Northcom Protects Nation from Natural, Man-Made Threats, Commander Says
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is demonstrating his intent as he pushes his country to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, said Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson at the Women in Defense Conference here today.
Robinson, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said North Korea has made alarming progress in just the short time she has helmed the Colorado Springs-based command.
Kim “has tested 30 percent more than his father and grandfather did combined,” she said. “We look at the speed and rapidity of the testing and he is not afraid to fail in public. We should worry -- and I know we are.”
The command tracks his capabilities and capacities, Robinson said. These demonstrate the North Korean leader’s intent, she explained. “As the commander of U.S. Northern Command, I can tell you today, I am confident in our ability to defend the United States. But that doesn’t mean we stop here.”
The command needs to continue to work on better sensors, more reliable kill vehicles and better ground-based interceptors, Robinson said.
Keeping an Eye on Competitors
Defending the nation is more, of course, than simply worrying about North Korea, she said. Robinson must keep abreast of Russian and Chinese capabilities. She must be cognizant of capabilities in other countries like Iran.
And, she said, the command must be ready on a moment’s notice to provide aid to local and state authorities when called upon.
The last few months have tested Northcom’s resources and adaptability. Hurricanes have hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Louisiana. Forest fires hit Washington, Oregon, California and other western states. In each of these events, the command has been leaning forward, Robinson said, but stressed the command is not the lead agency for the responses. Rather, she said, it supports federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Robinson told the audience that this was a new mission to her, as she seldom worked in a defense support to local authorities capacity before. She said that soon after she took command, she participated in Exercise Ardent Sentry, which was based on the scenario of an an earthquake along the I-5 corridor in the western United States. “It taught me a lot about the Department of Homeland [Security] and FEMA as well as the National Guard and other instruments of national power to help a governor confronting national disasters,” she said. “This was new to me.”
She praised the team handling local support at her headquarters and at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “have been incredibly on point with this, [saying] ‘You just tell us what you need and we will make it happen,’” she said.
The command has been shipping generators, water and food into Puerto Rico and will send whatever is needed as more areas open, Robinson said.