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News | May 13, 2010

NORAD, USNORTHCOM commander holds final press conference

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command held his final press conference on Peterson AFB May 13.

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart has led the dual commands since 2007 and will relinquish command to Navy Vice Adm. James Winnefeld May 19.

During his last scheduled meeting with the press, Renuart spoke about NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM’s accomplishments, the challenges facing the commands and the need to constantly find ways to improve.

Renuart pointed at the Vancouver Olympics and U.S. NORTHCOM’s response to the earthquake in Haiti as indicators of the commands’ success, saying the commands’ abilities to work with other countries and other commands is one of its greatest strengths.

“NORAD had a role for air sovereignty, air surveillance and airspace security,” he said of the commands’ role in Vancouver. “NORTHCOM had a role to provide assistance to the government of Canada should it be required; potential terrorist activity, natural disaster events and consequence management should something occur.”

Renuart said he was particularly proud of U.S. NORTHCOM’s ability to work swiftly to integrate with and support U.S. Southern Command in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

“We immediately deployed what turned out to be almost 175 people to U.S. Southern Command, put them under their command, and they functioned as his disaster management experts,” he explained. “The fact that we could take that plug of experts and put them in another commander’s region, and they functioned credibly, in fact superbly, for them is a way to show that what we’ve been working on to make NORAD and NORTHCOM commands that anticipate challenges, that are experts in that interagency activity, that it takes to manage those consequences, has paid its dividends.”

Renuart said the command faces challenges in the next decade, with aging radar systems and fighters topping the list. “The aging systems that we use for many of our NORAD missions are a concern,” he said. “But we have good support from DoD and government services for bridges to the future. We’re modernizing some radars but these are temporary fixes to take us forward. We have to put some fixes in place, put recapitalization and investment in place so that in 2017, -18, -19, when these ground-based radars begin to age out, we have a plan.”

“Our air defense alert fighters are aging,” Renuart went on. “The Air Force has a modernization plan in place, and we will stay connected to that to ensure that as long as there is a requirement for that mission we are equipped with up-to-date, modern equipment that meets the needs of the homeland defense mission.”

Renuart said the last three years, the Haiti earthquake in particular, taught the commands a lot that will help NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM improve in their mission, and more is learned every day.

“I think we learned a lot of lessons from Haiti that we can take advantage of and reshape the way we do that business because disasters will happen around the world,” he said. “We don’t control that. We don’t control the timing of them, but we have seen the demand for immediate response, so those are the sorts of things that, while I feel good about where we’ve come, but they will continue to be issues for the next commander and the next commander.”

Renuart said he was very proud of the men and women in NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM, and that he was honored to work with them. He also said it was important for the American and Canadian people to know that the commands were out there working protect and help them when needed.

“I leave feeling very good about where the commands have gone,” he said. “I feel good about leaving with no unfinished business. It’s important for the people in our country to understand that the Department of Defense has an important role to play, but we play in support of federal and state agencies. We bring great quality, great talent, great expertise and great equipment that can and should be used as appropriate to ensure our families and communities are safe and secure. It’s been my honor to work with you and command NORAD and NORTHCOM.”