NORAD: You know better 

The stories late last week sounded so fresh and ominous, describing the military's lack of justification for moving North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operations out of Cheyenne Mountain to Peterson Air Force Base.

Reuters: "The U.S. military began moving its Cold War command center from deep inside Cheyenne Mountain ... without fully analyzing potential security threats posed by the relocation."

Gazette: "The military has agreed to review security threats to NORAD ..."

Fcw.com: "The Defense Department ... may have overlooked some security concerns for the new center, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office."

The Canadian Press: "The military is re-evaluating potential security weaknesses in the command centre that monitors air and space threats to North America amid questions about the decision to move the centre out of its longtime home inside a Colorado mountain."

On this end, of course, many informed people saw this as one more step in confirming what the Independent and our readers have known for 18 months.

These latest "revelations" are nothing more than posturing, as the military tries to clean up its mess and some in Congress try to act surprised, remaining as diplomatic as possible.

Perhaps, someday, the real world will catch up with what we've known for so long about NORAD's relocation. (The details were recounted in excerpts provided in this space on June 26.)

Perhaps, someday, everyone will know the true story and motives behind top military leaders acting so brazenly, ignoring the concerns of Congress and the GAO for more than a year.

Perhaps, someday, we'll see exactly how much our national security was compromised, and how many tens of millions of dollars wasted, as the military fast-tracked NORAD's move, completing it for practical purposes four months ago.

As for today, many people probably think the latest news means the military has been taken to the woodshed and now will have to be fully accountable.

In truth, that's nave. Nothing that transpired Sept. 18 before the House Armed Services Committee qualified as a bombshell. As far back as summer 2007, the GAO was sounding alarms over the NORAD move, and several knowledgeable members of Congress including Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mark Udall of Colorado were expressing specific concerns, at least to media, about the lack of attention to security threats at Peterson's Building 2, the new NORAD home.

Obviously, the Pentagon and high-ranking military leaders here didn't care enough to respond. They were too busy pushing the move to proceed as fast as possible, so it would be irreversible.

They succeeded. It probably is too late now. In the current climate, on the brink of an election, Congress knows it's not realistic to demand that the military retrace its steps and transfer all of NORAD's around-the-clock functions back into Cheyenne Mountain, although Udall has brought up the possibility. Instead, the approach now seems to be salvaging a bad situation.

Lamborn, in an interview this week with the Indy, said he was pleased to learn that the military has "hardened Building 2 ... so it has better security." He also says he has "assurances" that Cheyenne Mountain will permanently remain vital, and fully capable of resuming full operations again in a crisis. That sounds better than simply saying the mountain is on "warm standby," a term that sounds more like "not really useful anymore."

"I never have liked 'warm standby,' either," Lamborn said, adding that he has asked if "Cheyenne Mountain can in any way be enlarged, with NorthCom and NORAD now joined ... but I'm told it's almost impossible."

The best solution appears to be Congress forcing the military to guarantee Cheyenne Mountain will be maintained and staffed year-round, enough to take over key duties instantly. Udall wants to include that in the Defense Authorization Bill, which Congress hopes to finish before adjourning (as soon as this weekend) for the year.

The difference this time might be not just taking the military at its word, but directing the GAO to keep up with the situation to guarantee compliance.

Monitoring the Pentagon ... that sounds like some members of Congress have decided they can't trust the military anymore.

And that, more than anything else from last week, really is news.



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