WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is rewriting its master plan for assigning war-fighting responsibilities at home and around the world in hopes of better managing defense of the U.S. homeland.
The new approach is supposed to streamline a command structure that is complex and, in many respects, rooted in a Cold War-era approach to fighting standing armies, air forces and navies in predictable parts of the world.
As the suicide hijackings of Sept. 11 showed, the nation faces unconventional threats from unpredictable sources, and former adversaries like Russia have become partners in the war on terrorism.
Until Sept. 11, the military had never been organized to defend against threats emanating from inside the country.
A new command, called Northern Command, will begin operating on Oct. 1. It will be responsible for defense of U.S. territory, including the waters off the East and West coasts, according to officials who discussed some details of the plan Tuesday on condition of anonymity. President Bush is expected to nominate Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart as the first commander of Northern Command.
Under the existing arrangement for defense of U.S. territory, responsibility is shared by numerous commands.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, for example, is in charge of air defense of the United States and Canada. That will not change. The Northern Command commander will also head NORAD.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said Wednesday he was briefed on the plan and was told the Pentagon's preferred choice for Northern Command's headquarters is Colorado Springs, Colo., where NORAD and Space Command have their headquarters. The site selection is not final, Allard said, because the Pentagon is required to conduct an environmental impact study first.
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