than I’m suppose to. But with regards cyber, NORTHCOM is tasked to defend the homeland. Defending the homeland in the cyber world is a tough challenge. I’ve had a lot of interest in it, but I don’t have many tools. On the other hand, U.S. Strategic Command has tools and capability. We’ve got to integrate that so the needs that we see for the homeland are integrated into the offensive and defensive capabilities that General Chilton develops at STRATCOM. But it’s not just the two of us. Each service needs to have a part in this process. And it’s also an interagency process. The Department of Homeland Security has been given the lead role for the government in creating cyber defense efforts. If you had Secretary Chertoff in here today, he would tell you that we have great intent, we have great people, but we haven’t generated a lot of capability yet. And the resourcing for that is still coming. So we’ve got work to do in the cyber world. And by the way, even those two organizations aren’t enough. Private sector has to play and we’ve got to create a unity of effort in the cyber world that will trade away a little sovereignty in the effort to become more capable in our ability to defend the networks that we rely on so heavily.
So this is a challenge that is going to be a big one. Is it out there, is it real? Ask Estonia, ask Georgia, ask NORTHCOM as we’ve had cyber attacks into our networks on a number of occasions over the last six or eight months. Are they all nation or nation-state threats? No. Sometimes they’re just kids who are trying to be cute. But they’re all real and they have to be paid attention to. We have to balance that. If you create exhaustive controls, you lose the flexibility to operate. So you’ve got to balance security with access in a way that can make you successful.
I hope that in the process of all these comments I’ve given you the sense that our mission is pretty broad. It’s very complex. I was chatting with General Scowcroft before I came in. Its way more complex than I ever expected it to be. We go from warning of traditional threats of pure-nation threats, looking at missile defense, to ensuring that we’re in position to defend the nation against those rogue threats out there to Mother Nature who today says ‘well I think I’ll have a tropical storm in Florida or an earthquake or a fire or a bridge collapse’. All of those things require response at some level from the Department of Defense and that’s our role. So we work with and across all of our interagency partners to ensure that we anticipate the threat, that we plan for it, and that we’re in a position to execute.
So I look forward to your questions. I hope that this has given you a sense of the variety and the complexity of our job each day, and I’m eager to take on your questions. Thank you very much.