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NORAD & FAA Making Skies Safer?
Many Missions Flown Since 9/11

Making Our Skies Safer

CBS News: September 8, 2006

Armen Keteyian Looks At Post-9/11 Changes In How We Secure Our Skies

Picture of Admiral Keating of NORAD
"We are much more capable today than
we were on the eleventh of September," 
says Adm. Timothy Keating, who is in charge
of both NORAD and NORTHCOM.  

Five years ago, on a morning marked by chaos and cries for help from the cockpit of one of the planes hijacked on Sept. 11, the two federal agencies charged with defending our skies — the FAA and North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD — were without a direct line of communication. As CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports, they were essentially flying blind during 109 minutes of terror.

"We could not see what the FAA could see. That was the main stumbling point, if you like," Gen. Eric Findley says. Findley was in the "hot seat" that sunny September day, deep inside Cheyenne Mountain at NORAD's top-secret defense site. Three of those planes, including United Flight 93, went down without any sort of military response. "It's not satisfactory, it's not a success. No. But that was not our mission on that particular day," Findley says.

For decades, NORAD had been fixated on threats coming from outside our borders — a Cold War mindset that no longer applied.

But that has changed.

The U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, is the New World Order of the nation's defense. Inside NORTHCOM's nerve center, dozens of military officers and civilians now sit side by side, tracking all things domestic — air, land and sea — and are directly linked to 150 other command centers involved in public safety.

None of this communication was in place five years ago.

Today, it all begins with DEN — short for Domestic Events Network. Unlike on 9/11, DEN offers real-time communication between FAA headquarters in Washington and NORTHCOM in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Instead of the 14 military jets available on 9/11, there are now nearly three times that number of Air Force and National Guard fighters ready to respond to any kind of threat. There have been more than 2,200 incidents to date.

"We are much more capable today than we were on the eleventh of September," says Adm. Timothy Keating, who is in charge of both NORAD and NORTHCOM.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has flown more than 44,000 missions to safeguard the skies over U.S. cities. Radar systems now monitor virtually every aircraft in the sky, searching for enemies from the inside out.

Admiral Keating says if NORTHCOM had 10 minutes' notice that a plane had been hijacked, he would "easily" be able to respond.

"We've done a great deal to fix and repair what went wrong five years ago. The real question is, 'are we keeping up with the evolving threat?'" says Col. PJ Crowley, a former member of President Clinton's National Security Council.

That threat centers on smaller planes, like the Cessna that mistakenly violated air space over Washington last year.

"The nightmare scenario for general aviation: small airplane packed with explosives, or a small airplane carrying a biological agent flies over a major city. The warning time is not going to be there," Crowley says.

UFOs Northwest Comment: NORAD is now paying attention to aircraft within the U.S. borders rather than just focusing on unidentified aircraft approaching U.S. and Canadian borders. It is interesting to note that 4,400 missions have been flown and 2,200 incidents have occurred since 9/11. Only a handful of these incidents have been published in the media. I have received some UFO reports during the past two years whereby witnesses have seen military aircraft scramble after UFOs. Perhaps some of these 2,200 incidents and 4,400 missions have involved UFOs? Keep in mind that 2,200 incidents equates to over 1 incident/day.