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U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the United States Northern Command, speaks to reporters before the departure of the USNS Naval Hospital Ship Comfort, on April 30, 2020.The Associated Press

The deputy director of operations and the former commander of North America’s shared continental defence system are urging Canada and the United States to get serious about bringing NORAD into the 21st century.

U.S. Air Force Brig.-Gen. Peter Fesler and just-retired NORAD commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy detail their recommendations in a new paper published today by the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute.

The core of their strategy is SHIELD, the Strategic Homeland Integrated Ecosystem for Layered Defence – a data-driven, machine-learning system designed to allow existing military pillars to better share and mine information.

Fesler and O’Shaughnessy say adversaries like Russia and China are increasingly well-positioned to exploit the “seams” that currently exist between North America’s air, sea and missile defence systems and early warning networks.

SHIELD, they write, would tap into the data currently generated by those separate, independently operated pillars, scan it for patterns and anticipate potential enemy decisions before they can be executed.

In the paper, they say a precursor test system known as Pathfinder is already demonstrating SHIELD’s potential, extracting and processing more data from existing systems and sensors without the need for costly upgrades.

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