NORAD, USNORTHCOM wrap up TOPOFF4/VS08
North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command are wrapping up a week of intensive training as part of exercise Top Officials (TOPOFF)4 and Vigilant Shield 2008 (VS08).
TOPOFF4/VS08 is a national level exercise involving many top officials of the U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local governments in Arizona and Oregon, the territory of Guam, U.S. Pacific Command and dozens of other agencies.
Scenarios involved in the exercise included the simulated detonation of dirty bombs in Guam, Phoenix, Ariz., and Portland, Ore., aircraft intercepts, persons of interest traveling to or from the countries of United States and Canada and several other scenarios.
According to General Gene Renuart, the opportunity to “elevate the kinds of concerns that we have in the homeland to senior policy makers and decision makers in the D.C. area,” gives the commands the benefit of learning how top officials view incidents such as those the exercise is designed to simulate.
“How they view that from the very senior political levels; that really influences how we approach things at our operational level,” Renuart said.
Renuart explained that the exercise also stresses USNORTHCOM’s abilities to integrate and assist state and local responders in the case of an incident or natural disaster, offering the full support of the Department of Defense for relief and recovery efforts should the request be made.
Renuart said that the exercise enables USNORTHCOM personnel to practice how to “ensure that the states are not left ‘wanting’ at some point where the response leaves them a gap (in capabilities).”
NORAD exercised it recently added maritime detection and warning function during the exercise as well, tracking a vessel of interest in the Pacific and coordinating the intercept and investigation of that vessel with U.S. Pacific Command and the Pacific Fleet.
Although the exercise provided challenges for the commands, Renuart was quick to note that USNORTHCOM responded as requested to support the primary agency, in this case, DHS and the state and local governments on Oregon and Arizona.
“We work very closely with our friends in DHS and FEMA and the state emergency operations directors and the state (Adjutants General) to ensure that as they begin to respond and begin to see the need for more capacity, that they do that in a systematic way that allows for the state Guards to support,” said Renuart. “As the need continues to grow, DoD is in a position to come in and respond, but the state governor is primarily responsible for an emergency response.”
USNORTHCOM was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of DoD homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
NORAD is a bi-national United States and Canadian organization charged with the missions of maritime warning, aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America.