USNORTHCOM marks 5th anniversary

By Petty Officer 1st Class Joaquin Juatai | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | September 28, 2007

October 1 marks the fifth anniversary of U.S. Northern Command, the unified command formed in the wake of the Sept. 11th, 2001 terror attacks and charged with the defense of our homelands.

Established in 2002, USNORTHCOM provides command and control of Department of Defense (DoD) homeland defense efforts and coordinates Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA).

In an ever-changing and uncertain world security environment, USNORTHCOM has grown and evolved in the past five years to better respond to a range of threats, extending into all domains.

This constantly changing environment requires close coordination with inter-agency partners invested in America’s security, whether to protect the nation from terrorist attack or to respond with the appropriate measures necessary in case of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, according to USNORTHCOM Director of Operations, Maj. Gen. Guy Swan, III.

“I’ve seen the command mature (in the last five years),” said Swan.  “It’s finding its proper role in defense of the nation and security of the homeland.

“There’s been an increased awareness around the nation and at all levels of government as to what the role of the command is.”

In addition to defense of the homeland, USNORTHCOM coordinates DoD efforts in the DSCA arena.
According to Lt. Col. Kris Shelstad, chief of domestic initiatives in USNORTHCOM’s Interagency Coordination (IC) directorate, learning how to act in a supportive role during DSCA operations has required a cultural change of the military.

“It’s a little foreign to uniformed culture,” said Shelstad.  “In the beginning (of USNORTHCOM), nobody wanted to be supportive instead of in charge of a response.  It was a cultural issue.”

“The attitude toward DSCA has changed,” said Bernd “Bear” McConnell, USNORTHCOM’s director of Interagency Coordination.  “We’re reaching out more strongly to state governors, local mayors and to the private sector.”

McConnell explained that the command’s own definition of what constitutes “interagency” has changed, encompassing much more than simply agencies of the federal government.

Part of that change has been the realization that USNORTHCOM itself is part of the interagency that “IC” refers to.

“We’re a part of the process and we have built relationships that help that process,” McConnell said.

“We’ve done a good job of reaching out (to federal, state and local governments and agencies) and reassuring those agencies that this command is here to make them successful,” said Swan. 

“We are here to fill in gaps in capability around the nation,” Swan said.  “I feel, personally, that we’ve done our job when a local mayor or a governor is successful in response to a disaster.”