Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, aren’t happy with the move of NORAD functions out of Cheyenne Mountain AFS, Colo., and are including an amendment in the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill that would block further relocation activities until there is more analysis. In a July 2 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Skelton and Hunter said they are concerned, based on the recent briefing they received from the Government Accountability Office, that the relocation of NORAD functions from the mountain complex into a new joint command center with US Northern Command at nearby Peterson AFB, Colo., “may jeopardize the nation’s ability to respond to a wide range of threats.” Indeed, they write that the move places NORAD’s ability to protect North American airspace “at risk.” Initial cost estimates of the consolidation have proved to be too low and there is still no comprehensive security plan in place to protect the new facility, they said. The two lawmakers call on Gates to “thoroughly review the additional costs and the resultant vulnerabilities” stemming from the move. Press reports surfaced last month claiming that the Pentagon had misled the Congress on the move, citing a GAO classified assessment. NORAD and NORTHCOM disputed these claims. The combined center opened in May.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.