PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (Army News Service, Nov. 4, 2008) -- U.S. Northern Command's primary mission is Homeland Defense, and its commander said Friday that USNORTHCOM stands ready to respond to any homeland-defense or civil-support mission requirement.

"The U.S. military absolutely has the capacity to respond to potential threats within our nation today. It will get better in this coming year and continue to improve beyond that," said Gen. Gene Renuart, USNORTHCOM commander.

The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves issues a wide-ranging report to Congress and the Defense Department Thursday, stating that DoD should improve its capabilities and readiness so the military can take a primary role in response to major catastrophes inside the United States.

USNORTHCOM was established in 2002 as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has dramatically expanded DoD's focus on all aspects of Homeland Defense, command officials said, including planning and exercising, as well as organizing new headquarters and units that are specifically tailored for domestic response.

USNORTHCOM has prepared detailed plans for responding to situations that range from pandemic influenza to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear events, and the command has redefined its readiness capabilities since Hurricane Katrina.

When it comes to providing forces in response to incidents, the command has nearly 50 National Guard officers fully integrated within its operations, in addition to National Guard Civil Support Teams located within every U.S. state and territory, and 17 regional consequence response units.

USNORTHCOM also utilizes an active-duty military response unit of nearly 450 Marines who are the "gold standard" for responding to weapons of mass destruction attacks, USNORTHCOM officials said. They said there are also pre-identified active-duty and Reserve components (4,000 members each) on a short string to provide additional muscle to initial response teams.

USNORTHCOM's primary mission remains defending the homeland, and Americans can be assured the U.S. military is ready and capable of responding to attacks within the United States, according to a USNORTHCOM statement released Friday.