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Homeland Defense: DOD's Aerospace Control Alert Basing Decision Was Informed by Various Analyses

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Congressional rept.

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Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the federal government has undertaken extensive efforts to protect U.S. airspace. As a part of the federal government s overall efforts to protect U.S. airspace, the Department of Defense DOD performs Operation Noble Eagle, which consists of several missions, including aerospace control alert ACA. The ACA mission includes aerospace control forces arrayed in a rapid response posture to conduct both air sovereignty and air defense operations against airborne threats. Among other things, this includes fighter aircraft and trained personnel on alert 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, at 16 alert basing locations across the contiguous United States and one each in Alaska and Hawaii to deter, respond to, and if necessary defeat airborne threats over the United States and Canada. These fighter aircraft and trained personnel can be the last line of multiple layers of the air defense of the United States. Our prior work has highlighted improvements and challenges in the planning and management of the ACA operation, including challenges related to the North American Aerospace Defense Command s NORAD and DOD s ability to balance risks, costs, and benefits when making decisions about the ACA operation. Specifically, in January 2009 we reported on shortcomings in DOD s management approach to the ACA operation. Among other things, we reported that NORAD faced difficulty determining the appropriate levels and types of units, personnel, and aircraft for the ACA operation. We made five recommendations to DOD to improve management of the ACA operation, including conducting routine risk assessments as part of a risk-based management approach. DOD fully or partially agreed with all our recommendations. In January 2012, we reported that the Air Force had taken steps to implement one recommendation and partially implement the other four recommendations.

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  • Civil Defense

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