WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Some child advocates are upset that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is providing Santa Claus with a fighter jet escort around the globe in this year’s tracking program.
Since 1955, NORAD Tracks Santa has been operated by the joint U.S.-Canada command. Its purpose is to provide children with information and details about Santa’s whereabouts as he drops off presents around the world.
This year’s program depicts Santa flying over snow-capped mountain peaks with a military aircraft keeping up with him on either side.
The addition of the fighter jets is “part of our effort to give the program more of an operational feel,” NORAD spokesman Jeff A. Davis told The Boston Globe.
A California child and family psychologist, Allen Kanner, told the newspaper that the Pentagon is “completely out of line” for linking Christmas with the military.
“Children associate Santa with gifts and fun and everything else that is positive about Christmas,” Kanner told the newspaper. “They are associating this with the military in children’s minds.”
The Globe also reported that another video on the NORAD Tracks Santa website shows military personnel preparing for a flight test with an intelligence officers asserting that “intel can confirm that Jack Frost and the Abominable Snowman will not be a threat.”
“I think people are quite aware of the military’s true mission,” Amy Hagopian, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, explained to the newspaper. “If the military wants to keep its ranks stocked, it needs to appeal to children. The military knows it can’t appeal to adults to volunteer. It is like the ad industry.”
Last year roughly 22.3 million people visited the website and generated 114,000 phone calls handled by 1,200 volunteers. This year the website will be available in eight languages.