Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, commander of NORAD and Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, says after the holidays, a time when those in charge of national security are particularly attentive, it might be tempting to kick back, chill out and wind down. But that would be a mistake.
In a message to citizens on the website for NorthCom and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Winnefeld notes the holidays passed without a major homeland security threat. Remember the "underwear bomber" on Christmas Day a year ago?
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on Dec. 25, 2009, on a flight to Detroit from Amsterdam. It didn't work, and he's facing charges.
But as Winnefeld says, every day is a holiday in that the nation's homeland security forces must remain ever vigilant. Here's Winnefeld's message:
The holidays are over, and throughout our countries, whether they know it or not, people are breathing a sigh of relief. It’s not just that the shopping missions to crowded malls are over or that the relatives have gone home, there’s something else, something we wouldn’t have worried about ten years ago. We didn’t get hit.
Every holiday season we hear the warnings from many of our most senior government officials that terrorists may strike us during the holidays “when we least expect it.” The thing is, everyone expects it now. After Thanksgiving, we all collectively brace ourselves for the attack we just know is coming. It will be a mall or an airliner or a parade or something. We can just feel it in our bones.
So when we emerge from the holidays without having experienced a terrorist incident, it is tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and tell ourselves that we’re safe, that we made it, and that we don’t have to worry until the next major holiday. To be sure, one of the reasons we did not get hit over the holidays is the dedicated efforts the people within the counter-terrorism community and the efforts of our troops overseas who are taking the fight away from our own shores. But we cannot afford to pause and take a breather, especially here at NORAD and USNORTHCOM. Our enemy is patient, and will gladly wield our own complacency against us. So we will need to keep our collective heads on a swivel every single day. I would add that one of our best sensors is a very suspicious and alert population; let’s keep it that way.
At NORAD and USNORTHCOM we treat every day like it’s the holidays. It’s just safer that way.
All the best,
Admiral Sandy Winnefeld