CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN, Colorado — Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently visited the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command, to discuss homeland defense, ballistic missile defense and NORTHCOM's role in responding to natural disasters.
"I have come here to pay my respects to you and feel I owe that to you," Mattis said to a room full of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, Canadians and civilians.
"I have a deep sense of gratitude for you because I cannot overemphasize the importance of your mission," referencing NORAD's mission of missile warning and USNORTHCOM's mission of ballistic missile defense.
"You are going to hold the line, you're going to maintain alertness, you're going to watch for aerospace and maritime threats to the North American continent," Mattis continued. "You're going to do this job at a time when both of our nations need you to be at the top of your game."
CBN News got a tour November 16th as well, although our cameras were not allowed inside the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base.
This reporter gained access behind two giant steel doors inside a maze of three story buildings where more than a dozen government agencies work.
It's a base which can stand up to any nuclear missile, even an electromagnetic attack, which North Korea has threatened to do.
"We collectively act as sort of the brain stem to our missile warning missile defense network. If you consider satellite, and ground bases sensors as sort of the nerve endings, all that data is feed in here to Cheyenne Mountain," Steven Rose, deputy director of the 721st Mission Support Group, said.
A protective brain stem, under tons of solid granite, responsible for homeland defense, including tracking and potentially intercepting North Korean missiles.
The secretary told CBN News as we traveled with him that he wants to have a better understanding of how the United States works with Canada in defense of North America.
"I think the best way to look at it is, we don't look at war as being space war or cyber war. War is war," he said. "And any kind of conflict in the future could well include cyber or space assets."
Mattis adds, "Sensors and tracking information comes in there for the Canadian and American officers to synthesize and stay alert to any threat to Canadian and American airspace."
Specifically, Mattis said he wants to understand the various systems used and the role they play in the decision-making process.
The main threat right now to the homeland is North Korea and the threats Kim Jong Un poses with his newly developed nuclear capability and the progress the nation is making in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, the secretary said.
Mattis stressed the United States and its allies must concentrate on defense.
"I believe that we have to have good strong defenses with our allies in order to buy time for the diplomats to resolve this situation," he said.
The United States must work with allies so North Korea understands there is no military option, the secretary said. That will allow diplomats to solve the issue, he said.
"There may be room for talks. If they stop their shooting missiles, stop developing nukes, stop building more nukes, we can talk," Mattis said.
Mattis told CBN News if North Korea agreed, he would set the conditions to bring the rogue country to the table.
"We are being led right now diplomatically. Everything we do is designed," said Mattis.
He adds, "The sanctions, the United Nations resolutions, the unanimous resolutions, more economic sanctions, diplomatic measures from countries around the world, it's all designed to bring diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to change its course."