Doing Business With U.S. Northern Command

General info: Northcom<@VM>The CIO file: Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose

Things to note

If you want to understand what Northcom is doing to protect the country from terrorist attacks, visit its Web site, which I found has a thorough explanation of its mission. I didn't find specific links for contractors, but they do have information on, and that is where you should go for specifics. Spend some time on the Northcom Web site, getting familiar with the command's mission before you approach them about doing business. Read the interview at right with CIO Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose for information on contacting Northcom about business. Remember: this is a young command, and he's putting together its information infrastructure.

It is the Posse Comitatus Act, a Civil War-era law that keeps the military out of the law enforcement business. Congress has made exceptions to it that allow the military to aid civilian law enforcement agencies in certain circumstances, the most common example being counterdrug efforts. Northcom takes on its civil support role when an emergency exceeds the capabilities of local, state and federal agencies.

Northcom's area of operation is the air, land and sea access to the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding waters to about 500 nautical miles offshore. It also includes the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. Pacific Command takes care of defending Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Pacific.

250 Vandenberg St.

Peterson Air Force Base, CO 80914-3814

(719) 556-7321

Founded: July 2002

Commander: Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart

Employees: About 500 uniformed and civil personnel

What it does: Northcom was founded as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to assist in homeland defense and to support civil agencies as they need it. It has two main jobs. It works to prevent and defeat threats against the United States, its territories and interests. Known as the "heavy lifters of last resort," Northcom's civil job provides military assistance to authorities under direction of a federal agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This support, which is as directed by the president or secretary of Defense, may include relief operations during wildfires, hurricanes and such natural disasters; and "consequence management," or dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Major components: Northcom is located at Peterson Air Force Base with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, an American-Canadian command charged with the air defense of North America.

Number crunching:

Defense Department budget

2004 request: $379.9 billion

2003 budget: $364.6 billion

Northcom 2004 budget: $156 million

Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose

Courtesy of the US Air Force

Full title: Director of command control systems, headquarters Norad, and director of architectures and integration, headquarters Northcom. He is chief information officer for both.

Took the job:
CIO of Norad: June 2000

CIO of Northcom: October 2002

Hometown: Indianapolis

Home now: Colorado Springs, Colo.

Family: Wife, three daughters, ages 16 to 22

Hobbies: Reading, golf and racquetball, skiing (favorite resort is Beaver Creek, Colo.)

Currently reading: Several books, including "Don't Know Much About History" by Kenneth Davis, and "Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World" by Peter Schwartz

Alma mater: Bachelor of science degree in economics, U.S. Air Force Academy; master of business administration degree, University of Utah. Various degrees from military courses.

WT: Is it difficult being CIO of both Norad and Northcom?

Meyerrose: There's always a competition for time and resources, and focus and attention, so there is that natural conflict. However, Norad's responsibility for airspace sovereignty and aerospace defense is a very natural fit and link to the homeland security and defense missions of Northern Command.

WT: How has technology evolved at both organizations?

Meyerrose: The Norad story is about 45 years old, so it's obviously on a different timeline and maturation level. Norad has always relied on technology for the command and control of forces and situations. Several systems were developed over years, and we are replacing some of those command and control systems to more Web-enabled technology. So Norad is on track of command and control modernization.

With Northcom being a brand new command, we had to establish what technology to use in the first place. We started with something of a clean sheet. We inherited responsibilities that were assumed by other parts of the government and military, so there were some givens to work with. But by and large, we had to establish the technology culture.

WT: That sounds exciting.

Meyerrose: Yes it is. [Although the command is] only 15 months old, while you're fully capable of doing all the missions that we're assigned, the ease, efficiency and effectiveness by which we do them poses a continual challenge to stay relevant, to harness those elements of technology that help us do our mission. The primary difference between the two is with Norad, the customers, users, partners, the people you do business with are fairly well known and established and mostly within the Defense Department. That outlines the parameters by which we do business and use technology at Norad.

Northcom has a homeland defense mission that is primarily a Defense Department responsibility. However, we also have responsibility to assist civil authorities. They're mostly in the Department of Homeland Security, other parts of government, at the state and local level and nongovernmental organizations. So we've had to orient our technology toward very open architectures. We've developed a moniker about how we use technology: the need to share. Obviously, there are all kinds of ways and cultures that establish why we collect information and how we process it.

WT: What has been the biggest challenge in that?

Meyerrose: The challenge is more cultural. We've approached this several ways.

We've tried to make it very inclusive because, let's face it, many parts of our government have been working support for taking care of disasters, contingencies and situations throughout our history. One of the lessons of Sept. 11 is we have to change our processes and consider the United States as a potential battleground. We no longer attack and fight the bad guys in another part of the world. Sometimes they're here at home.

With our inclusiveness, we've figured out that who is a part of our technology enterprise changes from event to event. For instance, when space shuttle [Columbia] went down Feb. 1 last year, the people who needed to work that situation were totally different from the group working the forest fires in the western United States. That inclusiveness has really been the key to us having success in that environment.

We've had other principles that helped us gain confidence and create the trusted environment of information exchange between those we need to communicate with and us. We work hard at focusing on ways in which we are alike, establishing success, creating that link and then tackling how we differ. Often in the technology business, we focus on "we don't do this like you do, and therefore we have a problem." Our approach has been let's focus on the things we already agree on. That has provided us some quick wins and allowed us to stand up and support our homeland defense missions very rapidly.

WT: What do you look for in the companies with which you're thinking of doing business?

Meyerrose: If you want to do business with us, you need to know our mission and understand our responsibilities.

The first thing I look for is intellectual capital. You're learning a new mission when you're talking about Northcom vs. traditional Department of Defense missions. ? Too often, many corporate people will come to us and say, "I have this tool that does this" or "We can install this system that does that." But if it doesn't address our priorities, then it is just of casual interest to us. To be meaningful, someone needs to understand our homeland defense, homeland security mission, and then remember that we are much like other combatant commands, and we follow the normal contractual vehicles.

WT: Given your homeland security aim, you've likely been approached by many businesses. Does the contracting community "get it?"

Meyerrose: They get it, but they don't necessarily get it as to how we fit into the equation. Some of it is an education. I point out that our primary responsibility is homeland defense, not homeland security. DHS was created to handle that. There is a mutually supporting homeland defense element, an overlap in which we participate in homeland security activities.

A lot of folks come to me thinking, for instance, we can help them determine what the standard radio frequencies is for first responders. We don't even come in at that level. Most of our interface is with operations centers. Even when we do support other civilian agencies, most of that is center to center, situational awareness, operational collaboration, those kinds of things.
We work at the first-responder level because we support them, but they are forces in support of someone else taking the lead. Usually, that is where we have to start with the question.

WT: You're doing things not normally in line with the typical CIO job. Would you elaborate?

Meyerrose: For Northcom, my responsibility is not to build infrastructure, run networks or maintain large databases. My responsibility is to create dynamic enterprises that grow, collapse and go away continually with a series of partners to deal with certain situations.

There are some folks that we partner with continually, and those elements aren't as dynamic in terms of birthing, growing and going away; they're up all the time and mostly related to situational awareness so we can anticipate what resources we'll need. Those are the partners such as FAA, [Transportation Security Administration,] those agencies with which we have a continuing relationship. But it's a relationship based upon the potential operational application.

WT: Is your job at Norad more traditional?

Meyerrose: Yes. We have definite military command and control networks that support the missions of air sovereignty. Some of those areas are going to grow: We're bringing on this nation's first missile defense capability this year. It's a Northcom responsibility, but again it's back to the business of a series of networks that have to be operated, commanded, controlled and sustained to meet that mission. Most of my colleagues would recognize the responsibilities I carry out as CIO of Norad. They would not recognize them in my job as CIO of Northcom.

WT: A year from now, what do you see for both organizations?

Meyerrose: Norad has some modernization ahead. Within three or four months, we will activate the first one, which has to do with air sovereignty and command and control of the air over the North American continent. Then we're laying ground for the interface we need in missile defense. That is more in the Northcom area because it's a U.S.-only responsibility at this point.

For Northcom, it's maturing and expanding, fine tuning the need to share with a broader base of partners and people we support. We are the operating command for the joint warfare interoperability demonstrations this summer, which are aimed at homeland defense and homeland security mission responsibilities. Our ability to grow that will come along over the next year.

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