The Changes War Brings

April 15, 2008


 Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, speaks at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, an organization that turns 50 this year.

The Global War on Terrorism is precipitating the revolutionary changes taking place in today’s military, and these changes are likely to continue, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns. “We should not forget not just that we are at war but that we’re going to be at war for a long time,” he said during his recent visit to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The admiral visited the command as part of his travel rounds to bases, forts and unified combatant commands.

Adm. Mullen attributes the wide-ranging transformation currently underway in the military to the urgencies of war. Changes are occurring not only at the command level, the admiral points out, but also in the way the services recruit, retain, educate and train personnel.

NORAD and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) are prime examples of these changes, as they represent the shift in recent years from individual service organizations to joint commands with staffs comprising military, civilian and interagency personnel, the admiral notes. Only a few years ago, the U.S. Defense Department could not have envisioned the current state of jointness in the military and how this shift supports information sharing, military career enhancements and interagency cooperation, Adm. Mullen maintains. “I believe NORAD and NORTHCOM are right on the edge of what ‘interagency’ needs to become in the future,” he says.

The admiral encourages NORAD and NORTHCOM to continue developing and strengthening their relationships with military and civilian organizations at the state level. Rapport at this level is particularly important because the number of both natural and man-made disasters and crises appears to be increasing, he notes.

Adm. Mullen also encourages the two commands to be the force for change. “You have a wonderful opportunity to continue to evolve the mission of homeland security and homeland defense with our state partners. You are at the center of that in many ways that no other organization in the country is, and my expectation is that you lead in that change,” he says.

The definition of protecting and defending the United States broadened a bit for NORAD in February. Command personnel found themselves an integral part of the network of land-, air-, sea- and space-based sensors used to monitor and confirm the U.S. military’s intercept of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite about to hit Earth. Trajectory and impact predictions helped monitor the satellite before the launch of the modified SM-3 missile from a U.S. Navy ship. With the shoot-down mission complete, NORAD continued to monitor the debris field, reporting information to both the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Although the admiral is touting the importance of looking toward the future with leadership in mind, NORAD is preparing to celebrate a very special anniversary: its 50th. To mark this auspicious occasion, the command has a number of activities planned, including a formal Golden Jubilee Ball. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the party, which takes place at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs on May  and will feature dinner, entertainment, dancing, photographs, retrospectives and museum displays. Information about purchasing tickets to the ball is available online.

Other activities planned commemorating the 50th anniversary include a family picnic and numerous air shows in Canada and the United States between May and September. Dates and locations of the air shows are available online, where the information will be updated as events are confirmed.