COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – General Gene Renuart, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, addressed an audience of approximately 700 military and civilian space industry representatives April 11 at the 23rd National Space Symposium.
Renuart opened Wednesday’s events at the symposium as the featured presenter, providing the audience some background on where he, as a consumer of space technology, would like to see the capabilities of those technologies improve in relation to the missions of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.
“When (NORAD and USNORTHCOM) need something, (we) want to make sure that we get it now, that it comes easy,” said Renuart. “That’s the nature of an operator’s perspective on capabilities.”
He then went on to describe how the commands rely on space technologies to fulfill their missions.
“NORAD and NORTHCOM, by their nature, are both in the business of anticipating events,” Renuart said. “In the case of a man-made threat, yes, we work to prevent and defeat attacks, but in natural disasters and other non man-made events, we need to be able to assume that they may occur, to prepare for the consequences that they may bring and to be prepared to respond to that in a way that supports our nation.”
He also described the need for space-based technologies in the commands’ efforts in protecting America.
“Our requirements are clear: to defend the homeland. And in order to do that, we need reliable support that is agile, immediate, transferable and transparent,” Renuart stated. “We need flexible response results that build our confidence in our reliance upon and our passion for capabilities that come from space.”
Renuart described the changing missions at both NORAD and USNORTHCOM, and the growing interdependence on the tools and experience of both U.S. personnel and Canadian military forces.
“We at NORAD and NORTHCOM are integrating our operations more than ever before,” said Renuart. “Important for us is to ensure that we create efficiencies where they’re needed, we expand our flexibility and we ensure the agility required to predict and respond to events that may happen both outside as well as inside our borders.”
Renuart described the importance of interagency coordination in fulfilling USNORTHCOM’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities missions and the challenges of maintaining continued Homeland Defense capabilities throughout the duration of an event when the commands would rely heavily on space-born capabilities.
“As commander of NORAD, I am vested with responsibility of assessing whether North America is under strategic attack, whether by air or missiles or space, and as commander of NORTHCOM, I am responsible for defending the homeland from those attacks,” said Renuart. “The anticipatory power of space in something that is critical to us every day. It does matter.”
Renuart commented on the 50-year history of NORAD and the change in the command’s mission in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which shifted NORAD’s focus to air traffic inside the United States and Canada as well as the Cold-War era mission of monitoring air traffic coming into North America. Renuart said that the recently renewed NORAD agreement between the U.S. and Canada, and the addition of Maritime Domain Awareness to NORAD’s mission is a “long haul” relationship that will rely heavily on space-based assets.
Renuart lauded the capabilities of several current U.S. military satellite systems in use today, including the Global Positioning System, which he described as crucial to search and rescue efforts; the Defense Support Program and Spaced Based Infrared System components, critical in the commands’ current missile warning and defense missions; and MILSTAR, which provides the military with secure, global communications.
“As you can imagine, the potential (MILSTAR) provides us in linking up with responders from all sectors to provide effective consequence management for responding to natural disasters is very, very important,” Renuart said.
Renuart also spoke to the importance of weather satellites in the daily operations at NORAD and USNORTHCOM. He said that forecasting nature-driven problems using satellites gives USNORTHCOM time to prepare and better execute mitigation operations.
“Many of these communication and imagery capabilities are useful to us for natural disaster purposes, but many of those same skills, experiences and capabilities translate to consequence management operations for post-attack or manmade disaster scenarios, and we are confident that space applications in these conditions will be robust as well when needed.”
Renuart also outlined developments at NORAD and USNORTHCOM as the commands’ reliance on space increases. He explained the intent of the commands’ focus on space is intended to help increase knowledge and capabilities in the burgeoning realm of space detection and defense.
“We just recently established an internal NORAD and NORTHCOM space working group,” he said. “These kinds of things highlight the importance that we place on space situational awareness, space effectiveness and space capabilities in our headquarters,” he said, explaining that the commands also work closely with U.S. Strategic Command in these efforts.
He also pointed out that the Maritime Domain Awareness mission of NORAD not only crosses lines with USNORTHCOM’s mission of homeland defense, but requires improved capabilities in tracking and detection.
“NORAD has the detection and warning mission,” said Renuart. “NORTHCOM is charged with the defense of the homeland in the maritime environment. Those worlds come together every day in our headquarters. My vision is one that takes the sea, the land … and the air domain, networks them together, and feeds that into a network supported by space capabilities that allows situational awareness over a much broader area. It’s that kind of ingenuity, collaboration and networking that we need to create to allow us at NORTHCOM and NORAD to defend the homeland in the best possible fashion.”
Renuart wrapped up his speech by encouraging the audience to continue to work toward a space-based network that enables the sharing of information and capabilities not only across the military, but also with interagency partners, and state and local authorities in order to take full advantage of those capabilities in the event they are needed.
“But we have to rely on one constant,” he said. “We want reliable, immediate, agile, transferable and transparent capability that works when we need it.”