NORAD general launches investigation into on-base drinking

Questions ArchiveCategory: QuestionsNORAD general launches investigation into on-base drinking
Lin Tweddle asked 2 months ago

The top general overseeing North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has launched an investigation into allegations of workplace drinking after discovering alcohol containers in classified workspaces.

The probe follows questions from USA Today, which on Wednesday reported that a secret day-drinking tavern known as the ‘John Wayne Saloon’ had operated inside NORAD and NORTHCOM headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado. 

A spokesperson for the commands confirmed the investigation in a statement to, saying that NORAD and NORTHCOM commander Gen. Glen VanHerck ‘takes these allegations seriously’.

‘NORAD and US Northern Command are aware of reports about allegations of concerning behaviors in the commands’ headquarters,’ the spokesperson said, adding that VanHerck had launched ‘an investigation into alleged behaviors and command culture’ upon learning of the allegations.

‘There is no indication of any impact to operations, and NORAD and USNORTHCOM continue to conduct our missions,’ the spokesperson added. 

NORAD has been under close scrutiny since a January incident in which a Chinese spy balloon penetrated US airspace and loitered over sensitive military installations. 

Gen. Glen VanHerck (above) has launched an investigation into allegations of workplace drinking after discovering alcohol containers in classified workspaces

VanHerck also confirmed the investigation to CBS News earlier on Wednesday, saying that he launched the probe after finding ‘a relatively small number’ of beer and liquor containers in ‘a classified workspace behind a cipher lock’.

The general told USA Today that he had directed the walk-through inspection after the newspaper inquired about the allegations last week. 

‘Based on your inquiry, what I did was immediately direct a walkthrough of all spaces in the command with the intent to corroborate any of the allegations,’ VanHerck told the outlet. 

‘We did find the John Wayne poster outside a door. Behind the locked door, what we found was an office space with a refrigerator that did contain some alcohol. We did find some beer…some hard liquor.’ 

Citing sources, USA Today reported that the room was in Building 2, secured by a keypad lock, and contained half a dozen bottles of top-shelf liquor. 

The ‘saloon’ was named after a poster of actor John Wayne affixed to the door, and no cellphones were allowed inside, the sources said.  

VanHerck told CBS that in his preliminary assessment, workplace drinking was not a widespread problem in his commands, and he did not believe there was an impact on their mission to defend North America, including the spy balloon incident.

‘I don’t assess there was any impact on any of our recent operations to include the high altitude balloon,’ he told CBS.

‘As a matter of fact, I’m really confident and comfortable from a readiness perspective of where we are, but I do look forward to the investigation to see what actions may need to be taken,’ the general added.

NORAD and NORTHCOM are both headquartered at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, but it was not immediately clear whether VanHerck had discovered the illicit booze containers at that facility.

NORAD is tasked with monitoring and defending airspace in Canada and the continental US, while NORTHCOM protects US territory and national interests in much of North America.

The general said that while alcohol is not totally prohibited in workspaces, there are approval processes restricting where and when it can be consumed.

VanHerck said that he was not aware of allegations about illicit workplace drinking being elevated to command staff.

‘I’ve been here since August of 2020, and all I can tell you is that nobody has come to me and expressed concern about the consumption of alcohol in the workspace,’ he told CBS. 

‘We have conducted multiple climate surveys, and I don’t recall any direct, specific allegation and concern of alcohol in the workspace.’ 

NORAD and NORTHCOM been under close scrutiny since a January incident in which a Chinese spy balloon (above) penetrated US airspace and loitered over military installations

Following the spy balloon incident last January, NORAD has been working to expand its early detection capabilities.

Last month, Defense One reported that the Pentagon plans to build six new radar facilities in the northwestern US and Canada to detect hypersonic Russian low-flying cruise missiles.

The new ‘over-the-horizon’ northern radars will be designed for early detection if Moscow decided to send such missiles over the Arctic.

Four large plots of land are being bought by the US Air Force in the US and two in Canada for radar systems. 

Earlier this year, NORAD commander VanHerck told Congress of the urgent need for such ‘over-the-horizon’ radar to protect against emerging threats of cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons from Russia.

He said it would provide ‘proven, affordable technology that will ensure our ability to detect threats from surface to space in the approaches to North America.’

He said: ‘Rather than fielding the capabilities in eight to 10 years, maybe we can shorten that to four to five years. And by the way, I need Canada to do the same thing. A fielding of a capability a decade from now is not where we need to be.’

VenHerck said Alaska may be the ‘most strategic location on the planet’ partly because it is the ‘shortest avenue approach for ballistic missiles from Russia, potentially China and (North Korea) to our homeland.

‘The bottom line is if you can’t detect something, you can’t defeat it, and you certainly can’t deter.’


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