A Short History of U.S. Northern Command

As of 1 Nov 2018 - Command Historian

Sept. 26, 2019 PRINT | E-MAIL


The Beginning

Prompted by the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks on American soil, U.S. Northern Command’s mission is to deter, prevent and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories, and interests. To this end personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are assigned to coordinate the protection of North America from external threats, drawing on the full capabilities of all U.S. military services, including the National Guard and Coast Guard, as necessary.  Additionally, the command is charged with providing defense support for civil authorities when approved by the President or Secretary of Defense. U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) also provides military resources and support to federal, state and local authorities.

The activation of USNORTHCOM on October 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.  Its area of responsibility (AOR) includes all air, land and sea approaches to North America, encompassing the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding water areas out to approximately 500 nautical miles.

Through its first year USNORTHCOM faced the usual hurdles of building a command—acquiring needed manpower, defining the correct organization and relationships, writing the necessary plans related to its mission, and conducting training and exercises. USNORTHCOM, however, also was challenged with “real world” issues as it built its way to full operational capability. These challenges included, developing communication with other Department of Defense organizations and external federal agencies, responding to a space shuttle accident, providing assistance to natural disasters, and providing support to an expanding list of special national security events and presidential mission support. By the end of its first year, USNORTHCOM demonstrated it could not only meet its developing capability goals, but also its operational challenges. Therefore the first commander, Air Force General Ralph E. “Ed” Eberhart, was able to declare the command had reached full operational capability on the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2003. He stated, “This is not an end state. This is, in fact, part of a journey. We’ll never truly reach full operational capability. We are always going to be striving to be better.”

Defense Support for Civil Authorities

Through 2010 the command has not had to respond to a large scale threat calling for military intervention and its efforts in this area remain focused on preparation and prevention. The command was, however, frequently called upon to respond to requests from civil authorities to provide assistance during and in the wake of national disasters.  The Department of Defense (DOD) already had a doctrine for handling disasters before the creation of USNORTHCOM.  The command refined that doctrine to serve as a mechanism for interaction between DOD and civil authorities with each disaster it faced.  Usually National Guard forces operating under their state’s government were the primary provider of military assistance.  However if those forces were overwhelmed or a particular need best met by the military was required, USNORTHCOM employed forces, equipment, and/or expertise upon request.  This was a key distinction. The command had no intention of superseding civil authorities. Rather, the philosophy behind USNORTHCOM’s participation in defense support for civil authorities was to be prepared at all times but only to act when requested and to depart just as soon as their support was no longer required.

The majority of disasters in which the command provided assistance were natural, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. There were exceptions, most notably the Space Shuttle Columbia re-entry disaster which scattered debris across parts of Texas and Louisiana in February 2003; the collapse of an Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis occurring in August 2007; and a massive oil spill created by the failure of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico from the spring through the summer of 2010.

It did not take long until the defense support capabilities of the new command were tested.  In fact, the first event came on October 2, 2002, just one day after USNORTHCOM stood up, when Hurricane Lilli struck the gulf coast with 100 mile an hour winds causing extensive damage.  In 2003 USNORTHCOM contributed to the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster response in February, provided airborne firefighting capability during the intense wildfire season in the western United States occurring through the summer and fall, and provided disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel, which struck the eastern seaboard in September.

The summer of 2004 saw another significant wildfire season and again USNORTHCOM provided air assets to combat them. Just as the wildfire season was winding down, USNORTHCOM responded to a string of three hurricanes in rapid succession beginning with Charley in August which hammered Charlotte County, Florida and also hit the Carolinas.  Charley was followed two weeks later by Hurricane Frances in early September which made landfall in Central Florida and continued up the east coast as a tropical depression, affecting the weather as far north as southeastern Canada.  Before the remnants of Hurricane Frances had completely dissipated, Ivan, the third hurricane in the string, struck near Gulf Shores, Alabama. In addition to the damage caused along the coastline, the storm spawned 117 tornadoes from Florida to Pennsylvania.

In 2005 the command faced its most significant disaster to date: Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina started as a tropical depression on August 23, 2005.  Already geared up for a predicted busy hurricane season, USNORTHCOM began tracking Katrina.  As it became evident that this hurricane would strike the United States specific actions were decided upon and executed.  Meanwhile, Katrina gained strength as it headed for Florida. Making landfall there on 25 August as a Class 1 hurricane, it caused approximately $2 billon of damage, killing 14.  Katrina then crossed the Gulf of Mexico, intensifying to a Category 5 hurricane and headed for the gulf coast locales of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As Katrina approached the coast it weakened and on August 29 Katrina made landfall again, this time as a Category 3 hurricane, inundating New Orleans as levees protecting the city failed, and inflicting wide spread damage across the region. In total the effects of the storm were staggering, causing roughly $80 billion damage and killing more than 1,800.

As the storm subsided, USNORTHCOM forces deployed to the region, under the direction of Joint Task Force Katrina commander Lieutenant General Russel Honoré and conducted recovery operations at the request of civil authorities.  More than 22,000 personnel from every branch of the U.S. military participated in the effort which included search and rescue; security assessment, advice, and technical assistance; evacuation; recovery of deceased persons; health and medical support; debris removal; restoration of infrastructure; logistics, including distribution of food, water, and ice; temporary shelter; long-range communications; housing of FEMA officials and relief workers; and provision of geospatial products and evaluations.  Hurricane Rita, following closely on the heels of Katrina, battered the still reeling gulf coast region in late September.  In between those two storms USNORTHCOM provided air and water craft in response to a request from civil authorities when Hurricane Ophelia slammed into the Carolinas in the middle of that month.

The command enjoyed a respite in 2006 as there were no major disasters to contend with. The break was short lived as wildfires returned with a vengeance to the western United States in 2007, prompting a USNORTHCOM response.  Particularly hard-hit was California in the fall.  In 2008 USNORTHCOM responded to spring flooding in the central United States and another round of California wildfires in the summer. As the command’s role in fighting the wildfires was drawing to a close, a string of three hurricanes—Gustav, Hanna, and Ike—struck the United States during a thirteen-day span in August and September. Gustav and Ike made landfall along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, in Louisiana and Texas, respectively. Sandwiched between the two gulf storms, Hanna struck the North Carolina coast. These three near simultaneous events in two different regions provided quite a challenge for USNORTHCOM but the men and women of the command proved up to the task.

The next large scale response USNORTHCOM participated in was Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE, the DOD’s contribution to the international relief effort following the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, led by U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).   Because Haiti was located in USSOUTHCOM’s Area of Responsibility that command was designated as the supported command.  However, USSOUTHCOM relied heavily on USNORTHCOM’s expertise in disaster response. True to form, USNORTHCOM delivered, providing key experts in logistics, operational planning and interagency coordination, including communications planners and satellite communications specialists, and chaplains.

Consolidating Command and Control

A significant milestone in the maturation of the command and the cementing of ties between North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and USNORTHCOM was the consolidation of the NORAD and USNORTHCOM command centers.  Between 2002 and 2008 the USNORTHCOM and the NORAD command centers had operated as two separate entities at two different locations, Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, respectively.  As the missions of the two commands became more interwoven over time it made less and less sense to operate apart.  This situation led to the consolidation of the two command centers.  In addition, the separate locations made it difficult for the dual-hatted NORAD and USNORTHCOM to lead during contingencies.  An example of the potential repercussions of this came in the pre-USNORTHCOM era. During the 9/11 attacks Air Force General Ralph Eberhart, at the time the NORAD and U.S. Space Command commander, was caught between his headquarters at Peterson and the NORAD command center at Cheyenne Mountain and was unable to receive telephone calls at a time when critical decisions needed to be made and communicated.

In 2006 Admiral Timothy Keating took the situation in hand, initiating the consolidation. He selected Peterson as the primary location with Cheyenne Mountain serving as the alternate. Affirming his decision, Admiral Keating said, “I have found, over the course of several pretty extensive, rigorous exercises, that I'm able to get as good or better situational awareness in the command center ... at Peterson," Over the next two years facilities and equipment were readied for the consolidated command center and the effort culminated with a ribbon cutting attended by senior officials from the U.S. and Canada held on May 8, 2008, the day after NORAD’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Spreading the Word

General Victor Renuart’s March 2007 through May 2010 tenure as Commander, USNORTHCOM, saw the maturation of strategic communication. General Renuart was continually plagued by the question, “what does USNORTHCOM do?” Desiring a consistent command message both internally and externally, General Renuart oversaw the establishment of architecture dedicated to ensuring the command’s story was being effectively and factually told. It was during this period six recurring themes emerged:

  • USNORTHCOM remains vigilant to anticipate, deter, detect, and defeat threats to the homeland
  • USNORTHCOM supports primary agencies and state and local authorities as directed
  • USNORTHCOM anticipates requests, actions, and requirements to support developing situations
  • Active, Guard, Reserve, and civilian Department of Defense efforts are unified in their disaster support
  • The U.S. and Canada are partners in managing continental events
  • Our defense relationship with Mexico is as good as it has ever been

Into the Future

In May 2010 Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, U.S. Navy, assumed command of USNORTHCOM.  Admiral Winnefeld’s vision for the command was to identify major mission focus areas and assign teams drawn from the command’s various directorates to work together collaboratively across disciplines.  These areas included:

  • Counter Terrorism and Force Protection
  • Support to the Government of Mexico in its conflict with Transnational Criminal Organizations
  • Defense Support for Civil Authorities
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRN) Consequence Management
  • Maritime Warning and Control
  • Aerospace Warning and Control
  • Missile Defense
  • The Arctic

This effort synergistically addressed matters faced by the command while leaving the directorates in place to resolve issues brought back to them by their respective focus team members.  It was in this posture that USNORTHCOM faced the future.

“We Have the Watch”

In Aug 2011 Admiral Winnefeld was appointed the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., U.S. Army, assumed command of U.S. Northern Command.  The first Army general officer to command USNORTHCOM, General Jacoby modified the USNORTHCOM mission statement slightly by adding the word "partners" to better reflect the importance of mission partners in all that the command did.

The new USNORTHCOM mission reads:  The United States Northern Command partners to conduct homeland defense, civil support, and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests.

General Jacoby laid out his priorities for the command:

  • Expand and strengthen our trusted partnerships
  • Advance and sustain the binational military command
  • Gain and maintain all-domain situational awareness
  • Advocate and develop capabilities in our core mission areas to outpace all threats
  • Take care of our people; they are our foundation

He also established a vision for the Command: 

With our trusted partners, we will defend North America by outpacing all threats, maintaining faith with our people and supporting them in their times of greatest need. “WE HAVE THE WATCH”

2012 normalized USNORTHCOM’s roles and missions and demonstrated that years of practice indeed bore fruit for the United States.  Exercise ARDENT SENTRY 12 prepared planners to deal with command and control during a complex catastrophe.  The exercise was premised upon an earthquake along the New Madrid fault and involved numerous states.  The “New Madrid” scenario became the baseline for what a true complex catastrophe might look like.  Exercise VIGILANT SHIELD conducted in October 2012 prepared USNORTHCOM and NORAD staff members for an attack on the homeland through the use of ballistic and cruise missiles.

Real world events also occurred in 2012 including the Waldo Canyon Fire a wildfire in the Colorado Springs area.  At its peak the fire was less than 12 miles from the USNORTHCOM headquarters and forced General Jacoby to close his blinds to keep from watching the fires.  USNORTHCOM deployed C-130 Modular Airborne Firefighting System aircraft to support the federal wild land firefighting effort. Without hesitation, the courageous Airmen operating these aircraft continually put their lives at great risk to save and protect American lives and property during these wildfires.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 brought tragedy to the homes of many Americans. In response, USNORTHCOM moved capabilities to aid FEMA and other government agencies.  The lessons learned on improving interagency coordination from previous DSCA operations paid tremendous dividends during the hurricane season.  The motto throughout Hurricane Sandy was from General Jacoby was: "Lean forward, anticipate our partners' requirements, and don't be late to need." Maintaining this posture during the early stages of the hurricane, USNORTHCOM supported multiple Governor requests for DSCs in close coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the National Guard Bureau, and the Services. As the hurricane made landfall, two of the affected States, New Jersey and New York, established DSCs for response and recovery. Working with FEMA, the National Guard Bureau, and the individual Slates, USNORTHCOM estimated required support and prepositioned Title 10 resources in the region in order to respond as soon as requested.  The DSCs provided critical leadership to achieve greater unity of effort between federal and state military forces in preparing for and responding to the devastating effects of this hurricane.  As a result, USNORTHCOM was able to support federal, state, and local partners by facilitating power restoration, dewatering support, fuel distribution, transportation, and public health and safety support.

USNORTHCOM also leveraged relationships with United States Transportation Command and interagency partners to execute the strategic and ground movements of DOD assets and private/commercial power utility company trucks and personnel. In total, USNORTHCOM directed the movement of 253 sorties, hauling 4,204 short tons and 1,128 passengers. These numbers included the movement of 260 power restoration vehicles and 429 personnel from western states to New York and New Jersey.

Local events dominated USNORTHCOM’s responses in 2013. Forrest Fires in Colorado Springs followed by heavy flooding in the same area as well as Boulder brought the DSCA mission to the homes of NORTHCOM personnel.  The Black Forest Fire in Colorado Springs began on the June 11th and lasted for more than a week.  It engulfed nearly 15,000 acres, 485 structures, and led to mass evacuations in a densely populated area.  Less than two months later, the city of Colorado Springs was hit again with massive flooding that destroyed local tourist attractions and numerous roads. This flooding encompassed other cities including the city of Boulder.  Statewide there were 12,000 evacuations, 1,502 homes destroyed and 200 commercial properties as well as seven confirmed fatalities.

In 2013, USNORTHCOM also rounded out its subordinate commands.  In February, the Secretary of Defense designated the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces command as the commander, Naval Forces North (NAVNORTH) to serve as the Navy service element to USNORTHCOM.  This was followed in November, when General Jacoby activated Special Operations Command, North (SOCNORTH).  USNORTHCOM also expanded security cooperation with Mexico by training 5,000 Mexican soldier and Marines.  Since 2010, there was a 500% increase in requests for assistance between Mexico and the U.S.  This demonstrated a growing and blossoming relationship between the two nations as both countries worked on boarder security and counter narcotics operations as part of the Security Cooperation mission set.

Perhaps the most unanticipated support mission in 2014 was born of the increase in unaccompanied children (UC) crossing into the homeland along the southern border.  The unaccompanied children highlighted to the members of the command that trans-criminal organization (TCO) networks did not limit themselves to narcotics trafficking.  In the summer of 2014, these networks realized they could profit by helping facilitate the transport of children from Central America across the United States’ southern border.  At the request of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the component command United States Army North (ARNORTH) provided temporary shelters for almost 7,700 children over the summer under the authority of the Economy Act.

The DOD response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak also saw USNORTHCOM providing support to civil authority agencies.  As the initial case in Dallas expanded with the infection of two nurses, the DHHS requested that DOD make available an Ebola medical support team that could be quickly deployed.  The command immediately assembled a 30-member team of critical care and infection control experts and within days brought them to Fort Sam Houston, Texas where they received advanced training in the safe management of Ebola patients, infectious disease containment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) utilization.  In addition to the on-call medical team, USNORTHCOM provided planning expertise to DHHS in the early stages of the crisis to deal with issues such as transporting large numbers of Ebola patients by air to designated treatment facilities around the country if needed, as well as identifying PPE sources from DOD suppliers.

By the end of 2015, USNORTHCOM saw North America as increasingly vulnerable to a vast array of evolving threats--from highly capable, national powers to disaffected individuals who act in response to extremist propaganda. These threats were growing and becoming much more diffuse and less attributable. Moreover, the command believed that many of the crises originating as regional conflicts elsewhere in the world were rapidly manifesting themselves here at home and they continued to challenge NORTHCOM’s ability to warn and defend. A North Korean provocation cycle in 2017 with missile launches and nuclear bomb tests only reinforced NORTHCOM’s concerns.

In 2017, the command responded to a number of defense support operations.  These included a trio of hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria), wildland fires, as well as an earthquake in Mexico.  General Robinson’s insistence that the command function as a strategic headquarters operating “up and out” while the components and subordinate commands focused on the “down and in.”  Thus, Army North and Naval Forces North took lead roles supporting FEMA in those response efforts. This effort paid dividends in 2018 in response to Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

First Priority

In May 2018, General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy took command. He emphasized that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary and that NORTHCOM's number one priority is homeland defense.

USNORTHCOM's mission statement was also updated: 
United States Northern Command Defends Our Homeland - Deters, detects, and defeats threats to the United States, conducts security cooperation activities with allies and partners, and supports civil authorities.




1 Oct

U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) stood up at Peterson AFB with General Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF, assuming command. In conjunction with the activation, Joint Forces Headquarters Homeland Security, Joint Task Force Civil Support, Joint Task Force 6, and the Joint Regional Medical Planning Program were transferred from U.S. Joint Forces Command to USNORTHCOM. General Eberhart also retained command of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a separate, bi-national (United States and Canada) command.



1 Feb

The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts and scattering debris from Dallas, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana. USNORTHCOM participated in the response to the event, along with the National Military Command Center, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), NASA, and other civilian federal agencies.

25 Mar

USNORTHCOM requested approval from the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to establish a Joint Task Force (JTF) for the National Capital Region (NCR) that reported to USNORTHCOM. The JTF would provide a focal point for planning and command and control for homeland defense (HD) and military assistance to civil authorities within the NCR.

27 Apr

USNORTHCOM published its strategic concept for ballistic missile defense, defining the command’s responsibility for the employment of ballistic missile defense forces to defend the United States.

18-26 Aug

USNORTHCOM completed Exercise DETERMINED PROMISE 2003. As a result of the successful completion of the exercise, General Eberhart declared that USNORTHCOM had reached Full Operational Capability on 11 September 2003.



1 Oct

USNORTHCOM published its Theater Security Cooperation strategy. The strategy outlined several goals for establishing cooperative ties with Mexico, Canada, and nations in the Caribbean.

5 Nov

Admiral Timothy J. Keating assumed command of NORAD and USNORTHCOM from General Ralph E. Eberhart.



8 Jul

Admiral Keating, Commander USNORTHCOM, and LTG H. Steven Blum, Chief, National Guard Bureau, signed a Memorandum of Agreement to delineate the relationship between the two organizations.


USNORTHCOM supported Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita recovery efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.  President George W. Bush spent 23-24 September at USNORTHCOM monitoring Hurricane Rita as it moved toward the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast.

22 Nov

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved the USNORTHCOM Concept Plan for Homeland Defense, which detailed operations to deter, prevent, and defeat threats and aggressions aimed at the United States and its interests within its area of responsibility (AOR).



11 Mar

The Commander, USNORTHCOM, approved the concept plan outlining Defense Support for Civil Authorities (DSCA).

28 Jul

Upon review of several studies and reports, Admiral Keating announced the decision to relocate and combine the NORAD Command Center with the USNORTHCOM Command Center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

15 Aug

The Secretary of Defense selected USNORTHCOM as the “global synchronizer” in the Global Response to Pandemic Influenza.




The Secretary of Defense approved USNORTHCOM’s Concept Plan for Emergency Preparedness in the National Capitol Region (NCR), which integrated operations in the NCR under a single combatant commander, and synchronized DOD activities and existing federal, state, tribal and local emergency preparedness efforts.

29 Jan

USNORTHCOM received confirmation from the Missile Defense Agency that the ballistic missile defense system would expand in 2007 by stationing more interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska; providing more U.S. Navy Aegis equipped ships with missile-defense engagement capability; and bringing an early-warning radar online in the United Kingdom.

1 Feb

The Secretary of Defense approved the USNORTHCOM Concept Plan for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or high-yield Explosives (CBRNE) Consequence Management.  The concept plan outlined consequence management in the 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to support civil authorities in response to CBRNE situations.

23 Mar

General Victor E. Renuart, Jr. assumed command of NORAD and USNORTHCOM from Admiral Timothy J. Keating.

1 Aug

A four-lane bridge on I-35 crossing the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, collapsed into the river during rush hour. USNORTHCOM activated the FEMA Region Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) and deployed a U.S. Navy mobile dive and salvage unit to assist with the response and recovery operations.

12-13 Sep

General Renuart, unveiled the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Vision 2020, and his strategy for the development of a theater campaign plan that synchronized National Defense Strategy, guidance for employment of forces, global campaigns and contingency plans, and Theater Security Cooperation planning.

23-31 Oct

USNORTHCOM provided unique military capabilities, forces, and assets to southern California wildfire disaster response operations in support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of the Interior/National Interagency Fire Center, and state and local officials.



25 Feb

General Renuart issued Operations Order 01-08, Reorganization of USNORTHCOM and Operations, which improved command and control, and coordination with USNORTHCOM’s service and functional components.

13 May

NORAD and USNORTHCOM unveiled its new integrated command center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the Secretary of Defense. The command center enhanced NORAD and USNORTHCOM’s ability to integrate situational awareness and respond to major events and disasters, man-made or natural, in North America.

29-31 May

As part of USNORTHCOM’s efforts to enhance relations with Mexican military organizations, Mexico’s Bicameral Defense Commission of the Mexican Congress visited HQ USNORTHCOM for the first time and received briefings on the command, its mission, responsibilities, and role in defense of the U.S. Homeland.

10-20 Jun

In response to request for assistance, USNORTHCOM directed forces to help local and state personnel to mitigate damage caused by extensive flooding in several Midwestern states.

21 Jun- 20 Jul

Wildfires in California overwhelmed the state’s fire-fighting capabilities. Upon request, USNORTHCOM provided two fire-fighting C-130 aircraft, aircrews, support personnel and equipment, and a Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO)/ Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) to conduct wildland fire-fighting operations in support of the effort.

Aug- Sep

USNORTHCOM monitored and responded to three tropical storms and three hurricanes in the Southeastern and Gulf states.  Prior to landfall, USNORTHCOM pre-positioned personnel and equipment ready to respond to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.  Coordinated planning and execution accounted for prompt action by disaster response forces and facilitated rapid recovery operations.

25 Sep

The USNORTHCOM Theater Campaign Plan was approved and signed by the commander. This milestone signaled a major step forward in command and control, bringing all operational and concept plans and associated capabilities under one over-arching strategic document, providing a means for continuing assessment and improvement in the command’s lines of operation.

17 Dec

The 2008 Unified Command Plan (UCP) expanded USNORTHCOM’s responsibilities by adding the Bahamas, Turk and Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands to the USNORTHCOM AOR.



7-9 Jan

The commanders of USNORTHCOM and U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) met to conduct a comprehensive overview of the threats and challenges that the U.S. Southwest border presented. Crucial topics presented were the Border threat, the Merida Initiatives, Theater Security Cooperation with Mexico, and Interagency Coordination.

Feb & Mar  

USNORTHCOM issued a pre-decisional White Paper titled Strategic Implications of Arctic Change. Recognizing the climatic changes in the Arctic regions and the multi-nation maneuvering to establish territorial rights and claims, the command prepared its statement on the need to formulate and develop international policy directed toward influencing the formative Arctic regime.

13 Nov

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff awarded Headquarters, NORAD and USNORTHCOM the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service achievement for the period 1 Jan 2007 to 31 December 2008.




A catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti the morning of 12 Jan. With the epicenter near Léogâne, approximately 16 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, the quake caused major damage to Haiti’s infrastructure, killed thousands, and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. USNORTHCOM supported USSOUTHCOM’s response to the disaster by providing key experts in logistics, operational planning and interagency coordination, including communications planners and satellite communications specialists, and chaplains. The humanitarian relief effort was referred to as Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE.

12-28 Feb

USNORTHCOM supported the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in British Columbia, Canada, by providing military-to-military support to Canada Command in the USNORTHCOM AOR to enhance Canadian forces ' capabilities in the event of a disaster. In support of the Winter Games, USNORTHCOM deployed 960 personnel to Washington state, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

21 Apr

The DEEPWATER HORIZON, a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit in the Gulf of Mexico, reported a huge explosion and fire on its platform. Due to structural and drilling equipment damage to the facility, a massive oil spill resulted that went on for months. The oil spill moved toward the coastline threatening an extensive ecological and economic disaster in the region. USNORTHCOM support in response to the disaster began on 28 April and continued through 15 September 2010.

19 May 

In a formal Change of Command ceremony, Admiral James S. Winnefeld, Jr. assumed command of NORAD and USNORTHCOM from General Victor E. Renuart, Jr.



19 -29 Mar

USNORTHCOM supported USPACOM in the airlift operations of repatriation of DOD dependents from Japan to the United States. During this operation, referred to as PACIFIC PASSAGE, USNORTHCOM's ARNORTH established joint repatriation coordination centers (JRCC) at Seattle-Tacoma IAP, Denver IAP, and at Travis AFB, CA. During this operation involving contracted commercial airlines, the JRCCs processed a total of 5,304 people arriving in the United States.

6 Apr

President Obama signed the 2011 Unified Command Plan (UCP).  The UCP gave USNORTHCOM responsibility to advocate for Arctic capabilities.

15-22 Apr

The Government of Mexico (GOM) requested help from the United States to provide aerial firefighting capability to assist in wild land firefighting (WFF) operations in the remote mountains of northern Mexico's Coahuila area. The Department of State requested DOD to provide heavy aircraft outfitted with modular airborne fire fighting system (MAFFS) and support equipment, to facilitate the GOM response to contain the fires. On 15 Apr CDRUSNORTHCOM received a CJCS EXORD, directing DOD support to the GOM for WFF.  In response, USNORTHCOM directed MAFFS aircraft from the 302 AW to deploy. The event was the first time Mexico requested this type of assistance from the United States military.

16-19 May

USNORTHCOM conducted Exercise ARDENT SENTRY 2011(AS11) to exercise Defense Support of Civil Authorities. The exercise scenario involved two major earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone and Wabash Valley Seismic Zone. 

3 Aug

In a brief ceremony in USNORTHCOM’s Washington Office, Lieutenant General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., assumed command of NORAD and USNORTHCOM from Admiral James S. Winnefeld, Jr.

5 Aug

Lieutenant General Jacoby was promoted to General, to accept complete authority and full responsibilities for NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

25-29 Aug

USNORTHCOM provides support for Hurricane Irene relief efforts along the East coast.  The Hurricane skirted the majority of the East coast dropping torential rain but little in the way of large-scale damage.  In the relief efforts DSCA from the Sea emerges as concept of operations for future operations.

1 -10 Nov

NORAD and USNORTHCOM conducted Exercise Vigilant Shield 12 (VS12) to exercise Homeland Defense plans.



2-9 May

NORAD and USNORTHCOM conducted Exercise ARDENT SENTRY, a USJFCOM-supported, exercise series designed to train NORAD and USNORTHCOM in homeland security processes with an emphasis on Defense Support of Civil Authorities.

26 Jun-9 Jul

USNORTHCOM responded to the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs. Several USNORTHCOM team members lost their homes to the blaze and many more were forced to evacuate.  However, the command continued to execute its missions.

1 Oct

General Jacoby celebrated the command’s tenth anniversary by naming the HQ NORAD and USNORTHCOM Building the “Eberhart-Findley Building” for the first commander, General Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF, and his NORAD Deputy Commander, Lieutenant-General Eric A. Findley, CF.

22-29 Oct

USNORTHCOM conducted Exercise VIGILANT SHIELD, a homeland defense exercise that saw the doors of Cheyenne Mountain AFS close for the first time for over 24 hours.

26 Oct-31 Dec

USNORTHCOM responded to Hurricane Sandy.  Relief efforts include a U.S. Navy Amphibious Readiness Group and more than 4,000 Title 10 Forces and 4,000 National Guard Forces under the command of Dual Status Commanders in New York and New Jersey.




Secretary of Defense established the commander of Fleet Forces Command as commander, U.S. Naval Forces North (NAVNORTH).

11-19 June

USNORTHCOM responded to the Colorado Springs Black Forest Fire.  It was the second major fire for the city in two years. The fire destroyed 15,000 acres and more than 485 structures, most of them homes.


NORAD and USNORTHCOM civilian personnel were placed on administrative furlough one day a week, two days a pay period for six weeks.  Initially scheduled to last through the end of the fiscal year, DOD shortened the period in August.

11-16 Sept

USNORTHCOM responded to dangerous flooding in Colorado in the Colorado Springs and Boulder areas.  Thousands of homes and other structures were destroyed leading to more than 10,000 evacuated persons.

5 Nov

General Jacoby activated U.S. Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH) to work with interagency and regional partners.




Secretary of Defense approved the transfer of Alaskan Command (ALCOM) from USPACOM to USNORTHCOM


NORAD Strategic Review provided recommendations to Canadian and United States leadership on the future of the command

5 Dec

Admiral William Gortney assumed command of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command from General Charles Jacoby



7 May

Admiral William Gortney raised the Force Protection Condition (FPCON) level in the United States to FPCON Bravo, only the second time since 9/11. Earlier in the year NORTHCOM observed a growing focus on targeting members of the United States military, in addition to virtual targeting of DOD personnel after Daesh (ISIS) released the names and addresses of U.S. service members. The commander's decision was a prudent measure to ensure increased vigilance and safeguarding of DOD personnel, installations, and facilities within the USNORTHCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR)



13 May

General Lori J. Robinson assumed Command of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command from Admiral William Gortney




The command responded to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and moved into an extended operations posture to support FEMA.  Harvey made landfall on 25 Aug in the vicinity of Houston, TX.  Second was Irma having skirted just west of the Florida Coast and doing major damage to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean region.  Finally, Maria devastated an already weakened Puerto Rico with recovery efforts led by FEMA lasting into 2018



24 May

General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy assumed command of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command from General Lori J. Robinson.


Two major hurricanes impacted the eastern seaboard and gulf coast regions of the United States.  Hurricane Florence struck North and South Carolina and caused major flooding throughout the region.  Later Hurricane Michael struck Mexico Beach (west of Panama City) and also Tyndall Air Force Base, home of the 325th Fighter Wing and First Air Force.  The base suffered catastrophic damage.














































































































































































General Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF - 1 October 2002 – 5 November 2004

Admiral Thomas J. Keating, USN - 5 November 2004 – 23 March 2007

General Victor E. Renuart, USAF - 23 March 2007 – 19 May 2010

Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., USN - 19 May 2010 – 3 August 2011

General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., USA - 3 August 2011 – 5 December 2014

Admiral William E. Gortney., USN -  5 December 2014 –13 May 2016

General Lori J. Robinson, USAF - 13 May 2016 – 24 May 2018

General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, USAF - 24 May 2018 – Present

Deputy Commanders

LTG Edward G. Anderson, III, USA - 1 October 2002 – 25 June 2004

MG Raymond F. Rees, USA - 25 June 2004 – 22 July 2004

LTG Joseph R. Inge, USA - 22 July 2004 – 29 May 2007

LTG William C. Webster, USA - 29 May 2007 – 16 January 2009

LTG H. Steven Blum, USA - 16 January 2009 – 27 May 2010

Vacant - 27 May 2010 – 3 October 2010

LTG Frank J. Grass, USA - 3 October 2010 – 27 August 2012

Lt Gen Michael D. Dubie, USAF - 27 August 2012 – 31 July 2015

LTG Daniel R. Hokanson, USA - 31 July 2015 – 24 Oct 2016

LTG Reynold N. Hoover, USA - 24 Oct 2016 – 5 Nov 2018

Rear Admiral Michael J. Dumont, USN - 5 Nov 2018 – Present

Command Senior Enlisted Leader

CMSgt Kevin D. Estrem, USAF - 1 October 2002 – 12 January 2004

SgtMaj Dennis S. Fry, USMC - 12 January 2004 – 26 March 2007

CSM Daniel Wood, USA - 26 March 2007 – 21 May 2009

CMSgt William A. Ursy, USAF - 21 May 2009 – 15 September 2011

CSM Robert A. Winzenried, USA - 15 September 2011 – 5 November 2014

FLTCM Terrence I. Molidor, USN - 5 November 2014 -  21 October 2016

CMSgt Harold Hutchinson, USAF - 21 October 2016 – 26 January 2018

 SGTMAJ Paul G. McKenna, USMC - 15 February 2018 – Present


  • Hurricane Lili – October 2002
  • Space Shuttle Colombia Disaster – February 2003
  • Hurricane Isabel – September 2003
  • Wildfire Season – 2003
  • Hurricane Charley – August 2004
  • Hurricane Frances – September 2004
  • Hurricane Ivan – September 2004
  • Western Wildfires – 2004
  • Hurricane Katrina – August 2005
  • Hurricane Rita – September 2005
  • H1N5 Pandemic Influenza – 2007
  • Minneapolis Interstate 35 Bridge Collapse – August 2007
  • Western Wildfires – July 2007
  • California Wildfires – October-November 2007
  • Central States Flooding – March 2008
  • California Wildfires – June-August 2008
  • Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna – August 2008
  • Hurricane Ike – September 2008
  • H1N1 Pandemic Influenza – 2009
  • Haiti Earthquake – Operation Unified Response – January 2010
  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill – April-August 2010
  • Waldo Canyon Fire June 2012
  • Hurricane Sandy Response – October-December 2012
  • Black Forest Fire – June 2013
  • Hurricane Matthew Response – September-October 2016
  • Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria – August-November 2017
  • Hurricanes Florence and Michael – August-October 2018
  • Southwest Border Support - October 2018 to Present
  • Hurricane Dorian - September 2019