"We have the watch, always..."

—Gen. Glen D. VanHerck

 

 

 

 

Our Story

U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. We defend America's homeland — protecting our people, national power, and freedom of action. Integrated and aligned with North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a bi-national command responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning, we share a common goal of defending North America.

ABOUT NORAD   

 

  

About USNORTHCOM

USNORTHCOM plans, organizes and executes homeland defense and civil support missions, but has few permanently assigned forces. The command is assigned forces whenever necessary to execute missions, as ordered by the president or secretary of defense. Civil service employees and uniformed members representing all service branches work at USNORTHCOM’s headquarters located at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The commander of USNORTHCOM also commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a bi-national command responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for Canada, Alaska and the continental United States.

USNORTHCOM’s civil support mission includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur during fires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Support also includes counter-drug operations and managing the consequences of a terrorist event employing a weapon of mass destruction. The command provides assistance to a Primary Agency when tasked by DOD. Per the Posse Comitatus Act, military forces can provide civil support, but cannot become directly involved in law enforcement.

In providing civil support, USNORTHCOM generally operates through established Joint Task Forces subordinate to the command. An emergency must exceed the capabilities of local, state and federal agencies before USNORTHCOM becomes involved. In most cases, support will be limited, localized and specific. When the scope of the disaster is reduced to the point that the Primary Agency can again assume full control and management without military assistance, USNORTHCOM will exit, leaving the on-scene experts to finish the job.

Area of Responsibility

USNORTHCOM’s area of responsibility (AOR) includes air, land and sea approaches and encompasses the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles. It also includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Straits of Florida, and portions of the Caribbean region, to include The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The commander of USNORTHCOM is responsible for theater security cooperation with Canada, Mexico and The Bahamas.

Map of the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility

Mission & Vision

OUR MISSION is to defend our homeland – deter, detect, deny, and defeat threats to the United States, conduct security cooperation activities with allies and partners, and support civil authorities.

OUR VISION is to outpace global competitors, deter adversaries, deny and defeat threats through all-domain awareness, information dominance, decision superiority, and global integration. 

Command Leadership

Subordinate Commands

USNORTHCOM has few permanent forces, but forces from all parts of the Department of Defense may be assigned as needed to complete our mission. We exercise command and control of two subordinate unified commands, four service component commands, and several standing Joint Task Forces.

 

 

Unified Commands


 

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U.S. Special Operations Command North

U.S. Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH) is the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) component of U.S. Special Operations Command. The unit was established in November of 2013 to enhance the command and control of special operations forces throughout the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility. SOCNORTH, in conjunction with interagency and regional partners, plans, coordinates, and when directed, executes special operations to defend the United States and its interests.

 


 

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Alaskan Command

Alaskan Command (ALCOM), in coordination with trusted partners, conducts homeland defense, civil support, mission assurance, and security cooperation within the ALCOM area of operations to defend and secure the United States and its interests. ALCOM is headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and falls under U.S. Northern Command as a subordinate unified command. DoD forces in Alaska include more than 22,000 U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps personnel, and 4,700 Guardsmen and Reservists.

 


Component Commands


 

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U.S. Army North

U.S. Army North (ARNORTH) is the land component of USNORTHCOM. They are the Army's dedicated headquarters focused on DoD operations within the homeland. ARNORTH works with joint, interagency, and international military partners to achieve protection in depth — supporting global operations, securing the approaches to the homeland, and serving within the homeland. On order, they command and control deployed forces as a Joint Task Force or Joint Force Land Component Command.  

 


 

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1st Air Force/Air Forces Northern

1st Air Force/Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH) is the designated air component for the USNORTHCOM. They provide aerospace control and air defense of the continental United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the surrounding seas out to approximately 500 nautical miles. AFNORTH is the senior agency in the Theater Air Control System. When tasked, they conduct homeland defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations in the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility. 

 


 

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U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command

U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command (NAVNORTH) is the maritime component of USNORTHCOM. They provide maritime forces prepared to conduct homeland defense, civil support operations and theater security cooperation activities when directed by USNORTHCOM. They provide operational planning and coordination support to USNORTHCOM as well as command and control subordinate forces during the planning and execution of joint missions.

 


 

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Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic

U.S. Marine Forces Command/Marine Forces Atlantic (FMFLANT) execute antiterrorism programs and force protection responsibilities in support of USNORTHCOM. They command service-retained operating forces, execute force generation actions across the active and reserve components, and direct deployment planning and execution of service-retained operating forces when attached to and operating within the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility in support of homeland defense and civil authority operations.

 


Joint Task Forces


 

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Joint Task Force North

Joint Task Force North (JTF-North) is the DoD organization tasked to support our nation’s federal law enforcement agencies in the identification and interdiction of suspected transnational criminal organizations’ activities conducted within and along the approaches to the continental United States. Transnational threats are those activities conducted by individuals or groups that involve international terrorism, narco-trafficking, alien smuggling, weapons of mass destruction, and the delivery systems for such weapons that threaten the national security of the United States.

 


 

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Joint Task Force Civil Support

Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS), established in October 1999, is assigned to U.S. Northern Command and conducts CBRN response operations planning and preparedness to maximize mission readiness and capability. JTF CS is the nations’ only standing CBRN joint task force. Originally formed as a standing joint task force under U.S. Joint Forces Command, JTF-CS was transferred to USNORTHCOM when the command was established Oct. 1, 2002. 

 


 

Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region 

Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) is a joint subordinate command to USNORTHCOM. Established in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, JFHQ-NCR is responsible for land-based homeland defense, defense support of civil authorities, and incident management in the National Capital Region. JFHQ-NCR draws together the existing resources of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and NORAD into a single point headquarters for planning, coordination and execution of the mission in the National Capital Region.

 


Command History

Prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil, USNORTHCOM's activation on Oct. 1, 2002 marked the first time a single military commander has been charged with protecting the U.S. homeland since the days of George Washington.

 

 

USNORTHCOM Commanders

  1. Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF, Oct. 22, 2002 – Nov. 5, 2004
  2. Adm. Timothy J. Keating, USN, Nov. 5, 2004 – March 23, 2007
  3. Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., USAF, March 23, 2007 – May 19, 2010
  4. Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., USN, May 19, 2010 – Aug. 3, 2011
  5. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., USA, Aug. 3, 2011 – Dec. 5, 2014
  6. Adm.William E. Gortney, USN, Dec. 5, 2014 – May 13, 2016
  7. Gen. Lori J. Robinson, USAF, May 13, 2016 – May 24, 2018
  8. Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, USAF, May 24, 2018 – Aug. 20, 2020
  9. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, USAF, Aug. 20, 2020 – Present

Command Lineage & Honors 

Unit Designation: United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM)

Previous Designation: None

Authority: Established Oct. 1, 2002, per Unified Command Plan 2002, April 2002.

Higher Headquarters: Secretary of Defense. The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, Section 164, established that the chain of command for combatant commanders (such as Commander, USNORTHCOM) flowed from the President to the Secretary of Defense, and that combatant commanders performed their duties under the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense.

Station: Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Awards & Decorations: 

  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Oct. 1, 2002 – Sept. 30, 2004
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Jan. 1, 2007 – Dec. 31, 2008
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Jan. 1, 2010 – Dec. 31, 2011
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Jan. 1, 2015 – Dec. 31, 2016
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Jan. 1, 2017 – Dec. 31, 2018
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2020

Command Heraldry

In the forefront is the Eagle, symbolizing our great Nation and our alertness; ready to defend our homeland. Its right claw holds an olive branch and its left clutches a group of 13 arrows, the symbols for peace and war representing the first 13 states. The Eagle’s head is turned toward the olive branch, indicating our desire for peace.

On the Eagle’s chest is a shield, a warrior’s primary piece of defensive equipment. The 13 alternating red (courage and fortitude) and white (peace and sincerity) bars on the shield represent the 13 original colonies. The chief, in blue, represents their strength, vigilance and perseverance. The chief holds thirteen six-pointed stars, a reference to the six-pointed design from General George Washington’s personal flag. This flag was flown during his winter encampment at Valley Forge. General Washington had a personal protection guard, which consisted of a few handpicked men from each of the colonies. This special guard carried these colors. The symbols from the Washington Flag are a reminder of the efforts of the Continental Army, which served as our Nation’s first military organization to free and protect the homeland, and relate their great undertaking to the task set before us in the defense of North America.

A depiction of the United States Northern Command’s Area of Responsibility (AOR) is in the background, shielded by the Eagle. On the AOR are three stars, a remembrance of each of the sites of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. These attacks gave impetus to the formation of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). The stars are gold, a symbol of those who lost their lives. During the early years of World War I, a service banner was hung in the window of homes where there was a family member in the war. A Blue Star on the banner represented each family member. As the war progressed and men were killed or wounded in combat, and/or died of their wounds or disease, there came to be accepted usage of the Gold Star. This Gold Star was substituted and superimposed upon the Blue Star in such a manner as to entirely cover it. The Gold Star accorded the rightful honor and glory to the person for giving the supreme sacrifice to his country.

The five stars at the top of the crest represent the five services: United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The stars are eight-pointed, representing the eight points on a compass and symbolizing our mission to counter the global threat of terrorism. The stars are lined up over the AOR, depicting the umbrella of protection that USNORTHCOM provides to North America.

Command Strategy

NORAD and USNORTHCOM are separate commands. Both leverage the commander's singular vision and guidance; develop plans to meet challenges in the same strategic and operational environments; build complementary mission approaches; and share a common goal of defense of the United States and Canada. We share a combined strategy that aligns with objectives identified in the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, National Defense Strategy, and Canada’s Strong, Secure, Engaged policy.

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