Northern Command wraps up command center remodel

Published: December 8, 2013, 12:00 am

by tom roeder tom.roeder@gazette.com -

In the bowels of the U.S. Northern Command building at Peterson Air Force Base, leaders have wrapped up a year of remodeling within their top secret command center.

The center houses troops from Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command who monitor threats to the continent using scores of computers and a main display screen bigger than all four walls in most living rooms.

Army Col. Stephen Sicinski showed off the command center in November amid the latest step in the remodeling process – adding more work stations to house additional staff.

“This particular remodel isn’t even the main one,” Sicinski said.

During the remodeling, which occurred in stages, command center crews were intermittently relocated to a backup site inside the underground Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center.

Because the top-secret work was being done elsewhere, reporters got a rare glimpse inside the main center, one of the most secret facilities in America.

This year, the facility has been stocked with new computers and new display screens in one remodel that ran from January through April. The screens, called a knowledge wall, carry everything from real-time air traffic maps to cable news programs.

“The new knowledge wall gives up two to three times the capacity to process information visually and display it,” he said.

Inside the center, officers monitor the threats and consult with top Pentagon and Canadian Forces leaders. Communications lines connect the center to all quarters of government and military assets around the globe.

Key areas of work include missile defense and responses to aerial threats through Operation Noble Eagle – which monitors airspace above the U.S. and Canada to prevent a 9/11-style attack.

The latest change, completed over two weeks in November, moved operations troops into the command center to allow easier planning and communications across the command.

“Once, we had two separate current operations divisions for NORAD and Northern Command,” Sicinski said.

The change allows a bigger team to come together in the command center where they can analyze information and collaborate on responses.

“I realized we needed to physically move the operations division into the command center to cement the relationship,” Sicinski said.

Bringing more people into the center will make it more effective in wartime and the fix required simple rewiring and moving furniture at a cost of a few thousand dollars, Sicinski said.

“It’s going to give us a huge operational bang for our buck,” he said.

The year of work in the center is paying off for crews who work there in shifts that cover 24 hours a day.

“Everything works a bit better,” Sicinski said.