Homeland Defense

U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) personnel are on alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deter in competition, de-escalate in crisis, and deny or defeat in conflict. USNORTHCOM counters our competitors’ influence where we are responsible through continued investment in the joint exercise program, strong relationships with our international partners, and coordinated planning with other Combatant Commands to create a layered defense approach to protecting the United States. Together, with North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), we defend North America.



Defending the Homeland

U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DOD) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. Our mission is to defend America's homeland — protecting our people, national power, and freedom of action.

Our area of responsibility 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, 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.

Evolving challenges require us to maintain a sufficient, lethal combat capability to deter or defeat military attacks on the homeland. Maritime, aerospace, cyber, and weapons of mass destruction attacks comprise the most significant military threats to North America. We stand ready to deter, detect and defeat these threats to our homeland. We will not fail.

Homeland Defense Operations

  • Aerospace warning and control
  • Arctic security
  • Border security
  • Domestic extremism
  • Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) response
  • Civil unrest
  • Counter terrorism and force protection
  • Transnational crime
  • Defense support of civil authorities
  • Maritime warning and control
  • Missile defense

Homeland Defense Exercises

Homeland defense exercises represent a unique opportunity to practice and hone joint interoperability and cooperation skills between Canada, Mexico and the United States in order to protect borders as well as national interests. These exercises are a great example of the unique relationship where Canadian, Mexican and American military forces have integrated their ability to seamlessly plan, deploy, and conduct homeland defense operations. They allow us to hone our ability to tailor a response to possible threats, working with units from Canada and the United States, and meet responsibilities to defend North America.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM bi-national homeland defense exercises are designed to assess and enhance the readiness of the commands and their components and mission partners to defend the homelands from attack. The exercises provide opportunities to examine and refine strategies, evaluate processes and procedures, and demonstrate the ability to address threats in various environments and domains. Exercises include:

  • Arctic Edge – A biannual exercise hosted by Alaskan Command under the authority of U.S. Northern Command. The exercise prepares and tests U.S. and Canadian military forces’ ability to operate tactically in the extreme cold-weather conditions found in Arctic environments. 
  • Vigilant Shield – An annual command post exercise using simulated forces and involves the commander, the staff, and communications within and between headquarters. While the overall exercise scenario is classified, it is designed to assess and enhance NORAD and USNORTHCOM's ability to defend the homelands across all domains, which include air, land, maritime, space and cyber.
  • Vital Archer – An annual counterterrorism and counter weapons of mass destruction exercise with Canadian and interagency mission partners. The emphasis of the exercise is on National Security Policy Memorandum 36 – Actions for Countering WMD Devices, and Presidential Policy Directive 30 – Hostage Rescue. The goal is to train and exercise USNORTHCOM on operational control of DoD response force during time-sensitive crucial no-fail missions.
  • NUWAIX – An annual Secretary of Defense-directed, USNORTHCOM nuclear weapon accident and incident exercise designed to train DoD and U.S. interagency response forces for a U.S. nuclear weapon incident. The goal is to train and exercise USNORTHCOM Battle Staff, Installation Initial Response Force, United States Air Force and United States Navy Response Task Forces, and custodial units on Nuclear Weapon Accident Response Procedures, Presidential Policy Directive 35, and USNORTHCOM CONPLAN 3405.

Homeland Defense Academic Symposia

Today’s increasingly complex security environment is defined by increased inter-state competition, the changing nature of conflict, rapid technological change, and challenges from adversaries in every operating domain. Adversaries have methodically formulated doctrine and developed the capability to support it, specifically aimed at threatening our countries with conflict below the nuclear threshold. To meet the demand of the emerging security environment, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) has partnered with academia to seek new ways to shape the security environment and enhance the United States and Canadian defense capabilities.     



Homeland Defense News

Feb. 5, 2023

Statement from Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command

“At the direction of the President of the United States and with the full support of the Government of Canada, United States fighter aircraft under U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) authority successfully brought down the PRC’s high altitude surveillance balloon at 2:39 p.m. EST, Feb. 4, 2023." - Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander, NORAD and USNORTHCOM

May 5, 2022

NATO Allies, Partners Promote Arctic Security, Military Cooperation

The annual Arctic Security Forces Roundtable assembled 45 military leaders from 11 NATO Ally and partner nations to promote military cooperation on a wide range of issues facing the strategically important High North and the world’s Arctic nations, May 3-5.

May 3, 2022

US Army, US Marines and multinational forces to participate in Maple Resolve 22

Approximately 680 U.S. Army Soldiers, 20 U.S. Marines and 3,200 Canadian and British forces will participate in the largest allied exercise conducted in North America, May 10-22, 2022.

April 19, 2022

VIRTUAL FLAG: Homeland Defense exercise sharpens skills, deters enemy aggression

The VIRTUAL FLAG 22-2 homeland defense exercise was successfully executed at the 705th Combat Training Squadron’s Distributed Mission Operation Center, or DMOC, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, and distributed locations around the world from March 28 – April 1.

March 18, 2022

ARCTIC EDGE 22 comes to a close

U.S. Northern Command’s exercise Arctic Edge 22 came to a close March 16 across the state of Alaska. Hosted by Alaskan Command, the bi-national, multi-service exercise is held every two years with roots going back more than five decades to a shared commitment to the defense of North America.

Homeland Defense Photos

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Homeland Defense Video

Video by Senior Airman Joseph Leveille, Staff Sgt. Dylan Murakami
Arctic Edge 22 concludes
Alaskan NORAD Region/Alaskan Command/11th Air Force
March 16, 2022 | 1:20
Arctic Edge 2022 concludes across Alaska, March 16, 2022. AE22 is a biennial homeland defense exercise designed for U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces to demonstrate and exercise a joint capability to rapidly deploy and operate in the Arctic. (US Air Force video by Staff Sgt. Dylan Murakami)