Military to Idle NORAD Compound
Operations Will Move to Nearby Base, But Cold War Bunker to Stand Ready
By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 29, 2006; Page A02
COLORADO SPRINGS, July 28 -- Facing new enemies in a different kind of war, the Pentagon said Friday that it plans to move out of the famous war room that was built beneath a mountain here in the 1960s with enough concrete to survive a Soviet missile strike.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will transfer surveillance operations from Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, an iconic Cold War venue depicted in such movies as "War Games" and "The Sum of All Fears," to an office building a dozen miles away at Peterson Air Force Base.
The Cheyenne Mountain war room, nesting more than 1,000 feet under the mountain and protected by iron blast doors weighing 30 tons apiece, is to be placed in a status the military calls "warm standby," which means it could be reopened in hours if a need arose.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Defense Department has spent about $700 million to upgrade early-warning systems at the Cheyenne Mountain center. A report this month by the Government Accountability Office said the upgrade has been "fraught with cost increases, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls."
Despite that upgrade, Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command, created a group in February to consider moving the NORAD surveillance operation to Peterson. The study recommended the shift for operational and budget reasons, the Northern Command said in a statement Friday.
NORAD officials emphasized that the same surveillance work will be carried out, but without the enormous protective shield of iron, earth and concrete provided at Cheyenne Mountain. The military concluded that it no longer needed to be concerned about an intercontinental nuclear missile.
"Moving the missions from a hardened facility to Peterson AFB does not change the level of security," Keating told reporters Friday. "An assessment is underway to ensure that the security level is commensurate with threats."
"A missile attack from China or Russia is very unlikely," Keating said, according to a transcript of a recent interview with the Denver Post.
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