Northcom Ready to Defend North America, Support Civil Authorities
The commander of U.S. Northern Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that her command is ready to defend the United States today.
Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, who also commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the Senate panel she can defend against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat, but “it is critical that we continue to improve the ballistic missile defense enterprise, with emphasis on the development of improved sensor networks combined with interceptor capability and capacity and reliability.”
The past year was a challenging one for Northcom, she said. Threats from North Korea, China and Russia required constant watch, and there was an unprecedented series of natural disasters, which fell to the defense support side of the command’s mission.
The military handled all the calls absolutely professionally, Robinson said, adding that she was honored to represent the men and women of Northcom before the committee.
Adversaries Developing New Capabilities
“Looking forward, I see no reason to believe that the threats to our homeland will decrease,” she said. “Our adversaries continue to extend their operational reach, and are developing new capabilities to range targets in North America. Our preparations for these threats depend on a predictable budget.”
The general thanked the committee for all it did to pass the two-year budget agreement.
“The 2018 National Defense Strategy recognizes a return to great power competition and lays out a long-term strategy for addressing provocative behavior by China and Russia,” Robinson said. “In NORAD and Northcom, we understand the urgency of keeping pace with these evolving threats. We also recognize that North Korea represents the most immediate threat to our homeland and therefore remains Northcom’s highest priority.”
In the past year, North Korea has detonated its largest nuclear warhead and conducted several successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s rhetoric is aimed at the United States, and defense officials do not know if he has mated a warhead with a missile, but they must assume North Korea has done this and defend accordingly, she said. NORAD and Northcom continue to watch developments closely and are prepared to defend North America, Robinson added.
The command continues to work with the Missile Defense Agency and other combatant commands to ensure the United States can outpace the North Korean threat, the general said.
Russia, Other Threats
Russia continues to modernize its long-range bomber fleet and submarines and has developed new cruise missiles that “hold targets at risk at ranges that we haven't seen before,” Robinson said. “To defend against advanced cruise missiles, it's important that we continue to make prudent and savvy investments in advanced sensors and defensive weapon systems.”
The modernization of the Russian submarine fleet will threaten North America for years to come, she said.
The command also must be vigilant and prepared to meet other threats, including dealing with terrorism and the effects of natural or manmade disasters.
“As we review the 2017 hurricane response and prepare for the 2018 season, we are working with our mission partners, to include the active, guard [and] reserve forces, to incorporate the lessons learned to ensure that we provide our best support to lead federal agencies,” she said. “With respect to Canada, we are building interoperability across domains, with a tri-command framework that's comprised of Northcom, NORAD and Canadian Joint Operations Command. This arrangement allows further planning, integration, while preserving our ability to conduct unilateral missions.”
The military-to-military relationship with Mexico is “unbelievably strong,” Robinson said. “We focus on illuminating the pathways used to transit illicit goods,” she said. “Theater security cooperation is -- essential part of strengthening continental defense, and builds relationships essential for future cooperation.”