By Emelie Rutherford
The North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) burgeoning maritime-warning role "doesn’t come easy," said its leader, who talked yesterday about challenges with sharing situational-awareness data with partners and his desire for improved surveillance aircraft.
Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), in an address at the Heritage Foundation in Washington said NORAD’s newest mission of maritime warning has proven logistically challenging.
"You have to have good situational awareness, and you all know most of the players on the maritime domain are not military, they’re civilian," he said. "You have to partner with private industry, you have to create common domain-awareness tools so that you can move information back and forth between commercial carriers and military organizations. [The] Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. and Canada all need to have shared information. And the so the challenge of creating the network to give you warning is a big one."
NORAD, a partnership between the United States and Canada designed 50 years ago to counter an aviation threat from Russia, has three missions: maritime warning–which was added in 2006–along with aerospace warning and aerospace control. The six-year-old NORTHCOM is responsible for homeland defense–including in the maritime environment–and defense support of civil authorities.
Renuart told reporters he supports bolstering the aircraft capability of the Air National Guard, to help with Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) missions as well as with maritime-warning missions.
"Like equipment that the Army Guard has, the Air Guard has aircraft that are older, early block F-16s that are beginning to age out," he said. "We would like to modernize those with aircraft that had the ability to not just do straight air sovereignty, but can also help in the maritime-warning role, so they can look both at the ground as well as the air."
The four-star general said he is "working closely with the Air Force as they upgrade and improve existing airframes like the F-15, and they bring in new aircraft like F-22 and F-35, to ensure that our requirement for both air-to-air and air-to-surface surveillance is available in those aircraft."
"We’ve got to modernize the Air National Guard’s inventory and I think this gives us an opportunity to play in that process," he added.
During his speech Renuart acknowledged equipment shortages at the National Guard and Reserves, and said he has been given the responsibility to advocate–in the joint- requirements process–for equipment they need for homeland civil-support missions.
Asked if he would like a greater role in purchasing decisions–specifically if he would like limited-acquisition authority–Renuart said he is not looking for any changes now.
"In terms of acquisition authority, I’m pretty comfortable right now, because we go to the services," he said. "For example, in the Maritime Domain Awareness area, the Navy’s been given the lead role in that. But we drive that process, because the combatant command sponsorship allows that process to move forward. So I’m not writing the checks, but I’m getting the product."
Some people have called for giving combatant commanders like Renuart their own budgets.
"That brings a logistics tail to that that’s pretty significant," he said. "So before we do that I think we have to be very careful that we know what we’re asking for….For me today, as long as the requirements process works, then I’m OK. When the requirements process breaks down, then it’s a challenge."
He said the Defense Department has been ready to give him forces and equipment for responding to natural disasters and large-scale catastrophes.