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News | May 12, 2014

NORAD Celebrates 56 Years of Defense Collaboration

By Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The year was 1958, the cost of a new home was roughly $30,000, a gallon of gas was about $.24 and Elvis Presley was blaring from the radio as boys and girls swooned over the newly invented Hula Hoop. Also that year, a new way of protecting the North American continent from cold-war rival threats was born. Today, the North American Aerospace Defense Command turned the big 5 – 6 with a birthday celebration complete with speeches and cake in the auditorium of the Eberhart-Findley Headquarters Building on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

“One of the proudest things I’ve done in my career is be the NORAD commander and all of you, I hope, feel the same way about your service in NORAD,” said Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command since Aug. 3, 2011. “It’s special, it’s different, and it’s unique.

“What does it mean?” he continued. “It means that two countries are so confident in their own sovereignty and comfortable with each other’s that we’ve decided to do this very important thing and share our sovereign interests together and do it the most meaningful way – with willingness to fight for each other. It’s a unique, competitive advantage in the world that our two countries have.”

After World War II, the United States and Canada recognized vulnerabilities to enemy attack and decided to integrate their defense planning and strategies into a bi-national military command. NORAD, staffed by American and Canadian military and civilian personnel, is charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America.

The two countries signed the NORAD Agreement on May 12, 1958, a document which has been renewed 10 times since 1958. The latest renewal was signed in 2006 and, for the first time, the agreement doesn't have an expiration date.

“For 56 years we’ve had this meaningful way of describing how important it is to us that we will fight for our two countries and we will defend them,” said Jacoby. “And this is not a task that’s going to be done in year 58 or 60 or 65 or 80. We are two countries – one continent – who will always defend ourselves and our citizens. 

“So our challenge here at NORAD, which we’ve shouldered and advanced in the last three years (that Jacoby has been the commander) is to make sure that our command, under our watch, is forever relevant and forever ready.”

So, while a stamp no longer costs $.04 and the average income is much greater than the $4,650 average income in 1958, the mission of NORAD to defending North America.