Admiral Gortney's charge covers Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORTHCOM's mission:
U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DOD) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. USNORTHCOM defends America's homeland — protecting our people, national power, and freedom of action.NORAD's mission:
The North American Aerospace Defense Command conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America.NORAD is a joint U.S. and Canadian organization.
As you might guess, Admiral Gortney has a lot on his plate. The full extent of how much ground he covers can be gathered from the following transcript.
The transcript can be found here. I've added some highlights in areas I thought were especially interesting:
So, if you find yourself thinking preparing your home for a disaster is a big task, you might ponder the challenges Admiral Gortney faces.
Department of Defense Press Briefing by Admiral Gortney in the Pentagon Briefing Room
Presenters: Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, Adm. Bill Gortney
April 07, 2015
ADMIRAL BILL GORTNEY: Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity to come talk with you all. I've been in command now about four months, going on four months at NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense) and Northern Command. You know, NORAD's the only bi-national command in the world's existence, 58 years young, between Canada and the United States.
But there's a lot of misconceptions I think. People don't really understand what NORAD and Northern Command do. And so to get my head around it, I break the activity down into what we call lines of operation. And the dominant line of operation is defending the homelands. It's a darn good mission set. But it encompasses the traditional NORAD role of the air defense, as well as the maritime warning. We round that out under a Northern Command hat, the maritime defend and control piece of that.
But it also encompasses Operation Noble Eagle, which has been ongoing since 9/11 to prevent another 9/11 attack. It also encompasses the ballistic missile defense from rogue nations shooting at the homeland. And also, we roll in there our counter-transnational criminal networks piece of that -- someone that might be exploiting the seams that are out there to smuggle something nefarious into the country. And that is the dominant line of operation.
The other one is the defense support for civil authorities. And many people think that DSCA (Defense Support of Civil Authorities) involves Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy or an earthquake or a flood, but it encompasses much more than that. It's helping our interagency partners, predominantly Homeland Security, doing their particular missions, and the law enforcement -- our law enforcement partners as well.
Which brings me to the third line of operation, which we call our homeland partnerships. It's our center of gravity. Northern Command, much like Southern Command, has a very large interagency and law enforcement presence, very senior government employees from the GS-14 up to the SES level. We have about 60 of them in the headquarters. And it's through them -- with them that we -- it crosses all of our mission sets.
It also encompasses those homeland partnerships, working with the governors, with the DSCA role, as well as the guard, both the Army Guard and the Air National Guard, and our fellow COCOMs, both are functional and our geographic COCOMs, all working together to close those seams that enemies will try and exploit to get after us.
The next one is our international partnerships -- of course, Canada. I'm assigned under the UCP (Unified Command Plan) to work with Canada, which is real easy since it's NORAD. But the other one is -- other two are Bahamas and Mexico. We spend a great deal of time working with Mexico and I look forward to some of your questions on that one, but great partners, as they look north and consider themselves North Americans, as we work on shared problems.
The next one after that is the Arctic; assigned a responsibility as the advocate of the Arctic, which is kind of hard doctrinally. We don't have a term. We don't really understand what "advocate" means. It has no -- I can't mandate anybody to purchase or train to capability, but we are the advocate for DOD for all of the agencies in the services, and we're studying that real hard. And we'll be reporting that out this spring.
And the last two lines of operation underpin all of our lines of operation. The next one is professionalism and excellence. You know, being professional and striving for excellence, it's a full-time job, not just a part-time job. It's not something you choose to do. It's the way you act. It's the way you work.
And the last one is warfighters and our families. You know, we rely on those that wear the cloth of our nation, that defend our nation. It's both an away game and a near game, and we -- and it's our families that are the very stitches that hold the cloth of that nation together.
And with that, I'd forward to your questions.
Q: Sir, within the past hour, there's been power outages in Washington that have affected, among others, the White House and State Department.
Do you have any indication that those power outages are in any way the result of a deliberate act?
ADM. GORTNEY: I just -- I was just notified that just before coming up here from my office. I know that Homeland Security is getting ready to make a statement.
And I think at this point, it's too early to speculate. Knowing what we know is that it happened, and all the backup power systems kicked in, and that's all that I know at this point.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
Even though you may not know a direct cause at the moment, what concerns does something like this raise for you that the power can go out from the White House to the State Department to key facilities in the nation's capital in terms of your responsibility keeping the country safe? I mean, how secure can Washington be if the power can just go out?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, Barbara, I think, you know, what it really goes to is we have a lot of vulnerabilities out there. And if I look at vulnerabilities for me to be able to execute mission is the NORAD and NORTHCOM.
It is our reliance on critical infrastructure that our nations need in order to operate, be it banking, be it power, be it rail, be it the FAA, and if someone, either through a nefarious act or just through a act of nature – they impact on us.
And so I think all of our -- those critical infrastructures are -- are fragile. And when I say fragile, it's just because we really don't know the true vulnerabilities. We try and mitigate them as best we can. But it causes me great concern.
In the cyber realm, my assigned tasks are to defend my own networks at NORAD and Northern Command and to assist the lead federal agency, most likely Homeland Security, in the aftermath in a DSCA-type event.
But to be honest, it -- it could be cyber against these critical infrastructures. Could be a mission kill for NORAD and NORTHCOM. It would make the mission, in effect --
Q: If I can follow up.
Again, understanding you don't know the details yet -- and then I have a question about Iran -- does this power outage today in Washington, even not knowing the reason at this point -- does an event like this -- what concerns does it cause you in terms of keeping the nation's capital safe and the government up and running?
ADM. GORTNEY: Are the backup systems that we put in place, do they work? And at the -- at the moment, what I've been told is that they all kicked in and they're all working. Everybody was back up on backup power, which is why we do it. We build redundancy into our -- into this critical infrastructure.
So as we look forward is to see how well those -- those backup systems did work. Did they perform as advertised? Do we need to strengthen them in some areas? That's what I'll be looking for.
Q: Just how vulnerable do you consider the nation's electric grids?s
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, the -- I'm by no -- no way an expert in -- in the electric system. But I would say all of the critical infrastructure that we have out there that we are reliant upon.
I'll give you an example. If -- if the power grid up in Ottawa fails, then we -- that could take the northeast quadrant of the United States out.
Our interdependencies, not only within our own country but the close linkages between us and Canada, those are all -- and it's not just limited to power. It's also limited to everything else that we rely on for our governments to run and our countries to run.
Q: You mentioned interagency cooperation in your opening statements. Did you -- I know it's early on, but have you found that was the case today? Was there -- did everything work on that level?
ADM. GORTNEY: As I was notified just before I came out here, everything worked. All the backup systems worked for all of the locations that have lost power.
Q: (off mic) backup systems?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, you have backup generators that are in place. So if the power goes down, the backup generators kick in automatically.
(Crosstalk -- off mic)
ADM. GORTNEY: Yes, ma'am. And it did. My understanding is that they all functioned.
Q: Admiral, I want to ask you about something that's come up on your previous -- (inaudible) -- for congressional testimony, which is the flights by Russian long-range bombers into the periphery of the United States and the Western Hemisphere.
I think you've said on the Hill that you believe the Russians are messaging NORTHCOM and the United States.
Can you just kind of give us an overall sense about how much more frequent they are, what the messages could be and how your airmen and sailors and other troops respond when they take place?
ADM. GORTNEY: Sure.
Well, you know, the Russians have developed a far more capable military than the quantitative, very large military that the Soviet Union had.
Also, they published a new doctrine. You're seeing that bear out. You seeing them employ that capability and that doctrine in the Ukraine.
At the same time, they are messaging us. They're a global. They're messaging us that they're a global power -- we do the same sort of thing -- with their long-range aviation as events.
So when there was the airline shootdown in the Ukraine, they were doing some long-range aviation flights up around Canada, Alaska and even down the English Channel.
So, you know, the question I have is, what is their -- what is their intent with that?
The numbers have gone up, but I don't like to give percentages, because one to five is 500 percent, and that may overstate it. But the numbers have gone up, and where they're flying are different.
And so we watch very carefully what they're doing. They are adhering to international standards that -- that are required by all airplanes that are out there. And everybody is flying in a professional manner on their side and our side as we watch very closely.
But really, my question is, what is their intent long-term-wise.
Q: Perhaps one of the longest-running debates in Washington is the effectiveness of national missile defense and what the taxpayers have gotten for the billions of dollars that have put into it.
Some critics still say that it doesn't really work, it will never work.
How would you describe the capability of national missile defenses if a nation like North Korea or Iran were, in the future, to launch a missile against the United States? Could we shoot it down?
ADM. GORTNEY: Yes. As the -- as the person that owns the trigger -- I don't maintain it. The services maintain it. It's designed by Admiral Jim Syring and the Missile Defense Agency, but I own the trigger on this, and I have high confidence that it will work against North Korea.
The -- you know, it was designed to defend against nations that might not be deterred other ways, and that would clearly be North Korea in that regard. We're very concerned about the mobile nature of the KN-08, that we have the -- that we'd would lose our ability to get the indication that something might occur, and then, of course, the particular nature of the -- of the regime that's there.
But I have high confidence in its ability. It didn't -- it's well-documented, the fits and starts that's it's had getting to where it is.
And Admiral Syring, his priorities are absolutely correct, which are to -- first off, we need to improve our sensors, our discrimination sensors so that we have high confidence and be able to detect the objects that are in space.
The next piece is that we need to improve the lethality of the kill vehicles, and then the next one is to take care and upgrade and maintain that which we have to be as best as we possibly can.
And those have to be done concurrently. They're not sequentially -- they all have to be put in place.
And the next step that he needs to go after is, you know, when it comes to ballistic missile defense, we are on the wrong side of the cost curve. We're shooting down not very expensive rockets with very expensive rockets, and we need to look at the entire kill chain of the -- of these ballistic missiles and try and through kinetic or non-kinetic means, and through deterrence, keep them on the rail.
We need to be able to start knocking them down in the boost phase and then -- just after that, and not just rely on the mid-course phase where we are today. Very, very expensive. And so, Admiral Syring has put in the necessary investments where in those -- in some technologies that we think will bear out to make -- to get us to where we need to go.
And those technologies are not just for the ballistic missile defense against the homeland, but it's also the theater ballistic missile defense that we need to do as well. Very, very expensive proposition and -- and I think with the -- with those right investments and those technologies paying off we can get on the correct side of the cost curve.
Q:: If sometime in the future Iran, for instance, were to develop the capability of threatening the United States with a long-range missile, are you confident at that point, where it was, a couple years from now, whatever, the U.S. would have an effective defensive --
ADM. GORTNEY: Yeah, based on our assessment we can -- we are out-pacing the threat, and that's why it's the importance that the, you know, the effects of sequestration will be pretty hard on Missile Defense Agency.
You know, when it comes to sequestration, the services -- it delays new capability any other place and it really impacts the services as it comes out of readiness. It's the only place that you can generate the -- generate the money.
Well, Missile Defense Agency doesn't have a readiness account large enough to cover the sequestration cuts. And so, it will delay those technologies, those key technologies in the improvements of a long range discrimination radar and the advance kill vehicle. It will delay those, and it's going to prevent us from out-pacing the threat.
So, our concern is maintaining the investments to out-pace the threat.
Q: KN-08, I want to go back to that a second. Back in -- in a couple weeks ago you said in your testimony that once it is fielded it's going to complicate out ability to provide warning and defend against an attack.
How is the -- this road mobile nature different than a fixed type No-dong attack -- launch?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, it's a re-locatable target and, you know, as someone thumped targets for most of my life growing up, it's the re-locatable target sect that -- that -- that really impedes our ability to find, fix, and finish the threat.
And so, as the targets move around and are -- if we don't have the persistence there and the persistent ISR, which we do not have over North Korea at this time, that re-locatable nature makes it very difficult for us to be able to counter it.
That said, should one get airborne and come at us, I'm confident that we'll be able to knock it down.
Q: Secretary Carter yesterday previewing his Asia trip, he mentioned, ballistic missile defense and moving assets over to the -- are -- are fielding or deploying two more Aegis missile defense vessels part of you way to mitigate the potential threat from this road mobile missile?
ADM. GORTNEY: Actually, we're setting up the second TPY-2 in Japan, which is actually -- reduces our alliance on Aegis a little bit. But, you know, the ballistic missile defense is a system of systems. It's all of the sensors, whether they're land-based or -- sea-based, it's the space-based architecture as well and then our -- our -- our kill vehicles that are at Vandenberg and up at Fort Greely in Alaska.
It's a system of systems that need to be maintained.
Q: (off mic) as far as you could tell?
ADM. GORTNEY: That I'm going to have to get back to you. We assess it that they can go -- we assess it that it's operational today. We assess that it's operational today.
And so, we practice to go against that.
Q: I have a question about POWs, because we know Defense Secretary Carter is in Japan. According to Japanese media, a new medical history museum is going to show the evidence of -- (inaudible) -- of U.S. POW during World War II about eight victims that were captured by Japanese soldiers when their B-29 bomber attacked during World War II. So, any comments on that?
ADM. GORTNEY: I'm not familiar with that story, ma'am. I'm sorry.
Q: So, but -- I mean, the Defense Secretary Carter is in Japan except they're talking about defense issues. Are they going to talk about any history issues?
ADM. GORTNEY: On any of those issues, I'm not briefed on what he's going to be -- be talking about.
Q: Yes, a couple months ago -- excuse me -- the commander of first Air Force said he urgently needs new radars on his F-15s for homeland defense. I was wondering if you could -- where do things stand with this, and why is -- are these AESA radars needed right now for the F-15s when the Air Force had put off those upgrades in their CAP program the past couple of years?
ADM. GORTNEY: Yeah, well, I actually submitted that urgent need today meant for AESA active electronically scanned array radars, first for the national capital region. We have -- we have some boxes, we have the airplanes, and we should be able to marry them up.
You know, it goes against the cruise missile threat that's out there. I've been defending against the cruise missiles since threats since I was a Lieutenant J.G. on the USS Nimitz and I've shot over 1,300 cruise missiles. So, I know how effective they are and I know how hard they are to shoot down.
And so, you need a system of systems in order to do that, and when it comes for the airborne piece of that, you need the capabilities that the AESA radar can give you to that. But it's only a single piece.
It's also the JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) that we're testing up in Aberdeen (Proving Grounds, MD), and it's also being able to nest that with our Aegis that are off the coast so that we can track, and share data, and -- and have our best opportunity to -- to shoot down any of the leakers that might be out there. But the best way to defeat the cruise missile threat is to -- is to shoot down the archer, or sink the archer, that's out there. And that's what we need to be able to do is to start, just like in the ballistic missile defense, start knocking down the archers at range, and then your only dealing with fewer missiles as they come at you.
Q: (off mic) authority here in the national capital region just need to put it together. Is there a time line on that?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well -- well, we have the -- we have the first set of the systems in the national capital region IADS. I hold great hope that the JLENS is going to bear out, it's having a little bit of difficulty right now early in its test phase, as we expect in all of our test phases, but it's not something I think that is insurmountable.
And then nesting that with our offshore capability as well as Aegis. It -- again, is a system of systems that you need to defeat that sort of a threat.
Q: Can I ask you about the Cheyenne Mountain complex? Several years back the NORAD and NORTHCOM moved a lot of its command into -- at the Peterson Air Force Base. However, in the last week, there was a $700 million contract let for activities at the mountain. Has there been any change in the status, and do you know what that $700 million's going towards?
ADM. GORTNEY: Yeah, we're -- there's -- because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain's built, it's EMP (electro-magnetic pulse )-hardened. And wasn't really designed to be that way, but the way it was constructed makes it that way.
And so, there's a lot of movement to put capability into -- into Cheyenne Mountain and to be able to communicate in there, and that's what that contract's letted for in order to do that.
We have the space for it, we have the cube. My -- my primary concern was do -- are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I'm not at liberty to discuss who's moving in there, but we do have that capability to be there.
Q: (off mic)
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, it goes to the very nature of an EMP threat, I think, that -- that capability that we need to be electro-magnetic pulse be able to sustain those sorts of capabilities, our ability to communicate, things of that nature, and an EMP environment's important.
Q: Are operations still going to go on at Peterson?
ADM. GORTNEY: Oh, absolutely. We'll be in both places. We -- we -- we command where the staff is, and we move between both locations so that we can co-opt, should we need to, both NORAD and NORTHCOM. We're going to maintain both.
Q: Just a follow up on that question. How soon are you looking to move some of those capabilities into that complex or --
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, we're -- it happened long before I got there, the people are moving in there. And so it was, you know, decisions from my predecessor and I support those decisions. And we'll make sure that it all gets in there and it's all secure.
Q: Let's go back to missile defense for a moment. You know, I covered the Pentagon for a long time and then I went away, and then I came back. And when I left --
ADM. GORTNEY: We do that, too.
Q: -- back in 2008, the airborne laser and sea-based X-band radar were being touted as really significant technological advances. Then I come back to the Pentagon and I discover the airborne laser was killed and the X-band radar doesn't seem to be -- have worked out.
I mean, are we wasting a lot of money when we're trying to develop these missile defenses on technology that it turns out doesn't really work?
ADM. GORTNEY: You know, as I understand it, the deficiencies in some of the programs as the system was developed, as we were putting -- we were putting in capability before we had properly tested it. I'd hate to say it, it is what it is. That's not the way we're progressing today.
The necessary improvements and where we're going that Admiral Syring is doing at MDA that we test before we -- test before we, you know, fly before we -- test and fly, do it in the proper order, I think, is absolutely critical.
Now, some of the decisions we're living with that occurred three or four years ago, but that's not the way that Admiral Syring and MDA is moving forward today. Some of those capabilities, you know, airborne laser nowadays -- now as the technology has advanced holds great promise for us, provided we do it in a methodical and a thoughtful manner, and we don't try and put it out there before we know that it's going to work for certain. So we don't make those same mistakes again.
Q: (inaudible) -- going back to North Korea, is it your assessment that they've developed the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and put it on a ballistic missiles like the KN-08?
ADM. GORTNEY: Yes. Our assessment is that they have the ability to put it on -- a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland. And that -- that's the way we -- that's the way we think. That's our assessment of the process. We haven't seen them test the KN-08 yet and we're waiting to do that. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they will fly before they test it.
Q: (inaudible). Could not in the future a commander in your position live with the idea of another country, say Iran, that would have the ability to put a nuclear device on top of a missile and threaten the United States?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, actually, our system is designed for North Korea, and if we get out assessment wrong, for Iran. It's able to defend the nation against both those particular threats today. And our investments are to make sure that they outpace the capability should they -- say, in the case of Iran, which we don't think they have the capability of today, but what if we got that intel wrong and they moved that delivery capability to the left, even if they moved it today, we could defend the nation with what we have today.
Q: Is it Admiral, the U.S. assessment that North Korea has succeeded in miniaturizing a warhead to put on the -- an ICBM?
ADM. GORTNEY: We -- we have the -- we assess that they have the ability to do that. Yes, sir.
Now, we have not seen them do that. We haven't seen them test that. But I don't think the American people want us to -- you know there are some things that they want us to make sure we edge on the side of conservatism to make sure we get right.
Q: Is that what it is -- an overabundance of caution as opposed to any evidence that they have the ability to do it?
ADM. GORTNEY: No, I think it's a prudent decision by my assessment of the threat, and the threat to the nation. I think it's a prudent decision.
Q: (inaudible) -- relatively new -- (inaudible)?
ADM. GORTNEY: I'm going to have to get back with you on that as to when that -- when the I.C. made the assessment -- the intel community made the assessment.
Q: When you came in, you came into an I.C. assessment that said that we believe that they -- North Korea has the capability to miniaturize a warhead and put it on the KN-08.
ADM. GORTNEY: That's correct. But when that decision, you know, how -- was that last year or two years ago, that I have to get.
In the back?
Q: The Chinese PLA is now developing a new capability of an SLBM (sub-launched ballistic missile). So to what extent are you concerned about the Chinese PLA capability?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, the -- they have put to sea their sea-launch ballistic missile submarines. I believe they have three in the water right now. And, you know, any time a nation has developed nuclear weapons and delivery platforms that can range the homeland, it's a concern of mine. So, you know, it's not a surprise that China has taken their fixed sites and then road mobile sites and now into a sea-launch ballistic missile. It's necessary, I -- it doesn't surprise me that they're doing it. That's -- we do the same thing. We've done that for years. So it doesn't surprise me that they're -- that they're doing that.
China does have a no-first-use policy, which gives me a little bit of a good news picture there.
Q: (inaudible) -- follow that? How close do some of those boats, including attack boats, get to the United States?
ADM. GORTNEY: The -- you know, we watch them very carefully. And, you know, their very long-range capability is a function of how far do they reach. You know, so even from their own waters, they can reach part of our homeland. Hawaii is part of our homeland and they can reach Hawaii. And then the farther east -- farther east they go, they can reach more and more of our nation.
Q: (inaudible) -- into a range where they could strike the west coast of the United States?
ADM. GORTNEY: We haven't seen those patrols just yet, but it doesn't mean that those patrols can't exist in the future.
Q: (inaudible) -- kind of surface ships? Are they getting close to our shores?
ADM. GORTNEY: The -- boy, I'm stepping out of my lane here just a little bit. As I track our foreign warships, we have two Russian warships, but I'm not sure about the Chinese. They had a port visit -- was it last year in San Diego, I believe? But I'm out of my lane here a little bit on that.
Q: Can you talk about those Russian ships? Last question.
ADM. GORTNEY: What's that?
Q: Those two Russian ships you just mentioned?
ADM. GORTNEY: Oh, sure. They're AGI, you know, an intel platform, as well as a logistics ship. And I believe one of them is just coming out of Venezuela -- no. Yeah, I'm going to have to get that for you. But they -- they -- no port call in the United States, but in Cuba and places elsewhere.
Q: Sir in the past couple of months, U.S. officials expressed desire for some sort of new multipurpose sensor in the Canadian Arctic, not just for the ICBMs for maritime vessels, airplanes, that kind of thing. Haven't really gotten much details on that. Can you give us kind of what you're looking for there? And what timeline …
ADM. GORTNEY: Yeah, well the -- the -- the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line -- the air defense radars that we maintain on northern Canada and then the Canada-U.S. border are, you know, in a few years -- I'd say 10 years I think is the number -- you know, they're going to reach a point of obsolescence and we're going to have to reinvest for that capability.
The question is what sort of technology do we want to use to reconstitute that capability? We don't want to put in the same sorts of sensors because they're not effective against the low-altitude, say, cruise missiles. They can't see over the horizon.
So now the question is, what's the technology that's going to work up there? Is it an over-the-horizon radar system that would work, but it has challenges in the Arctic?
So that's -- those are the questions we're asking the community about.
Q: What is the timetable for when you think the answers are going to be?
ADM. GORTNEY: I don't think we have a timetable just yet. We're just now bringing it up through our policy leaders as well as with the Canadian government.
Q: Russia said they were going to begin long-range bomber patrols down to the Gulf of Mexico. Have you seen any indication that they are preparing to conduct patrols?
ADM. GORTNEY: Yeah, the one that we expect would be either Blackjack bombers or large jet bombers, not the Bears that we see them flying elsewhere.
But it wouldn't surprise me that they do that. We're prepared for it, you know, to intercept them, should we need to, should we choose to.
Q: At the time, U.S. officials were saying it didn't make any sense to conduct patrols down there, because you would take so long to get there and you would go past the whole United States military to get there. You would have the element of surprise.
But you expect (off mic)?
ADM. GORTNEY: I think -- you know, I think if you have long-range aircraft, you want to exercise them, and in order to exercise them, you need to fly long-range missions.
Q: Would you expect that they're doing this summer -- spring, summer season --
ADM. GORTNEY: It wouldn't surprise me, no. It wouldn't -- it wouldn't surprise me.
You know, again, it goes to the question that was asked before. They're messaging us, showing us that they have a long-range conventional reach or nuclear reach with their -- with their manned bombers.
You know, we do the same sorts of things with our aircraft and with our ships, so it wouldn't surprise me if they did it.
Q: Related on that, in the past couple days, two Air Force B-52s flew round-trip missions up to the North Pole in the North Sea. What message were you trying to send with those --
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, actually, it was our own exercise program with one of the -- for the bombers themselves that do that long-range mission and then for us, with U.S., Canada and our -- and our NATO allies, to do those intercepts along there.
Polar Growl was the name of exercise, and we announced it. It was a very successful exercise. In the back.
Q: Two -- two unrelated questions, same notion.
There's been concern on the Hill about the threat that ISIS fighters might want to infiltrate through the southern border. Is that a legitimate concern, and what can you do to work against that?
And the other question has to do with the East Coast, the idea of the East Coast-based interceptors. Is that a good idea, or is that just a waste of money?
ADM. GORTNEY: Okay.
The first one is, I don't believe that it's ISIL that we have to worry about infiltrating through -- through our southern approaches.
They're using -- they are a threat to us, because they're using a very sophisticated social-media campaign to incite American and Canadian citizens to do harm against American and Canadian citizens. That's how they are trying to attack us in that regard, through that very sophisticated social-media campaign.
However, those same scenes that are out there between the geographic combatant commanders, our interagency partners, the seams between us and our -- and our countries to our south and the seams within their countries, you know, the enemy, if you find your seams, you'll find your enemy, and that enemy will exploit those seams.
And they're going to move -- through those seams will move people, drugs, money, weapons or something even greater. They'll move it -- they're just moving product through there. And that's why we work so hard looking down there and trying to close those seams with our homeland partnerships and with the other geographic combatant commanders.
As far as the East Coast missile site, if I had one more dollar to do ballistic missile defense, I wouldn't put it against the East Coast missile site; I'd put it against those technologies that allow us to get to the correct side of the cost curve in the ballistic missile defense. And again, that's just not only theater ballistic missile defense but the homeland missile defense.
You know, it is -- it is a proliferating threat. It is growing. People -- countries are developing those capabilities. They can threaten their neighbors with power projection with that. And our current approach has us on the wrong side of that cost curve.
So I'd take those dollars and invest it in those necessary technologies to start -- (inaudible) -- those threats at range, not just relying on the endgame and the mid-course.
I can take one more.
Q: (off mic) completely different subject.
ADM. GORTNEY: Okay.
Q: The loss of sea ice in the Arctic, what -- what security issues does that raise as we see that whole area changing up there?
ADM. GORTNEY: Well, that's part of what we're going to be reporting out, the necessary threats.
You know, the reality is, is that it is. The sea ice is melting. The Arctic shelf is getting smaller.
That said, it is still a very inhospitable place, you know. And today, if we wanted to go up there, you know, we don't have the ability to reliably navigate, communicate and sustain ourselves up there.
And so that's huge investments for the services to figure out how to do that, and when do we need to lay those investments in to be able to communicate, navigate and sustain?
And -- and before we can communicate and navigate, we have to -- we have to do the sustainment. We have to supply ourselves. You know, it's three times as expensive and takes three times as long to put anything up there in the Arctic. I mean, it is a very, very harsh place.
We are seeing more intermodal traffic from ships that are going in there, but we're not seeing -- we've worked with the shipping industry and talked with the shipping -- the major shipping companies, and they're not really interested. You know, they need ships that can make them money 350 days out of the year. They can't rely on a particular period of time; they need to move large numbers of containers and a large number of crude or liquid natural gas that happens to be out there.
But the reality is, there's going to be more activity up there, and it's actually more dangerous today than when we had a stable shelf.
So that's what we're -- I'm looking forward to reporting that out here in the spring.
Q: (off mic) conflict with Russia that you have to worry about? Are we in a race with them to --
ADM. GORTNEY: I don't see it as a race, but the strategic importance of the Arctic and the strategic importance of Alaska -- you know, it's all about location. You know, we have airplanes, F-22s in Alaska, and we can deploy them around the world quicker than we can from Langley, just because of the strategic location in Alaska.
So I think as we look forward, it's a reawakening of the strategic importance of the Arctic, and how are we going to operate up there?