The common defense of the North American continent traces its history back to 1940 when Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt met to discuss the war in Europe and mutual defense concerns.
In September 1957, the two nations agreed to create the “North American Air Defense Command” (NORAD) headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo. as a bi-national command, centralizing operational control of continental air defenses against the threat of Soviet bombers. On May 12, 1958, the agreement between the Canadian and U.S. governments that established NORAD was formalized. The agreement included 11 principles governing the organization and operation of NORAD and called for a renewal of the agreement in 10 years.
The first renewal of the agreement came in March 1968. The NORAD Agreement has been reviewed, revised, renewed or extended several times since then: May 1973; May 1975; May 1980; March 1981 (when the name was changed to “North American Aerospace Defense Command”); March 1986; April 1991; March 1996; June 2000; and May 2006.
The March 1996 renewal redefined NORAD’s missions as aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. The new agreement included a consultative mechanism for issues concerning aerospace defense cooperation and, a provision for the review and management of environmental practices related to NORAD operations. As part of its aerospace control mission, NORAD also assists civil authorities in the detection and monitoring of aircraft suspected of illegal drug trafficking.
The May 2006 renewal added a maritime warning mission to the command's existing missions.
The on-going adaptation of NORAD’s mission and capabilities to meet the challenges posed by ever-changing threats testifies to the strength of the NORAD Agreement and the close cooperation between Canada and the United States.