March 11, 2008 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- We live in a real time of change, said the four-star chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a March 10 visit to the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.
"I don't think there's a command in the United States of America that is more representative of that than [Northern Command and NORAD]," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the commands' military and civilian staff during his first visit to NORAD and USNORTHCOM since being sworn in as the Joint Chiefs chairman in October 2007.
Not only is military command organization changing, said Mullen, "but we're at a time where we're changing how we're recruiting people; we're changing how we're retaining people; we're changing how we're educating people, how we're training people."
The Global War on Terror has precipitated much of the change in the past six years, Mullen said. "Organizations have been moved very powerfully to change because of the urgency created when you are at war. And we should not forget that – not just that we are at war, but we're going to be at war for a long time."
NORAD and USNORTHCOM represent a shift in recent years from individual service organizations to joint commands, where members of all the military services, plus civilians and interagency representatives, make up the staffs.
A few years ago, said Mullen, the Department of Defense could not have even imagined how joint commands now share information, develop the career paths of officers and enlisted troops and work with interagency partners.
"I believe [NORAD and USNORTHCOM are] right on the edge of what the interagency needs to become in the future," he said.
NORAD and USNORTHCOM should continue to develop and strengthen their relationships with both military and civilian organizations at the state level, Mullen said, especially because the number of both natural and man-made disasters and crisis situations seems to be increasing.
"You have a wonderful opportunity to continue to evolve the mission of homeland security and homeland defense with our state partners," he said. "You are at the center of that in ways that no other organization in the country is, and my expectation is that you lead in that change."
Mullen thanked the NORAD and USNORTHCOM staff for their service to the country.
"You have chosen to serve our country at a really vital time in our nation's history," he said. "In my time of being in the military, I don't think there's a more important, more vital, more critical time to our nation and, quite frankly, to the globe."
NORAD, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in May, is the bi-national Canadian and American command responsible for the air defense of North America and maritime warning for Canada and the United States.
U.S. Northern Command was established on Oct. 1, 2002, to anticipate and conduct homeland defense and civil support operations within the assigned area of responsibility to defend, protect, and secure the United States and its interests.