Magazine article National Defense

Homeland Defense Chief Assesses Priorities. (Security Beat)

Magazine article National Defense

Homeland Defense Chief Assesses Priorities. (Security Beat)

Article excerpt

The U.S. Northern Command, responsible for domestic security, needs to improve its capabilities to defend the land and the waterways, said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.

While Northern Command's ability to protect the air space of the United States is undisputed, the land and maritime defense missions pose more of a challenge, for several reasons, McHale told a meeting of industry executives in Washington, D.C.

When Northern Command was created last year, it already had an air-defense organization, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD is the bi-national command for air space warning and control for Canada, Alaska, and the continental United States.

Air Force Gen. Ralph "Ed" Eberhart heads both the Northern Command and NORAD. Even though Eberhart reports directly to the defense secretary, McHale oversees all NorthCom activities.

So far, the Northern Command has been assigned "very few land forces," mostly due to historical resistance by the United States to have a "large standing Army" participating in domestic operations, McHale explained.

Having a small land force is not a problem as long as there are no major crises on the continental United States, he noted. The difficulty for Northern Command is figuring out how it could quickly surge the land force and ensure that those troops are "mission ready," in the event of a terrorist attack, for example.

The command also is grappling with how to boost maritime security, a job that typically has been done by the Coast Guard. …

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