10.20.09 - REMARKS BY GENERAL GENE RENUART at the GEOINT 2009 Symposium, San Antonio, TX
Thank you very much. It’s great to be here with you. I understand that the food lines are beginning to be set up out there and I’m the only obstacle between you and lunch, so I’ll try to at least keep those two guys sitting way back there awake through the course of this, so you won’t be thinking about being hungry.
The sixth symposium--one that has grown over the years to almost 3500 participants this year. This is a neat opportunity for me to give you a bit of a different twist maybe on your themes, and on the key and critical element of getting information to the war-fighter.
Keith asked me to speak a little bit about why you do what you do, and how that relates to what I do every day. He asked me to talk about what an operator or decision-maker may really need. So that’s what I’m going to try to do. And I want to save some time at the end for questions--because that’s actually a great way to interact on some topics that are particularly of interest to each of you.
One of the important things that you need to know starting out is that I’m not an “INT” person. I use it. I need it. I demand it, but, I don’t know how it comes to me…that’s what you do. So I’m the consumer. You all are the producers, and I want to make sure that when you leave here, you understand the unique nature of this consumer. We operate in the homeland every day. This has some unique constitutional and legal limitations. It brings the unique sensitivities of operating federal, state and local…and it mixes highly-classified to unclassified data among the same users. What I want to try to do today is give you a picture of that, and why what you do is so important to us. We may need to change the approach that we’ve taken in the past and talk about the use of information as opposed to intelligence. There’s a fine line that we walk every day in our headquarters…and I know you’ve had some great speakers up already, and you’ll have some who are way more knowledgeable than I am in the next day and a half…but the unique nature of the homeland is a challenge for us.
I’d like to spend a minute or two talking about coalitions. I’ve spent a lot of time in my career working in the coalition environment…and watched the evolution of how we move information, intelligence, situational awareness to our coalition partners. Thirteen years in the NATO area…and I was involved in Operation Deny Flight. We began to build the very first sort of grandfather of releasable computer information systems. We had the NATO nations involved in that operation. We didn’t all share the same information…we didn’t have the same source for much of the intelligence that we used day in and day out…and so the opportunity to pull together that relevant, important information and translate it at that time to the 18 nations of NATO was a very interesting challenge. Some of the things we see today in our multi-generational C4ISR systems grew out of the need to share information more freely and rapidly with our NATO partners in Bosnia.
I also spent a fair amount of time in Southwest Asia, which provided a very different group of partners…many nations that we had not previously been involved with. With some nations, we had long-standing relationships but were very careful about what we shared…and how we shared with them. As we began in Desert Storm and moved on into Southern and Northern watch a number of years later, we had to build tools that could fuse information in a way that was accessible, was releasable, was secure, and was visually understandable by people that we didn’t share a common language with. We had the benefit in NATO of having English and French as our common languages--not the case when you moved into Southwest Asia, and you had partners who didn’t share that common language. So the visual…the imagery…that kind of data was extremely important.
Fast-forward a year or two later, I went to CENTCOM as the J3…the Director of Operations…for a quiet, mild-mannered guy named Tom Franks--actually, a really good guy and someone whom I’m indebted to for getting me to where I am today in many ways. He was under intense pressure to create a coalition with no notice. We were involved in Southern watch, we were not planning for large-scale combat operations in that region, and 9-11 occurred--which began a series of events that led to Operation Enduring Freedom. We built a coalition. Coalition was important then, but there wasn’t an alliance that we centered it around. There wasn’t a NATO. So 62 or so nations came together in Tampa, planted their flags and became part of this Coalition of the Willing. I’m happy to see that term continuing to be used, because it really says a lot about how nations of the world can gather for a purpose. But if you were a member of that Coalition of the Willing, you expected information that allowed you to use your forces on the battlefield in meaningful ways. Again, we hadn’t created the information systems that allowed that to happen. We’ve grown into net-centrics now as one of those tools. We’re talking now about SIPRNET releasable as another way to help our military partners take advantage of the secure data environment that we operate in, but we had to build that step-by-step.
As a nation contributed capability, the door to intelligence and information-sharing opened to them, and that coalition grew over time to 70-plus nations as we moved into Iraq in 2003. Nations large and small, some providing something as small as a bomb dog team to something as large as a division. In each case, we had to ensure that we could take the information that many of you produce, whether it’s in a government or a non-governmental agency, and pull it together in a way that will allow those coalition partners to be successful. All of the partners tried to integrate their operations together, so it required us to integrate the data -- the information, the knowledge -- into a set of tools that allowed for each of those partners to share. Information sharing, especially in a coalition situation, is something I’ve actually been around a while.
When I finished my time at CENTCOM, I went out to the Pacific as a Vice Commander of PACAF…my Reward tour, as you may have heard earlier--after 3 years, 21 days, 7 hours and 21 minutes focused on operations in Central Command. So, it took me about a good eight months to go through withdrawal from those operations as I moved to the Pacific.
The Pacific was also a very different environment for information sharing…for geospatial intelligence fusion…for all of those kinds of things that can make you successful. We learned about it most quickly, not because of plans for operations in Korea, and not because of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, but because of this little thing called a tsunami. Nations across the Pacific came together to provide assistance to nations that were struck by a terrible disaster. We didn’t earn respect in that environment because we happened to be the U.S., because we were a big nation. We didn’t earn respect because the Pacific Command deployed a carrier battle group into the tsunami response area. We actually earned it because we found a way to provide very rapid, very meaningful, humanitarian assistance and the information associated with that to government and non-governmental agencies--to allow them to be most effective. Many of you participated in that tsunami response in very meaningful ways. We were able to share damage information with the Red Cross, and with the other militaries supporting the effort. We could very rapidly reassess the conditions of the ocean bottom in and around there, so we knew where we could maneuver ships and focus our relief efforts. That established the United States as a force for good with a nation that has the largest Muslim population in the world. Even some of the insurgency that was ongoing in their country went away when they saw how the world united in its effort to provide relief.
Fast-forward a little bit more, and you might recall the earthquakes in Pakistan. The most visible, the most well-known child’s toys in Pakistan after that earthquake were two models – one of a CH-47 and one of a CH-53…because they knew these were symbols of the United States bringing relief to them when Mother Nature struck. Sometimes, events that occur out there that are beyond our control drive us to fuse information together in a way that we really hadn’t planned for. So the community has to be able to adapt and to adopt new ways of moving critical information around--and in this case, much of it unclassified, but in many other cases, the ability to move from classified to an unclassified environment very, very quickly.
So, I got a few bruises on my body as I moved around to each of those jobs, certainly Bosnia and Afghanistan and Iraq and the Pacific--all of those prepared me for the move to this position…a very different role and a very different information-sharing environment. I’m going to talk a little bit about NORAD and NORTHCOM, and why that’s unique. In the homeland, here in our communities, information has to be handled differently. Intelligence to me and intelligence to the Police Chief of San Antonio are very different products. I focus my intelligence efforts outside the country. I spend a lot of time looking at Mexico, at drug trafficking. I spend a lot of time looking at places in Southwest Asia where the terrorist organizations continue to maintain their central organization…and how that network works its way here to the United States…and when we should pay attention to tips that occur. We’re about the network. We’re not so much about the origin. That’s Dave Petraeus’s world, and he’s plenty busy taking care of it. But I want to make sure that if it begins to leak out, and it begins to come to our homeland, we’ve paid attention to it. And not just the military and the Department of Defense, but the Customs and Border Patrol, the FBI, the Intelligence agencies, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms team members. All of us have a critical role to play--each of them very prescribed in law…and by the way each of them with a whole pack of lawyers running around to make sure we stay within our lanes in law.
We have to be very careful how we package and use and sometimes even talk about geospatial intelligence. In fact, I’d argue that maybe that name is probably out of sync with the way we have to operate in my area of interest, in my area of focus. In our area, Mother Nature plays as much of a role as an adversary as does a nation state. In fact, probably more commonly than a nation state. Terrorism, trafficking, illicit trade and traffic are day-to-day threats in our area of focus, so we have to pay attention to how we marry information that we know from abroad with our law enforcement partners whom we support here at home. They have a big, big job…and certainly their understanding and desire for intelligence of the criminal activities that are occurring is critically important. So we work very closely with them.
NORAD and USNORTHCOM are two unique commands. They’re separate and they’re distinct. NORAD was formed 51 years ago in a binational agreement between the U.S. and Canada--to provide protection from Soviet bombers that could or might attack us with nuclear weapons. It’s evolved substantially over time – not just a mission of aerospace warning and control, for which we need a combination of national imagery, of overhead imagery, of land-based radars and other tools. It’s evolved now into aerospace warning and control inside the borders of our country. September 11th showed us that a commercial airliner can be used as a weapon of mass destruction, and so we had to reposition our resources and rethink the way we provide for the defense of our nation against that kind of a threat.
NORAD’s also had the mission of maritime warning added to our job, and that’s a big challenge. Understanding what is on the sea, where it’s come from, what the connective tissue is among all those agencies really challenges us--and we’re asked to provide warning to both the U.S. and Canada about those kinds of threats. There are huge opportunities here, and certainly creative geointelligence support can help us, but there are also huge challenges. We’ll talk a little bit about maritime domain awareness and some other tool sets here in a couple of minutes.
By the way, NORAD also tracks Santa. This project is a huge user of geospatial information, and I appreciate those of you who are involved to help us make that successful. In fact, if you go to our web site beginning today, you can find information for your kids or grandkids to get on and talk to us in our OP Center on Christmas Eve.
USNORTHCOM was formed out of a terrible event in our nation. You know that September 11th changed the way our government approaches operations in the homeland. The Department of Homeland Security was formed. The Transportation Security Agency was formed. All of that was fused together--those two plus 20 other Federal agencies to create a new department. At the same time, the Department of Defense was asked to form a unified command that focused on homeland defense and Defense support of civil authorities. This includes mission sets like ballistic missile defense, maritime defense, and consequence management for weapons of mass destruction attacks--chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives. It also allows for the fusion of a broad range of DOD capabilities and capacities that might be requested by primary Federal agencies when disaster strikes. We’ve got, oh, a few hundred of those examples that have occurred since our stand-up. So, the bottom line up front for me is that everything you do helps us get our job done.
We have to define for you the kinds of information we need--in a manner that is meaningful to you, whether you are a contractor developing capability or a federal agency putting it together--pulling down those tools--or someone who fuses it together to give to consumers like me that’s meaningful in a way that I can share it with my friends. It’s not just providing information, but it’s also doing it in a way that is understandable by our partners--our international partners, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas--our national partners. I talked about that coalition at CENTCOM that I was pretty proud of--62 nations or so growing to 70-plus nations. Well, I have a whole new coalition village in our world now. It’s about a 120 nation-states strong, and I use that word deliberately.
If you happen to be from the state of Texas, you actually probably feel pretty strongly that you are a sovereign state, maybe a sovereign nation…we never know. (laughter) But the point is, you are. By the way, so are the other 49 states in our country…and the territories and the District. Each of them has unique capabilities. Each of them has unique requirements. Each of them has unique threats. I’d argue that the border between Texas and Mexico is a very different environment than the border between some of our other states in the country. So there are different ways you need to move information to fuse intelligence, to provide that to the appropriate agencies to help each of the states approach their problem. The same is true in Defense support to civil authorities in a disaster response. Texas and Florida and Louisiana and Mississippi each have different capabilities and different approaches to responding in a disaster, so we have to deal with each of them truly as a sovereign and independent organization.
We also have about 60 federal agencies that we work with every day; 52 of them live in our headquarters each day and they, too, have constitutional authority. They, too, have clear roles and missions. You’ll be surprised to hear this, but they actually believe the DOD isn’t in charge of their organizations! And, by the way, we shouldn’t be. Our role is to provide support to each of them when they need it, to collaborate with them, to coordinate with them, to communicate with them as we prepare for disasters that may occur. So, we change the nature of operating in the homeland. We’ve created partnerships that have adjusted the missions of each of those headquarters, each of those commands. Example in NORAD. On September 10th, we had four sites that had fighters on alert with their noses pointing out from the coast, out into the peripherals, the littorals of our country, because our focus was outside. We were looking for those pesky Russian bombers still. We were still rooted in that Cold War approach to homeland defense. We realized that didn’t work very well. In fact, F-15’s from Otis Air Force Base that were launched to try to get to Flight 93 before it might crash into a target in Washington were ill-prepared for that mission. We didn’t have the relationships with the Federal Aviation Agency, and there was no TSA. We didn’t know how to communicate effectively among our organizations, and so they couldn’t have gotten there in time to have an effect.
Today, that’s not the case. Today, the Federal Aviation Agency lives in our headquarters every day. I can tell you right now, any one of the 7,000 airplanes that are flying in our National Aerospace System, if they begin to deviate from their flight plan…if they stop talking on the radio…if they’re not putting the appropriate code into their identification system, that’s highlighted both to the FAA and to us--and we can begin to create the apparatus to intercept that aircraft should it be required, and then make some determination. Just in the last year, you’ve seen a couple cases of that, like the gentleman who stole an aircraft from Thunder Bay Aviation School in Canada, eventually landed, thought he wanted to commit suicide by letting NORAD shoot him down. We actually had pretty good control over that process, and so it didn’t make sense to do that. On the other hand, we were able to stay closely attached to that airplane, and should it have been a threat, at least would have had an option. That didn’t occur on September 11th but it does today. Now, we have between 16 and 20 sites around the country on any given day, that are equipped with aircraft that can respond. You can’t do that unless you have a clear picture, you have the information, the knowledge management to be able to point to the right place in the sky, and then you can effectively accomplish an intercept and identification, should it be required.
So that’s how we’ve evolved our missions in NORAD and in NORTHCOM. Similarly, with things like missile defense that we’ve talked about already, you’ve got to fuse together very rapid pictures of what is occurring out there, not only in an adversary nation but in space as it becomes a threat to you, and then effect a successful engagement with our missile defense system. We practice that. We work that hard every single day.
Everything that occurs of substance in our joint, interagency and multinational world at our two Commands revolves around our ability to move, to organize, to display in a timely manner relevant, accurate information to a point where a leader can make a decision. And that leader is generally one of our senior staff who then is talking to the Secretary and the President. It’s critical that we provide those senior leaders of our nation the right information right now. Latency isn’t a game we can play. It’s got to be real-time, and you work in that every day. You’re working that very hard. We are very much in need of continued efforts to try to reduce decision time…reduce information flow time…so that you can increase decision time for the political leaders of not just the U.S. but also of Canada. You deal with this every day, and your technologies are changing so fast that it’s sometimes easy to get fascinated with the change and not the product. So I charge you to stay focused on the tool, of course, but it’s the product at the end, maybe somewhere well out on that chain of information, that is really dependent upon a very rapid turnaround of digits into knowledge into decisions.
As a combatant commander, I really focus on operations. I appreciate that the services are focused on organize, train and equip--and that includes acquisition. The Department of Defense is working hard on acquisitions, and acquisitions are interesting but not necessarily as relevant to me – I need product and I need it now. We support acquisition programs. We put our demands into the system through the JROC process and others. But I’m really looking at output, and that’s where we focus our efforts every day. How do we fuse that output together in a way that is meaningful to each of our partners. Technical capabilities-- those technical capabilities you all represent in this room--can do wonderful things, but they’re just things unless you can transform them to a leader who can make decisions. Action is what we’re looking for, when we don’t have much time to respond.
Military support operations in the homeland are unique. We don’t know when a tornado is going to occur…or when an earthquake is going to occur. We don’t know when the winds will change in California, and you will all of a sudden evacuate tens of thousands of residents because of wildland fires. We don’t know when a levee will break again. That’s Mother Nature’s timeline--it’s not ours. So we have to be ready to respond to that ahead of time, which means we have to have planned for it. Didn’t do that very well in Katrina. Marvelous effort. We put a lot of people down there, but really had no integrated plan. That was a failure of the Department, and we’ve changed a lot. But in order to plan, in order to be effective, we’ve got to have the right assumptions--which means the right information up front to allow us to act very quickly when a no-notice event occurs. If I’m on the phone with the Secretary of Defense or the President…Prime Minister of Canada even…I’ve got to be able to give them facts, I’ve got to give them good clear analysis, clear options that they can choose from, and it has to be supported by data that is not only relevant but accurate. And then I can share that information with our mission partners in a way that allows for us to take effective action.
Our Command’s information-sharing moves across all of the Department. It talks to all of the services. We’re partners with each of the combatant commanders, and we have activities across the spectrum of government as well. We have to be able to move information to our mission partners--not only federal, but state and local. The ability to move a Global Hawk piece of imagery to a firefighter in San Diego County can’t take all day. It can’t really take a half an hour. It has to be there in minutes. Because that’s what information is usable. And it doesn’t always have to be the high-glitz tool. There are many unclassified sources for information that actually fit better to support local authorities, but you’ve got to know where to find them…you’ve got to know how to get a hold of them…and you’ve got to know how to get them out to the user in the end game. Each of those is a tough problem to solve, especially if you’re the guy that’s trying to figure out where to move a fire team when hot spots occur that you’re not aware of.
In our NORTHCOM DSCA role, we support those partners. I don’t command any of those agencies. Those 120 coalition members I talked about? Not a one of them is under my command. But if we’re not successful, the nation fails. How you provide leadership and support from the middle is an art form, and we’re working hard at that in our NORAD and NORTHCOM headquarters--to ensure that we can get information to the right people to allow the overall effort to be successful.
Our Command Center monitors 30 or 40 events around the country every day. We share information with over 150 operations centers—including federal, state, local, National Guard and Reserves. We’ve also begun an outreach into the private sector that we’re very pleased with. I mentioned NORAD Tracks Santa, which also reaches out to the private sector for help. We have an interaction program with private organizations like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, Federal Express, the Red Cross, and many faith-based organizations as well--who all want to try to help when a disaster strikes, but sometimes don’t know how to get their information into the fight. Our information and logistics professionals have worked hard with these partners to put together interactive web sites that allow you to understand where need is the greatest, and how you can contribute to that. We partner with organizations like BENS--the Business Executives for National Security--to design a web site that allows for individual donors to contribute. All of that is tied to geospatial information, because you’ve got to know where it’s needed and you’ve got to know how to get it there. You’ve got to know what the logistics are like to move along available lines of communication, all the traditional battlefield terms--but in the homeland, they take on a very different meaning. Each of these private-sector partners takes advantage of information systems. But none of them call it intelligence. Yet the need for sharing is never any more critical than when a levee breaks or a fire is burning or a hurricane is bearing down on a coastline. So we have to continue to advance the ways that we use that information and share it to our partners.
I mentioned early on, I’m a simple fighter pilot. I don’t have near the knowledge that you have about your career fields. But I do know that no matter who provides it or how we fuse it, it’s important to me to get it to the right people in these jobs and it’s important to me to do that within the constitutional restrictions and limitations that we have. So we spend a lot of time providing oversight on our intelligence functions to make sure that we are not stepping across the line. If somebody does, we have to make sure that we are honest and up front about the mistake, and take action to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Our Constitution demands that. Our country demands that. And the trust that we have from the people of this country is that we will not break that line. We will not step across the very carefully laid-out separation of civil law enforcement and the military in our homeland.
Let me shift a little bit and talk about some of our other partners. Canada is a close friend, of course, because of NORAD. Our relationship with Canada has grown in the last few years as we prepare for events like the Vancouver Olympics. We have a unique relationship with Canada Command, our Northern Command counterpart in Canada, and our information-sharing across that border is robust. Our relationship with Mexico is growing in leaps and bounds every day. I think our mil-to-mil relationship with the country of Mexico is as strong as it has ever been in history. We have to keep growing this. It’s an important relationship because of the struggle that they have going on in their country. The government of Mexico courageously has made a commitment to decrease the capacity of drug trafficking organizations to move product, and to be a disrupting effect within their country. More importantly, they are committed to help us because that product is only staying in Mexico in small amounts. It’s coming to this country. If you’re the distributor of drugs coming out of Mexico, you’re looking at 250-260 cities around our country as your distribution points. Drug violence has increased across our country…gang violence related to drug-trafficking organizations has increased around our country…and so we as a strong part of the U.S. team supporting Mexico have a vested interest in ensuring that Mexico builds capacity to limit that flow so it doesn’t come into our cities--so it doesn’t affect our children. We, as a country, must also work very aggressively to stem the flow of money that has been laundered going south, as well as weapons moved from this country into Mexico, so that we can help stem the violence on the south side of the border as well. All of that requires a fusion of intelligence and information-sharing that is historic right now with Mexico. It’s unprecedented. We continue to work that very aggressively, and I know many of you are involved in it. Jim Clapper was in to talk to you yesterday. He and I have worked very, very carefully on how we expand information-sharing with Mexico, and we’ll continue to do that. Admiral Blair is aggressively working that on the national level, to help us with this challenge. The Mexican government and their military deserve our support. And frankly, if we don’t do it, we’re the ones at risk. Our children are the ones at risk.
Let me just give you a couple more examples of the value of geospatial tools to us. We handled the problem with mass during Katrina. When Ike and Gustav and Hannah hit last year, we handled the problem with precision. Why? Because we had a better understanding of what is needed in a large-scale disaster, and sometimes throwing mass at a problem isn’t the way to solve it. Without the use of the tools that you all produce for us, it’s hard to know exactly where the critical elements will be for success, and we very much appreciate that. In Katrina, we couldn’t talk to each other, we didn’t coordinate well, we didn’t have a means to move data back and forth among our institutions. Today, we do. Today, we’re a very different headquarters. And today, we can take advantage of the products you provide to ensure that we are well planned and well prepared for the hurricane season. This year’s been pretty good! All of the hurricanes have been out in the Pacific. The season is about over, I hope, but we are still better prepared this year than we were last--and I know Texas especially understands the importance of preparation for the hurricane season.
We’ve spent a lot of time working with our partners in Department of Homeland Security. It’s important for them to develop a networked set of tools that can be moved down to the states and to local authorities. That product is the Homeland Security Information Network. I know some of you aren’t big fans of it. I’ll tell you, we use it every day. It’s important for us because, right now, it’s the only tool that seems to be effective at making that wide-ranging information-sharing work. We’re working aggressively with the Science and Technology Directorate within DHS to expand that set of tools, so that we can move information more aggressively. We also work a whole series of national events each year that rely on a tool we call the Situational Awareness Geospatial Enterprise, or SAGE. SAGE is our primary mechanism to share your products with the DHS team. It is now designated the unclassified common operating picture for DOD. SAGE and our J6 were recognized a couple of years ago at this convention for an intelligence achievement award, so we’re really proud of the effort that our folks have put into this--and the product we’re getting.
It’s not just about hurricanes. Wildfires continue to be a challenge. We work a combination of download of information to firefighters as well as our own airborne systems to be effective. We’ve dabbled with things like Global Hawk, as I mentioned earlier, and that’s been successful, but it may not be the best use of those tools. There are other ways to provide that same information: full-motion video, manned aircraft that have both EO and IR sensors--all of those are critical to us--but the “before, during and after” comparison in many cases comes from many of you and from our geospatial tools, and we’ll continue to work that. You all watched the floods this spring in the Red River. We provided overlays for many of the flood models to the National Guard supporting that. In each case, that information allowed us to be more prepared in the event that something untoward happened.
Now, we’re getting close to your lunchtime and I don’t want to get off stage without a little bit of an attention-getter. I’ve got a short video that I’d like to run for you, and then I’d like to open up for questions. (3-minute video is played)
As you look at that, it gives you a pretty good picture of who are customer is. It’s each of you. It’s your children. It’s your grandchildren. It’s your communities. It’s your schools. It is what makes this country great. And if we’re not paying attention to that every day--to ensure that threats to our country, whether they are natural or manmade are prepared for and prevented when we can--then we’re not doing our job well. We desperately need your support to do that well in the planning stages and in the execution stages. We desperately need to move information across classified and unclassified means. We desperately need to be able to do that at machine speed.
I don’t need to spend time determining who should get to see a particular piece of information. I just want the information to move to the right people at the right time and you all have the key to that. I need your help with it. I need you to focus on the kinds of things that can allow us to work in this multi-domain environment, and in an increasingly broad area of the globe. We’re beginning to see more interest in the Arctic. We’ll sponsor an Arctic Domain Awareness Conference that will be in May or June at our headquarters. We have an Air Domain Awareness Summit that we and DHS are sponsoring in January. These conferences will require many of your organizations to participate to be successful. We need and appreciate your support in making America safe. That is our job. It is one we take seriously, and we look forward to partnering with you every day.
I think we have a couple of minutes for questions if we could, so let me stop and open up the floor.