11.10.09 - REMARKS BY GENERAL GENE RENUART at the National Homeland Defense Foundation Symposium VII, Colorado Springs, CO
GEN. RENUART: Thank you very much. It's great to be back at the Symposium again this year. The history and the effectiveness of this symposium have great stature among those professionals out there across our department working within the Homeland Security/Homeland Defense regime. More importantly, the quality of the speakers and the interaction among the players here is extraordinary. It has grown and become more successful each year.
I want to start out by recognizing a couple of friends who have really worked hard to make this work; sitting in front, General Ralph Eberhart, the first NORAD and USNORTHCOM Commander, and Don Addy. I know Don is lurking around somewhere; he's making sure everything is working right. These are two great patriots, two great friends of ours, and I want to publicly acknowledge the work that they've done. And, to the Board of Directors of the Foundation, for all of your time and passion, we really do appreciate your support. Thanks very much. (APPLAUSE)
I just came from across the street, talking to the Career Summit and some people who are looking to find a way to be more helpful and productive in the areas of homeland defense and homeland security. It gave me a good perspective on the kinds of people who are out there eager to join our ranks. We owe them an opportunity; we owe them the education, the training, the opportunity to interface with the public and private sector -- to bring them in. They are eager to join us in securing our nation and it was a treat to be able to spend a few minutes talking to them a little bit about what we do.
Venues such as this one continue to be critical to growing our institutions, our organizations, and our relationships and they will be critical over the next decade. So, I thank you all for taking time out of your schedules to come and participate. As a fighter pilot, I know you want to watch some cockpit video, so I'm going to start with a short video that hopefully will help us discuss not only the threats, but also some of the priorities and initiatives that we take on each day at our two commands. So, I think we have the capability, run that video please. VIDEO: MUSIC
GEN. RENUART: Well, I think when you look at that video, especially at the end [referring to children playing and dancing], it's very clear why we do what we do. Guarding what you value most is the sacred mission that we've been given by our nation and we take that mission very seriously. Each of you are a partner in that mission; each of you plays a critical role, whether it's developing technology, providing technology and creating the relationships, planning across a variety of sectors, all of us have a key role to play in ensuring that that our families can play safely in their communities.
Now, before I go on, I want to make one comment. Is there a Marine anywhere in this audience? [Response] ...: Hoorah!
GEN. RENUART: Happy Birthday United States Marine Corps! Hoorah! (APPLAUSE) The Marines have a proud tradition…and we are growing our tradition in the areas of homeland defense and civil support as well. I just visited some great Marines at Camp Atterbury, Indiana conducting a mission that is critically important to the security and to the resiliency of our nation. I watched some great Marines who have trained in urban search and rescue, technical rescue, and immediate casualty response -- conducting rescue operations in an exercise, in a collapsed facility four stories high and deep. To watch these youngsters work with such skill is incredible and it reminds us that those traditional wartime skills that we've reinforced over the years have to be adjusted to the new world that we see today. People would like to say after any crisis, after every conflict, “We want to get back to normal.” I don't know that we can define what normal is today, and I'd argue that the new normal is one that will require vigilance and security; one that will require us to collaborate across government agencies to ensure that the safety and security of our economy, of our markets, of our schools, of our communities, and of our nation are all secured.
I had a chance last night at the Chairman's Dinner to talk for a couple of minutes, and I want to repeat one of the comments that I made last night. People ask all the time, “So what keeps you awake at night?” I've tried to come up with a number of answers that would lead to technology or would lead to operations, but frankly, what keeps me awake at night is that people forget that the threat is out there. There is a sense of complacency that we've developed since we haven't had an attack in this nation since September 11th, 2001 and that we're somehow returning back to normal. I would argue that, and it causes me great concern because the foreign terrorist nexus out there continues, while I'm proud that we have not had an attack on our soil, it's not because the threat has gone away. It's not because we're lucky. It's because we have worked hard as an institution and as a coalition of nations to ensure that we can identify those threats before they reach our shores. And, if they reach our shores, [we can] identify and prevent them before they can take action.
This threat is evolving. Terrorists are planners. They're constantly thinking about how they can exploit our vulnerabilities. The bigger we build our wall -- the higher they build their ladder. U.S. law enforcement agencies have been very successful. I would point to the Zazi case that has unfolded over the last few weeks as a great example. Tarek Mehanna in Massachusetts was planning to attack a mall and emergency responders in October 2009. I mentioned Najibullah Zazi from the Aurora area planning to attack the New York City mass transit system; Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi in North Carolina planning to attack our U.S. Marines at Quantico; Michael Finton in Illinois, planning to blow up a Springfield courthouse. These are four planned terrorist attacks in the last four months alone that have been interdicted and interrupted through a very successful partnership among law enforcement, intelligence, and even military security elements. That's the kind of interaction that has to occur in order for us to continue to be more successful.
Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Homeland Security Terrorist Threat Conference in McLean, Virginia. It was attended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and law enforcement professionals from every level: federal, state, local and tribal. DHS and the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) have an enormous investment in the people, equipment, and the processes needed to identify, track, and interdict terrorists -- both foreign and homegrown. But the threats to our nation and our continent are not just from terrorists. As the Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM I'm significantly concerned with many other issues as well -- strategic threats. Some of those we thought had gone away at the end of the Cold War, we actually see being proliferated in a very different way; proliferation of weapons technology -- missile technology in particular -- and the ability to weaponize nuclear material is out there and growing, and some nations will continue to take advantage of that, if they can, to hold us at risk. But there are many other issues -- Mother Nature and threats posed by drug trafficking organizations, just to name a couple.
NORAD continues its strong stance to defend the U.S. and Canada against the air threats that we were formed for in 1958, but we have also grown into a mission of providing security within our national aerospace system. We have been tasked to ensure that we can provide the appropriate warning, and to then operate our national missile defense system [under USNORTHCOM authority] against ballistic missiles fired by nation states abroad.
We focus on maritime vessels every day, conducting the maritime warning mission that has been added to our portfolio in the last three years. But that requires integrated intelligence and fusion of information across a variety of public and private organizations to ensure that we know what's moving in the maritime domain. We know where it comes from, we know which shippers are using specific vessels, we know what the crew manifests look like, and we can raise that alarm, should it be required in order to prevent a threat from reaching our shores.
NORAD continues today because of the strategic threat but also because of this new asymmetrical threat. NORAD continues to be the personification of the partnership between the U.S. and Canada to deter threats and defend our nation against them.
We modified our procedures, as I said, to address domestic air threats. In just the last two days we've had a number of activities where we had aircraft of concern that were not compliant with the “rules of the road” in our national airspace system. We were able to identify them and divert them either out of restricted air space, or get them back into radio contact, or into compliance with the FAA's rules. NORTHCOM since 2002, in those days since General Eberhart stood this command up, has defended the U.S. against threats to our homeland -- prepared now to intercept potential ICBM threats from North Korea. We saw those in 2006 and 2009. We monitor each of these events to ensure that there's not a threat, and we are prepared to operate our national Ballistic Missile Defense System in the event that one of these launches becomes a threat to us.
We are building three Consequence Management Response Forces designed to respond to a large-scale or catastrophic event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear nature. We want to make sure that we have that capability, and that Marine force that I talked about just a few minutes ago, the CBIRF (Chemical Biological Incident Response Force), is part of our CCMRF. A great military acronym thing -- CCMRF stands for a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or high-yield explosive Consequence Management Response Force. These forces are designed to respond very rapidly to a large-scale catastrophic event, in support of either federal or local officials, so that we can begin to recover from one of these horrific events, should they occur. If you read all the studies from think tanks that have gone on over the last two or three years with respect to weapons of mass destruction, all of them say “when” not “if.” So can we afford not to be prepared? I think not, and we're working hard to ensure that we have that capability.
Along our borders, the threats of drug trafficking organizations, the movement of illicit trade and traffic, in and out of our country, is a significant security issue for our nation. We can't handle that alone. We partner with our friends in Canada and Mexico each day to ensure that each of us are better prepared, better protected, against these traffickers. We have a Joint Task Force (JTF) down in El Paso that is closely tied to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), ensuring that we provide both counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics support to our law enforcement friends along the border. Helping to defend against the drug trafficking threat is a principal and important mission for this Joint Task Force.
So I talked a lot about defending our homeland; let me shift a little bit to talk about our second mission: Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). It's allowing us to help resource our civil partners better so that they can deal with their principal responsibilities of responding to natural or manmade disasters and threats.
Over the last few years we've been a little busy. Katrina in 2005; Rita in 2005; Wilma in 2005; Gustav and Ike in 2008 have all shown a major evolutionary change in the way the Department of Defense prepares for and partners with our federal teammates to be in position before an event like this occurs, and immediately after to ensure that the response is significant. If you read the lessons learned out of Katrina, they talk about things like a lack of integrated planning, like lack of coordination amongst state and federal responders, about lack of interaction between the Department of Defense and local leaders, local first responders. If you look at the lessons learned from Gustav and Ike, just three short years later, you don't see those concerns at all. You see an integrated planning effort across federal and state and local teammates, between the National Guard and the NORAD and USNORTHCOM staff in a way that allowed us to be present to evacuate before the event occurred and to be present to respond to the damage and destruction that occurred after land fall. Those are significant strides we've taken. We continue to learn those lessons and incorporate them into our plans each day.
Hurricanes alone aren't our challenge. As many of you know, wild fires in California, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma captured us in the last few years and we've been actively engaged with our Modular Airborne Fire-fighting System in our C-130s and our helicopters, and with our ground firefighters to ensure that we are supporting the citizens of those states.
Two years ago we had a bridge collapse in Minnesota and we partnered with DOT and with the State of Minnesota and the county to provide Navy divers to help in that regard. So, even in smaller events, DOD has a role to play, and we should be expected to play that role; we owe that to our citizens. We do this in coordination with our partners in the National Guard, the National Guard Bureau, and the State Adjutant Generals across our nation.
The size, scope, and scale of the threats to our nation are diverse and could be immense. We have to look at the solution sets to this holistically. We've got to create a partnership with our federal agency partners that will allow us to be flexible, to be agile, and to be responsible.
What has prevented attacks in our homeland over the last eight years is that partnership; its vigilance; its collective analysis among our intelligence agencies. I know you've heard from a number of them [intelligence agencies] already. You'll hear from many others over the course of the next day and a half. That partnership and collaboration is really the coin of the realm for our nation's resiliency. We have to offer what DOD can offer. We have to integrate and partner -- collaborate and coordinate when DOD is not in the lead, and in most cases we will not be the leader. I'm extremely proud of the way our team has done this. We've created interagency relationships that are second to none.
Our service men and women, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, active and reserve...all, a total team...are working with the same common effort to the same common effect. The world is changing for sure; the threats will evolve and the way we organize, train and equip ourselves has to continue to evolve as well.
So with that vast array of threats I've talked about, where do we place our priority? That question comes to me often from some of my staff sitting out here. “Boss, what do we have to pay attention to most?” I look at them with a small smile and say, “Everything.” We don't have the luxury of focusing on one single area. It's not about creating a single priority that we work on most; it's about how do we create the process that allows us to juggle a number of balls in space at the same time.
We just completed one of our national level exercises last week, focused primarily on supporting our Canadian friends as they prepare for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But at the same time, we had real-world events occurring with aircraft in our airspace. At the same time we were supporting an exercise in New York that simulated a large-scale earthquake, we had this 10 kiloton nuclear weapon detonation exercise going on in Indiana -- and at the same time we had aircraft flying into restricted zones in the National Capitol region -- and so we had to respond. So on any given day, 30 or 40 events occur and are monitored by our operations center at our headquarters that have to be paid attention to. They're all number 1 until we determine that they're not a threat -- and then we can prioritize them down into our more normal and routine activity. So for us it's not about creating a principal priority that we focus on; it's not about establishing an organization that can just do one thing well; it's not about buying a piece of equipment that can just do that one thing well; it's how you integrate all of those and how you manage all of those in a way that can be responsive to the security requirements of our nations.
We need to build institutions that continue to make us relevant in that regard. We need to remain vigilant for sure, but we've got to do that in partnership with the various federal agencies and international partners that we deal with each day. I'd like to turn my attention to just a couple of those very quickly.
First, our friends to the south in Mexico. I've said it for the last few years in this forum that our relationship with Mexico grows every day. It is better every day. Today I have to tell you that it is good...it is better than it has ever been...maybe in the history of our nation. Why? Because we understand our responsibility to support Mexico in this fight against drug trafficking organizations. We also understand our responsibility to fight those drug trafficking organizations here in our country. We are the demand; we are the ones who are buying those drugs and moving them through the distribution system. So how we get at that problem in our cities -- 240 or 250 cities across our nation every day -- how we get at that problem in partnership with our law enforcement friends is critical to helping Mexico stem the flow of drugs through their country to us. Putting pressure on those drug trafficking organizations, both externally and internally, is a shared mission that we and our friends in the Mexican military undertake every day. President Calderon is courageous. He understands that problem. Admiral Saynez and General Galvan are courageous. They are incredible. They are extremely supportive of this Mil-to-Mil relationship that we have built over the years. We work side by side with our Mexican partners to increase capacity, to train in new techniques, and to share information in a way that makes both of us more successful.
As I look to the north, yes, the Vancouver Olympics are coming, but that same trafficking problem exists today in Canada. When I was in Calgary just a couple of months ago, I was talking to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) team that we were working with and they said they've seen an increase in drug-related, gang-initiated violence. By the way, we see that same thing in our cities today. How we get at that will help us ultimately be successful in the fight against drug trafficking organizations over time. We've got to continue that partnership. We're doing it every day with our friends in Canada and our friends in Mexico. We're expanding our partnership with our friends in the Bahamas, our newest international partner, as we grow a better capability to secure our nation against illicit trade.
Finally, we do that in a close cooperation with Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S). That's a proud institution that has been incredibly effective over the years, but we've added our interface between the two of our organizations. General Fraser and I, and Admiral Stavridis before him, have partnered to provide collaborative, effective efforts south...into Central and South America, and north of course, in North America, so that we can be mutually supportive in the fight against illicit trade and trafficking.
All of these things require synergy across various areas of government. I am pleased with the Interagency Coordination (IC) Directorate that we have in our headquarters. It [the IC directorate] takes 52 organizations of the federal government every day and molds them into an effective means to leverage the strengths of each to provide capability across our institutional domains, so that we can reduce the weaknesses of the institution. We are pleased to be a full-time partner with each of those agencies that reside with us in our headquarters. We've also invested our people in theirs. We have analysts and operators in the National Counter-Terrorism Center, the National Joint Terrorism Task Force, and many of those other federal agencies in government.
This is a unique time in our nation's history. Never before has our focus on defense and security been so consumed by long wars overseas, and by increasing demands and simultaneous economic pressures put on our defense budget. We have to make sure that we spend those dollars wisely. We have to make sure that the benefit we get from that expenditure meets the needs of our country for the future. We have to make sure that we get the best bang for every buck.
I think I'd like to close with just a couple of comments on our preparation in support of the Olympics and a couple of comments about the current H1N1 outbreak.
First, NORAD and USNORTHCOM are partnered with our friends at Canada Command. We'll be partnered with our teammates in DHS to ensure that the Olympics in Vancouver are safe, that they are a wonderful sporting event, that they highlight the beauty of Canada, the beauty of the venues and the opportunity to compete for each of these athletes. But we also have to make sure that they're safe and secure. We don't want it to be a security event; we want it to be an athletic event. And so there's an art form in this and we've spent the last year preparing for the kind of support that we would provide. NORAD for sure will ensure that the airspace and maritime approaches are adequately monitored and that our aircraft are positioned to provide airspace control, should that be required. We will use our airspace warning tools, partnered with the FAA, with NAV Canada, with Transport Canada, the RCMP, FBI and others to ensure that the approaches to the venues from the air are secured. Maritime warning will become increasingly relevant as we start to see the large gathering of folks through the ports and using the ferries and all those things that occur in the Vancouver-Seattle port area. We're partnering with our Canadian friends to ensure that the warning capability that we are growing in NORAD is made fully available.
And the NORTHCOM missions will be significant as well. We'll be partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies and emergency management agencies for support both on the U.S. side of the border and on the Canadian side of the border. You heard Bruce Donaldson, my good friend and Commander of Canada Command yesterday. We've been working with Bruce and his staff to ensure that the right kind of support that might be required is available.
The State of Washington has stood up as well. They built a $4 million DHS Communication Center at Washington's International Airport in Bellingham. That will be used to create the kind of fusion of information sharing that will allow us to be effective. We created a real coalition. We built a team and we're exercising regularly to build that trust -- having just completed, as I mentioned, VIGILANT SHIELD last week. So we're looking forward to a great Olympics. We play a role both in the air and maritime security as well as the response to any event that might occur that would require consequence management. We do this every day with our partners in Canada. We're proud to be a part of their Olympic team as we move towards February.
The other initiative that we're engaged in daily, and I know this has impacted many of you, is H1N1. As you know, we've been at the World Health Organization's (WHO) pandemic level Phase 6 since June and our goal in all of this is to ensure that we try to stay at least a step ahead of this virus as it moves forward. A Purdue University study that came out recently estimates that the virus will infect 60% of the U.S. population. We're partnering with DHS and HHS (Health and Human Services) as part of a whole-of-government team. As a federal team, we're anticipating, and stand ready to support if virus effects extend beyond the state and regional capabilities. We are the DOD global planning lead to ensure that other combatant commanders have a well-integrated plan to respond to, and prepare for, any pandemic -- and certainly the H1N1 as it moves through this year.
We work closely with CDC and the WHO to understand how this virus is affecting our international partners and, as the effect to the nation may grow, how we ensure that our military forces are prepared -- to prevent significant impact to the health and the mission capabilities of our uniformed military. Our priority is to maintain that force health readiness and we want to make sure that we can continue to reassure the people of our country and our partners that we're ready to conduct our jobs.
One final hot-button issue before I close is that of missile defense. There's been a lot of discussion in the last months over the administration's decisions on missile defense in Europe. I personally believe that we have made good decisions in this regard that can allow us to move forward, taking advantage of the emerging technology that may not have been available just a few years ago. This has allowed us to adjust our priorities. But, I want to make sure we pay attention to the fact that the short- and medium-range missile threats may be our most significant. It's something we pay attention to every day in the homeland, but it's also something for our partners abroad that we are increasingly assisting them in creating capacity.
So I have a little bit of time for questions. I want to close here by saying thanks again to the Foundation for all you do to push forward the institutions of security and defense of our nation and -- for the great support you provide to both NORAD and US Northern Command every day. Thank you and I'll be happy to take your questions. (APPLAUSE)