May 18, 2005 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Six months into his tour as commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, Adm. Timothy Keating said his perspective on the job has changed “dramatically.”
“I thought I had a fair notion of what USNORTHCOM and NORAD were doing, having spent a year on the joint staff,” Keating said in a recent interview. “I underestimated by a big margin the complexity, the scope and the challenges of the job that everybody at USNORTHCOM and NORAD is doing.”
But he’s confident the job is in capable hands.
“The folks on both staffs are as good as folks on any staff anywhere in the Department of Defense or in Canada,” he said. “The workload is more than I thought it would be. The opportunities are significant. And everybody’s working really hard to capitalize on those opportunities.”
Keating was impressed with the commands’ recent participation in two multi-national, multi-agency exercises, Top Official 3 and Ardent Sentry.
“The staff did a terrific job operationalizing – putting into motion, making happen – a lot of…documents like the National Response Plan,” he said. “They’re important guidelines for us, but they’re just guidelines until somebody gets out there and does something about them, and the staff did a great job doing something about them.”
People at NORAD and USNORTHCOM may be working hard, Keating said, but they’re “quick to smile.”
“I think that’s a wonderful barometer,” he said. “Folks kind of like what they’re doing here. They’re busy, they’re engaged, they’re challenged, and they’re pouring their heart and soul into it.”
They’ve also shown heart for the commander and his wife, Wandalee.
“The reception we got by the staffs was warm, sincere and meaningful,” Keating said. “Many, many, many folks have gone out of their way to actually manifest their expressions of welcome.
“The same goes true for the folks on the front range (in Colorado Springs). Without exception, the folks with whom we have come into contact – big and small, rich and not-so-rich – have been the same as the folks on the staff: warm, gracious, thoughtful, accommodating and sincere.”
Keating predicted changes in the organization of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, due to the creation of Canada’s new centralized, joint military Canada Command.
“I think it more than less likely the two commands will have a different structure five years from now than we have today,” he said. “General Hillier, (Canada’s) chief of defense staff, paid us a visit last week and discussed with us his plans…and they’re underway to stand up Canada Command.
“As Canada Command then gets their feet on the ground, as we at Northern Command have done, we’ll have the two major commands for the two countries and, I think, consequently, the Northern Command-NORAD staff structure could look different – maybe sooner than five years, but within five years.”
U.S. Northern Command itself is less than three years old, having been established in October 2002. NORAD, on the other hand, will celebrate its golden anniversary in 2008.