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The Battalion

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SCONA kicks off spring conference with lecture on top threats to US

SCONA
Photo by Photo by: Kathryn Perez
SCONA

Russia, North Korea and catastrophic weather — these are the top threats that the United States faces today, said Adm. William E. Gortney at the launch of the 2016 Student Conference on National Affairs Wednesday.

Gortney, who is the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, and the U.S. Northern Command, USNORTHCOM, spoke to his time serving the country on a national level. NORAD is a bi-national command, meaning it includes both the U.S. and Canada. 

Gortney said defending the United States homeland requires forces on different platforms. 

“It’s our number one priority,” Gortney said. “It’s the number one reason. It’s the number one mission within the department — to defend our homeland. We do that through the air, through space, through the maritime, through the land and through cyber — that’s how you have to defend the homeland. And at NORAD and NORTHCOM we do all but cyber.”

Gortney said part of the space protection comes in the form of monitoring for nuclear missiles. 

“In space we are responsible for declaring anything that is coming through space to attack the nation,” Gortney said. “We also maintain a system 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If there is a rogue nation — predominantly North Korea — to try and shoot a nuclear-tipped ICBM [Intercontinental ballistic missile] at the United States,, we’re prepared to shoot it down.”

Part of national security comes in the form of preparing for attacks that haven’t happened yet, said Gortney. 

“As we look at deliberate planning processes as we plan to go to war against an enemy, and how that enemy is going to attack us, we look for the enemy’s center of gravity­ — that which if you take down, that will bring the enemy down,” Gortney said. “And we also really study at what our center of gravity is, so that we can blunt the attack from the enemy against our center of gravity.”

During a Q&A session, Gortney was asked to speak about what he predicted would become a threat to national security in the future. Gortney responded by saying the face of foreign policy is always changing. 

“I often get asked what’s the number one, and what’s the number 10 threat,” Gortney said. “It’s not that clean — the world’s not that clean. So when we look at threats we go from most dangerous to most likely. And most dangerous tends to be the least likely.” 

Gortney said Russia poses the most dangerous threat to North America.

“They have the ability to annihilate both our nations from the face of the Earth with nuclear weapons,” Gortney said. “And then it’s any other country that has nuclear weapons.”

Gortney said the most likely threats don’t come from countries around the world, but rather from the world itself. 

“The most likely is weather of mass destruction events,” Gortney said. “So we track weather and earthquakes, fires, floods, famine, raining frogs — we do all of that at Northern Command.”

The SCONA lecture series will continue Thursday with a panel featuring Amber Aubone, Col. Michael A. Bottiglieri and Gabriela Marin Thornton at 10:30 a.m. and a lecture at 4 p.m. from Rep. Bill Flores. 

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