Top Norad official calls for updated defence policy in Canada for improved security

Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defence Command looks on at the Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

“Norad’s Santa Tracker: Bridging the Gap Between Public Relations and National Security”

Every holiday season, the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) undertakes a critical mission that transcends national security and war games—it tracks Santa Claus. Millions of people eagerly await logging onto the Norad website and social media channels to track the magical journey of Santa as he brings joy to children worldwide. What started over 60 years ago as a festive tradition has become a powerful public relations opportunity for Norad, shedding light on its year-round mission of defending North American airspace.

Surveillance Balloon Incident: A Wake-Up Call

The year 2023 began with an unexpected turn of events for Norad, providing an opportunity to spotlight its mission in an unprecedented manner. A high-altitude surveillance balloon from China was detected entering Alaskan airspace, stirring international headlines as it eventually met its end off the coast of South Carolina. This incident served to raise awareness about Norad’s mission and the imperative need for global collaboration in detecting potential threats approaching North America.

Addressing Domain Awareness Gaps

The surveillance balloon incident brought to light various domain awareness gaps, both in terms of technology and human intelligence. General Glen VanHerck emphasized the need for better infrastructure, access to equipped forces, and shared intelligence to bolster Norad’s operational capacity. While Norad’s internal processes remained unchanged post-incident, the wake-up call highlighted the urgency of addressing technological and policy shortcomings to enhance North America’s security.

The Road Ahead for Norad and National Security

Looking forward, Norad faces a myriad of challenges, from infrastructure limitations to policy directions and funding constraints. The pending modernization plans and the stalled appointment of Lt.-Gen. Gregory Guillot as VanHerck’s successor underscore the complexities that lie ahead for Norad. Addressing the need for clear policy directions, interoperability, and agile decision-making processes is crucial to strengthening Norad’s capacity to counter emerging threats effectively.

Conclusion: Prioritizing National Security in an Ever-Evolving Landscape

As Gen. VanHerck passes the baton to his successor, the future of Norad lies at a critical juncture. The agency must adapt to the changing landscape of national security, collaborating with international partners and streamlining its operational capabilities to defend North American airspace effectively. With the world facing evolving threats and challenges, the importance of Norad’s mission transcends tracking Santa’s sleigh—it is about safeguarding the well-being of nations and ensuring a secure future for generations to come.



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