For decades, our nations enjoyed the benefits of dominant military capabilities in all domains and we relied on our geography to serve as a barrier to keep our nations beyond the reach of most conventional threats. Our ability to project power forward along with our technological overmatch has allowed us to fight forward and focus our energy on conducting operations overseas. However, our competitors have analyzed our ability to operate overseas and have invested in capabilities such as ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons, small unmanned aircraft systems, artificial intelligence, cyber capabilities, and delivery platforms to offset our strengths while exploiting our perceived weaknesses. These advancing capabilities embolden competitors and adversaries to challenge us at home, looking to threaten our people, our critical infrastructure and our power projection capabilities. As a result, the stakes are higher than they have been in decades and, for NORAD and USNORTHCOM, successful continental defense is the only option.
Whether the threats come from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, violent extremist organizations, or transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), significant challenges persist. This environment requires a culture change that factors in homeland defense, from a global perspective, into every aspect of operational plans and strategies, decisions, and budgeting choices resulting in the sustained successful defense of our two nations.
The Arctic provides a good example of the changing physical and strategic environment and is a zone of international competition. Both Russia and China are increasing their activity in the Arctic. Russia’s fielding of advanced, long-range cruise missiles capable of being launched from Russian territory and flying through the northern approaches and seeking to strike targets in the United States and Canada has emerged as the dominant military threat in the Arctic. Additionally, diminished sea ice and competition over resources present overlapping challenges in this strategically significant region. China is not content to remain a mere observer in the growing competition, declaring itself a “near-Arctic state,” and has taken action to normalize its naval and commercial presence in the region to increase its access to lucrative resources and shipping routes.