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NORAD at 55: Binational command is forever relevant

By: Gen. Chuck Jacoby
May 12, 2013 Updated: May 12, 2013 at 7:20 am
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On May 12, 1958, the U.S. and Canada formalized an agreement that created the 'North American Air Defense Command, ' or NORAD, based here in Colorado Springs. This binational command, centralizing operational control of continental air defenses against the threat of Soviet bombers, has grown and evolved since then to include all aerospace threats (the name was changed to 'North American Aerospace Defense Command in 1981), as well as maritime warning. More importantly, for the past 55 years it has endured as the foundation of our strong security relationship with our neighbor to the north.

Americans and Canadians may cheer for different sport teams and exchange friendly banter, especially now during the National Hockey League playoffs. But when it comes to defending North America, there is only one team: the binational U.S. and Canadian team comprised of dedicated professionals who keep the watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What makes the NORAD team so distinct? Ours is not a team based solely on the shared borders and shared threats to our homelands. Our team is made special by the genuine friendship of two great countries, tempered over 55 years of solid partnership under the most important defense arrangement in the world - the NORAD Agreement.

The NORAD team's playbook includes defense strategies for defending our airspace and watching the waterways for both our nations. Among our missions is ballistic missile warning, something that has been in the headlines recently as threats from North Korea and elsewhere have accelerated. Additionally, U.S. and Canadian aircraft under NORAD control are postured in strategic locations around the continental United States and Canada, conducting more than 70 intercept missions in 2012 alone. And since 2006, NORAD has had an additional maritime warning mission, identifying and tracking vessels of interest in the sea approaches to the United States and Canada, and passing that intelligence to our interagency partners who can act as appropriate.

In the future, increased activity in the Arctic and growing threats in the cyber domain may be areas of shared concern where we might use the NORAD Agreement as the foundation of trust for common approaches to new challenges.

Wherever the threat comes from, the defense of our two nations is the NORAD team's number one priority. It's a no-fail mission. The people of the United States and Canada expect no less. So even as we execute our day-to-day mission, we're also considering what's next for NORAD, and how it can better protect the people of North America from those who would do us harm.

The NORAD team stands ready to deter, prevent, and defeat aggression aimed at the United States or Canada, no matter where the threat comes from. We are committed to defending North America by outpacing all threats, maintaining faith with our people, and supporting them in their times of greatest need - now and in the future. NORAD may be 55, but it's still well in its prime.

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Gen. Chuck Jacoby is the commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. General Jacoby hails from Detroit and was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1978. His military education includes the Infantry Basic and Advanced courses, the Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and the National War College. He holds a master's degree in history from the University of Michigan.

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