Accession Number:



Homeland Defense: Actions Needed to Address Management of Air Sovereignty Alert Operations to Protect U.S. Airspace

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Technical Report

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United States Government Accountability Office Washington United States

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I am pleased to be here before you this morning to discuss GAOs recently issued report on the North American Aerospace Defense Commands NORAD and the Department of Defenses DOD air sovereignty alert ASA operations. According to the National Strategy for Aviation Security, issued in March 2007, and officials from U.S. intelligence agencies with whom we met, air attacks are still a threat to the United States and its people. To address this threat, NORAD and DOD have fully fueled, fully armed aircraft and trained personnel on alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 18 ASA sites across the United States, as shown in appendix I. Of the 18 sites, 16 are maintained by Air National Guard ANG units and 2 are maintained by active duty Air Force units. If warranted, NORAD can increase personnel, aircraft, and the number of ASA sites based on changes in threat conditions. The Air Force provides NORAD with personnel and equipment, including F-15 and F-16 aircraft, for these operations. ASA units are tasked to conduct and train for both expeditionary missions e.g., military operations in Iraq and ASA operations. ASA operations consist of ground operations that take place before fighter aircraft take off, such as maintaining the fighter aircraft. They also include those activities that take place after a unit receives an alert from NORAD but before the aircraft are airborne. Once aircraft take off, alert operations end and the operation becomes a homeland defense air mission under Operation NOBLE EAGLE. For example, aircraft and personnel from three ASA unitsDuluth, Minnesota Madison, Wisconsin and New Orleans, Louisianaresponded to the April 6, 2009, cross-border incident in which a stolen Cessna aircraft entered into U.S. airspace from Canada without approval. When the transition occurs from ground operations to airborne operations, an ANG pilot converts from Title 32 status under the command and control of the state governor to federal Title 10 status.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Civil Defense
  • Government and Political Science

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