“They just moved the first seven submarines to the Pacific,” General VanHerck confirmed. “They have seven in the Mediterranean at the moment and another one on its way to the Atlantic. It will be a persistent immediate threat, capable of carrying a significant number of land attack cruise missiles that can threaten our homeland.
Both China and Russia have a “significant interest” in the Arctic region, which is the closest avenue for these adversaries to attack the United States. Russia has already modernized its Arctic infrastructure, with more than a dozen facilities across the Arctic, with “the intention of changing the international norms and rules that have existed since the end of World War II”, said General Van Herck. They are demanding to put military personnel on commercial vessels that navigate the Arctic to control routine commercial shipping in the Northern Passage.
China’s threat to the polar region “is not far behind” Russia, the commander continued, with the PRC continuing to do military surveillance in the Arctic under the guise of research and development. “As China builds its Type 95 and 96 submarines, it will deploy them with ballistic missile capabilities and park them in the Arctic just off the coast of Alaska, dramatically reducing our timeline. decision space,” he said.
For NORAD/NORTHCOM to be able to defend the homeland against such aggressive threats, combatant command must be able to rely more easily on US forces and capabilities, Gen. VanHerck suggested.
“I am the only combatant commander with a geographic area of responsibility without threshold forces,” he said. “Threshold forces are what is determined by the Secretary of Defense that you will not go below. We must be ready to fight in and from our homeland. And the way I get my strengths is through an RFF, with a just-in-time request for strengths to meet that need. These are things we need to change as we move forward…. I told the Secretary that one of my biggest challenges in executing my contingency and operational plans is access to organize, train and equip forces in a timely manner in my area of responsibility (AOR) .
The commander pointed out that building RFF is an old method that won’t really give him quick access to troops. “I sometimes feel like U.S. Northern Command is kind of the Achilles heel of our foreign power projection,” he said. “The time it takes me to prepare the homeland for defense is outside of the timeframe my fellow combatant commanders may need depending on the threats in their AOR to project the power they need to respond to. And so I think it’s my job to get into that timeline so that I’m not Achilles’ heel. So that the president doesn’t ask me or the secretary of defense doesn’t ask me: “When can you prepare the homeland?” The homeland must be ready every day. We shouldn’t have to ask ourselves to prepare our forces in times of crisis.
Finally, Gen VanHerck noted that over 50% of the AOR defended by NORAD/NORTHCOM is in the Arctic.
“Yet we are not organized, trained and equipped to be able to operate in an arctic environment,” he said. “I’m encouraged by the direction the military is taking on the Arctic, and the White House presented its new Arctic strategy on Friday and the number one pillar is defense in the Arctic. So we probably want to tackle that from a departmental perspective. »