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NORAD: Deja vu all over again

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In recent days, the Gazette has reported that the Pentagon "misled Congress about security issues at Peterson Air Force Base" as the military stubbornly continued moving NORAD operations out of Cheyenne Mountain.

We've been told that Peterson's Building 2, NORAD's new nerve center, "would fail if attacked by even a low-level threat." The latest Gazette story quotes U.S. Rep. Mark Udall as saying he is "appalled at what I have learned."

More than a few readers, upon seeing those "breaking" stories, have felt confused. These headlines seem all too familiar.

With every good reason. For those who also read the Independent, this story is anything but new. We've been reporting on the secrecy and misleading statements surrounding NORAD's move not just for a few days, but 15 months.

Let's recap some highlights, all direct excerpts from the Indy during 2007:

March 29: "GAO did not find that this move or change would be beneficial to improved combat readiness and effectiveness. You can say that with great amounts of certainty." Davi D'Agostino, director of a Government Accountability Office defense capabilities and management team, quoted by phone

May 3: "There's no question that no matter what you do at Peterson, you can't have as secure a facility as you do at Cheyenne Mountain." Former U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, quoted by phone

May 17: NORAD has become a huge political football within the military's highest ranks. Everybody wants a chunk of the command, the influence, the money, the power ... even if it means compromising security. Ralph Routon, Between the Lines

May 24: Mission efficiency not cost savings is now being pushed as the sole reason that national defense operations are moving out of Cheyenne Mountain and into an office building on Peterson Air Force Base. That was the overarching message from NORAD and U.S. Northern Command in response to a GAO study. ... The GAO study notes it has no documentation to back up claims the move would save $150 million to $200 million per year. ... "It is unclear what level of risk the commander is accepting ..." the GAO report found. "Furthermore, the costs associated with any needed security upgrades are not known and it is unclear whether resources and funding are available to meet the protection level requirements." Michael de Yoanna, News

July 12: "If we are to move these missions out of Cheyenne Mountain, we must ensure that it is in our national security interests to do so, and I'm not yet convinced of that. Udall, in a written statement to the Independent

Sept. 27: [Sen. Wayne] Allard said he has received "repeated assurances" from military commanders that the mountain will "not in fact be closed." de Yoanna, News

Oct. 18: Sources knowledgeable about the mountain have reached out to several members of Congress, including Allard and Sen. Ken Salazar in Colorado, asserting that NorthCom commanders are glossing over important details to buy time as the transfer continues. ... Another source reiterated ... Peterson's Building 2 is vulnerable to being hit by terrorists or spies forcing a plane off its path to the city airport. de Yoanna, News

Oct. 25: [Defense Department] documents ... paint a dire picture of what could happen in a sneak attack on Peterson Air Force Base. ... A "successful surprise attack" would wipe out enough people at Peterson to render the mountain's equipment "unmanned and therefore unused." ... The documents state that the mountain "has a much higher survivability than" the building at Peterson. de Yoanna, News

Nov. 21: "I am deeply concerned about Cheyenne Mountain and whether or not a move would be in the best interest of our national security." U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, in a written statement to the Independent

Long ago, this information was out there. Long ago, warning signals were visible. Long ago, we gave you and those in Congress everything we knew and were being told by brave, patriotic, horrified sources from inside NORAD.

Long ago, we exposed the NORAD relocation as reckless, risky, even irresponsible. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and U.S. Northern Command stubbornly stayed on their same course, doing exactly what they wanted to do. Now, we're told, Cheyenne Mountain is down to a skeleton crew.

So go ahead, politicians, show your outrage. But don't pretend the story just came to the surface. It's been public knowledge for more than a year. You could have raised hell, but you didn't.

And you have nobody to blame now but yourselves.

routon@csindy.com

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