Admiral Tim Keating, who commands both N.O.R.A.D. and the U.S. Northern Command, told the Denver Post that current intelligence “leads us to believe a missile attack from China or Russia is very unlikely.”
The complex, built in 1961, is a symbol from the Cold War era. Back then, N.O.R.A.D. tracked incoming bomber flights and potential missile trajectories potentially launched from the Soviet Union. While it is possible such threats could arise again in the future, the current emphasis on combating terrorism has priority. In light of modern politics, the more complicated mission also tracks in-bound cargo ships and suspicious cars parked near power plants.
As a result of the February Air Force Internal Review, the Air Force determined that there was serious duplication of efforts between nearby Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne. The complex costs too much money to maintain and update. N.O.R.A.D. has generated over $250 million in cost overruns hemorrhaging $700 million to update the Mountain since the 9/11 attacks. Closing the base will save at least $250 to $350 million a year on top of stopping the modernization cost overruns.
In short, space is too limited and the facilities are too old.
The move itself will cost “tens of millions of dollars,” Air Force Col. Lou Christensen, deputy director of operations. And budgets will increase initially to cover maintenance costs after the base closes.
Closing Cheyenne will maximize the commander’s time and make him easier to reach. In the midst of the 9/11 attack, Air Force General Ralph Eberhart, the commander at the time, was caught in the air shuttling between the two sites and was unable to respond to urgent queries.
“I have found, over the course of several pretty extensive, rigorous exercises, that I’m able to get as good or better situational awareness in the command center … at Peterson,” Keating said.
What will happen to the 1,100 Cheyenne employees? The Air Force Space Command, which tracks objects in outer space, will move to California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Santa Barbara. Moving that many core personnel will empty the base of any meaningful work. The Canadian teams will move to nearby Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The rest will be reassigned to other sites.
However, the site will be maintained for reactivation within one hour should the need occur.
The nagging question remains, however: How will this affect Stargate Command? The most common possibility will be that N.O.R.A.D.’s departure will have no influence on future stories in the television series. The election of President Henry Hayes has established to viewers that Stargate‘s universe is not exactly the same as our own. But several clever and creative explanations may grow from this real-world change.
New episodes of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis air Fridays starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the SCI FI Channel.