Before a huge flag draped wall, the U.S. Northern Command officially opened for business at Peterson Air Force Base this week, and the first order of business is to prevent further acts of terrorism on America.
At the same ceremony, the flag from the U.S. Space Command was passed to the U.S. Strategic Command, at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, address hundreds of people gathered for the ceremony at Peterson Field Tuesday, and he spoke directly about the need for Northern Command.
“Today, we are at war and the survival of our way of life is at stake,” Myers said.
This is one of several changes in the nation’s military command structure. The changes are possibly the largest in more than 50 years, since the system was assembled in 1946.
Northern Command is charged with protecting all of the U.S., within 500 miles of its shorelines, U.S. territories, and Mexico from attack.
“We will also prepare for the inevitability of uncertainty and surprise… this will be a team effort from start to finish… our servicemen and women are ready for the challenge,” Eberhart said in an interview.
Eberhart is also head of U.S. Space Command, and commands the North Am-erican Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
While the role is huge, Northern Command has a relatively small $70 million annual budget. Northern Command will initially comprise about 200 soldiers and civilian workers and could employ about 500 by its first anniversary.
Those troops are staying in Peterson Air Force Base housing while a new command center is completed. That facility will open next March.
In gaining NorthCom, Colorado Springs lost U.S. Space Command, even though most people say it wasn’t a case of tit for tat. U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, R-Colorado, said early on that having U.S. Space Command in Colorado helped in winning Northern Command.
“This new command should have a very positive economic impact not only on the Colorado Springs economy, but the Colorado economy,” Allard said. “To what degree is yet to be determined, but Northcom in the coming years will become an extremely important command and will only be one of nine commands worldwide for the United States.”
Eberhart said Northern Command doesn’t want to clean up from attacks such as that last September, but to prevent them.
“We want to be on the front end of this problem,” Eberhart said. “We want to make sure nothing bad goes down.”
While no troops are under its immediate control, Northern Command has authority to call on any of the nation’s military forces. Eberhart has stressed that Northern Command will assist local authorities, not command them.
“In most cases, law enforcement will have the lead,” Eberhart said. “If they don’t have the capacity or capability, we will be there to support them.”
Northern Command will also coordinate the sharing of information from various U.S. agencies, such as the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Customs Service, and others.
Failure to share information is believed by many to be the reason terrorists were able to strike the United States last September.