North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)

Tin City Long Range Radar Site
Michael de Yoanna / KUNC

Inside a small building surrounded by a gate on a military base in Anchorage, Alaska, sits one of North America's most important first lines of defense.

Maj. Christopher Perham unlocks the gate that leads in, followed by a series of doors.

"This is the base of our operations here," Perham says.

He's part of the Alaska Air National Guard in the 176th Air Defense Squadron. But he works for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, which is headquartered thousands of miles away in Colorado.

U.S. Air Force General Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy
North American Aerospace Defense Command

The commander in charge of advance-warning systems for the United States and Canada said both countries are "at risk in ways we haven't been in decades" and called for a broad upgrade of NORAD's defenses in response to Russian military advances.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, who leads the Colorado-based U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, made the remarks during a gathering of defense experts in Ottawa on Tuesday.

U.S. Air Force

The government may be partially shut down, but that won't stop hundreds of volunteers dressed in Christmas hats and military uniforms Monday from taking calls from children around the world who want to know when Santa will be coming.

NORAD Public Affairs, Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braym

Every year, kids across the globe follow Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve journey from the North Pole. The source of the information is NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, in Colorado Springs.

Last December the website received 18 million visits from people around the globe speaking many different languages - along with evidence that kids still use phones. There were 126,000 calls last year to NORAD's Santa line.