Following a media inquiry, Gen. Glen VanHerck, the leader of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command, has initiated an internal investigation into presumed alcohol consumption within office spaces under his jurisdiction. The probe started after an office walk-through, during which "a relatively small number" of beer and liquor containers were discovered in "a classified workspace behind a cipher lock, a secure lock" as told by VanHerck.
Gen. VanHerck clarified that drinking alcohol in the workplace is not expressly forbidden, but consumption must follow established approval processes dictating the when and where the alcohol is consumed. The investigation also seeks to establish if alcohol was consumed during working hours or operational periods.
NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command were under criticism early this year when a Chinese high altitude balloon penetrated North American airspace, casting a spotlight on potential weaknesses within U.S. military defenses. NORAD, being a U.S. and Canada joint command, defends North American airspace. Meanwhile, the U.S. Northern Command offers civil support, homeland defense and security cooperation for the U.S.
When questioned about awareness of alcohol-related concerns in the workplace as early as autumn 2022, VanHerck responded, "I've been in this position since August 2020, and I can tell you no one has expressed worries about alcohol consumption in the office. We've conducted multiple climate surveys, and I don't remember any direct, specific issues raised about alcohol in the workspace".
Speaking to CBS News on Wednesday, VanHerck stated his initial analysis found no evidence of a problematic culture or diminished readiness connected to alcohol use. He said he saw "no mission impact, on our readiness to defend North America or the Homeland…no impact on any of our recent operations, including the high altitude balloon incident". He asserted his confidence in their readiness stance but anticipates the results of the investigation for any necessary action steps.
According to Gen. VanHerck, the probe into this matter could take several weeks. In his words, "We're being very transparent here. This is an issue brought to my attention that I immediately acted upon to ensure that we're adhering to policy and we'll act upon anything that we find."