Airspace Between The Ears
NORAD: Sarah Palin has no role in guarding U.S. airspace despite claims in Katie Couric interview
BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - When Russian bombers approach American airspace and U.S. Air Force fighters are scrambled, Sarah Palin's phone doesn't ring.
The Alaska governor has no command authority over the guardians of U.S. airspace despite her recent suggestion otherwise.
"She doesn't have any role in that process," Air Force Maj. Allen Herritage, spokesman for the Alaska North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the Daily News.
"The authority to launch and respond to a Russian incursion lies with the Alaska NORAD Region commander" - Air Force Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, he said.
Palin said last week that her foreign policy experience includes facing the Russians.
"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia, as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America - where do they go? It's Alaska," Palin told CBS' Katie Couric.
"It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation," she said.
Moscow's bombers have skirted Alaskan airspace 20 times, thugh they have not violated it, during Palin's governorship, officials said.
When F-15 and F-22 interceptors scrambled from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage in response, John McCain's running mate was not speed-dialed with the news.
"The commander does not call the governor," Herritage said.
Steven Biegun, a McCain foreign policy adviser, said Palin is informed of the fly-bys by her National Guard commander.
The Alaska Air Guard, which Palin oversees, performs airspace-watching missions only under NORAD command, and does not fly interception sorties.
Palin did get an annual Air Force briefing in February.
"She asked a lot of questions and seemed generally curious," recalled Herritage, who was there. "She was very interested in Russian long-range aviation."
I'll bet she was. Probably worried that the Russkis would cut in on her aerial wolf-and-moose-shooting...