Priorities for U.S. Northern Command include expanding partnerships, keeping eyes on air, space, cyberspace, land and sea domains, and outpacing all threats, the Northcom and the North American Aerospace Defense Command commander said.
Outside its primary homeland defense mission, some of Northcom's most immediate concerns include cyber security, transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States from the border with Mexico, and security issues that arise from the predicted melting of Arctic sea ice, opening parts of the Arctic over the next decade to human activity.
Northcom's main responsibility in the cyber domain, Jacoby said, "is consequence management in the event of a catastrophic cyber attack on this country. Northcom could certainly be called upon to provide support to civil authorities in the recovery. But we think our role is broader than that."
Northcom has "some work to do in defining what [constitutes] an attack in the cyber domain," he said. "It's a very collaborative process we're doing as combatant commanders along with [the U.S. Strategic Command] and its … Cyber Command. That's a work in progress."
Jacoby said he believes "it will be a matter of policy to clearly define what is an attack or what isn't an attack," and he hopes such a policy can be put in place over the next year.
Until then, Jacoby said, he continues to work closely with Cyber Command commander Army Gen. Keith Alexander "to ensure that we have ample warning to understand if there is a cyberattack or malicious cyber activity that … could compromise the defense of the homeland."
To achieve that end, Jacoby said, Northcom has good cooperation across DOD and with partners in the Department of Homeland Security.
Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, Jr., recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2013 defense budget request for the first time as Northcom commander. Northcom was established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to defend the homeland and help civil authorities respond to natural and other disasters. Its area of responsibility includes Canada and Mexico.
Jacoby said his priorities include advancing and sustaining the U.S.-Canada partnership of NORAD, monitoring the unique and fast-changing domain of the Arctic, and taking care of the men and women of Northcom.
"This past year has been busy. We've synchronized our activities with many partners and done our part to realize efficiencies that we've worked through the budget process," Jacoby told the senators.
As part of the budget, he said, Northcom trimmed its workforce by 141 full-time positions this year, and for fiscal 2013 has requested reducing its operations and maintenance funding by about 6 percent.
"But with the resources and authorities at hand and maintaining our vigilance," the general added, "we'll be able to continue to defend and support the American people."