- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

COLORADO SPRINGS | NORAD, the high-tech facility responsible for monitoring the skies over North America, faces continuing security problems at its new location inside an office building on an air base here.

An internal document summarizing a recent security evaluation “recommends implementing difficult and costly retrofits and new construction to correct numerous physical vulnerabilities” to the building on Peterson Air Force Base. The building houses the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

Last year, the military completed a move of NORAD from a nuclear-hardened bunker burrowed into nearby Cheyenne Mountain to the basement of Building No. 2 at Peterson.

The building was “not designed to house” NORAD, says a summary of a security evaluation by the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency that was obtained by The Washington Times.

The document says its recommendations “do not eliminate risks associated with Command Center proximity to runway (aerial threat) and base boundary (VBIED threat)” - the latter a military acronym for a bomb in a car or truck.

NORAD’s mission is to scour the skies for nuclear or terrorist threats, providing the president with timely and accurate assessments during an attack. It also can help monitor natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

Similar concerns over the NORAD move to Peterson were raised last year in a report by Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, and reported by The Times.

James W. Graybeal, a spokesman for NORAD/Northern Command, declined to discuss the document, calling it “pre-decisional” in nature.

“We are committed to improving our security posture to protect our command center, which led to the decision to exceed the base-line security requirements at our headquarters by implementing enhanced force protection measures,” Mr. Graybeal said.

He added that NORAD’s consolidation with Northern Command’s operations at Peterson “significantly enhances our ability to respond to the full spectrum” of threats to North America in the air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.

Cheyenne Mountain will remain an alternate command facility, and operations and systems are constructed so that “there is no single point of failure in our mission responsibilities,” Mr. Graybeal said.

In a statement, Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, said Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., the commander of NORAD/Northern Command, personally assured him that “redundant capabilities would be maintained in the mountain for the foreseeable future.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, asked Gen. Renuart for a security update during a congressional hearing earlier this month.

Gen. Renuart said up to $5 million worth of projects have been completed at Peterson, including more security at the base’s points of entry.

He also said NORAD is taking steps to harden the facility against electromagnetic pulses. Such pulses, generated by a high-altitude nuclear explosion, can disable computers and other electronic equipment for thousands of miles.

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