Cooperation Key for NORTHCOM
North America is vulnerable to an array of natural disasters and manmade threats, and cooperation with partners and allies will be critical to ensure a mutually secure operational environment, senior defense officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.
“The military-to-military relationship is as strong as it’s ever been” between the three countries, said Lt. Gen. Reynold Hoover, deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).
This was evident during the response to the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. Hoover said the disaster recovery operations were “by far the best military, interagency and international response” he’s seen.
NORTHCOM has three primary missions, Hoover said: homeland defense (primarily missile defense), support to civil authorities and theater security cooperation. The diverse mission set requires utilizing the capabilities of all components of the military, civil agencies and international partners.
Joint exercises are one of the best ways to foster relationships with allies, he said, pointing to Ardent Sentry, an annual NORTHCOM exercise focused on defense support of civil authorities, as an example. “These exercise programs lead to better relationships, which leads to better readiness, which leads to better security,” Hoover said.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Bowes, commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, said that while the U.S. is “a premier defense partner, both countries must be cautious of complacency, particularly in the area of intelligence sharing.” Regarding document classification, “the policy should not be need-to-know, but need to share. If anyone is cut out of the loop, people’s lives could be in danger,” Bowes said.
The Canadian Armed Forces released a new defense policy in 2017: “Strong, secure, engaged.” Strong, having a military able to defend and help in times of natural disaster; secure, being active in a renewed defense partnership with the U.S. to protect North America; and engaged with other allies to contribute to a more stable and peaceful world, Bowes said.
Trilateral collaboration is key, provided the sovereignty of each country is preserved, said Lt. Gen. Roble Arturo Granados Gallardo, chief of staff, National Defense for the Mexican Military. Mexico wants to be a stable and secure neighbor, and has excellent cooperation at the strategic and operational level with NORTHCOM, he said.
Adding, “Security requires synergy to guarantee the well-being of all.”
Today’s threats are multidimensional, including everything from transnational organized crime, natural disasters that are increasing in frequency and intensity, terrorism and cyberattacks, Gallardo said. Each one can have serious consequences to communications, economies and infrastructure, and all three countries need to develop procedures for rapid response should a threat materialize.