WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2013 â€“ A month after taking the helm of U.S. Strategic Command, Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney is moving full steam ahead to continue bolstering the deterrence that protects Americans from what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel describes as “the world’s most complex and dangerous threats.”
Stratcom’s No. 1 mission is to ensure the United States has a credible nuclear deterrent that the president could call on at any time to go operational, if needed. Haney, with vast experience in the Navy’s ballistic-missile submarine fleet, said this mission remains paramount.
“Having a safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent is clearly important to our nation today, as it has been historically,” he told American Forces Press Service at the Pentagon yesterday.
To underscore that point, Haney immediately set out after arriving at Stratcom’s headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., to deliver that message personally to the nuclear force he calls the heart and soul of nuclear deterrence.
Haney visited Minot Air Force Base, S.D., and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and was headed today to Navy Submarine Base King’s Bay, Ga.
The visits, he said, helped him assess the state of various legs of the nuclear triad and developments within the force itself since he left his post as Stratcom’s deputy commander just under two years ago to command U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“I wanted to get out and pass my guidance to the teams,” Haney said. “I also wanted them to know they have my confidence and trust, and how important their mission is to this country of ours and how relevant it is today.”
Stratcom’s responsibilities have expanded beyond nuclear deterrence over the past eight years to include deterrence against a far more extensive set of threats and challenges. With that charter, the command also serves as the global synchronizer for ensuring space, cyberspace, missile defense and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities across the military.
All of these missions have a direct impact on U.S. military operations around the world, Haney noted. “What is neat about working at U.S. Strategic Command is that it is a global command,” he said. “As a result, it really allows me and my team to participate across the globe on strategic issues.
“In addition to our nuclear strategic deterrent mission, as you walk through all of our unified command plan responsibilities, there is significant connective tissue between our mission areas and what the other combatant commands do â€“ particularly the geographic combatant commands that our nation depends on,” he said.
To chart the way ahead for Stratcom, Haney has set several key priorities that align its broad missions and responsibilities:
-- Deter a nuclear attack with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force.
This effort extends beyond the nuclear force and its operations to include modernization that ensures the reliability of the triad of ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable heavy bombers, and provides an assured warning and command-and-control system and a safe, reliable nuclear stockpile.
“I am looking very carefully to ensure we are on course and making the right modernization decisions,” Haney said. “Those decisions go across every leg of our capability in the nuclear strategic domain, to include nuclear-control mechanisms.”
Recognizing the tough budgetary decisions ahead for the Defense Department, Haney said he will advocate for the most critical requirements, including the long-delayed Ohio-class submarine replacement and other modernization issues.
Haney said he’s grateful that leaders in the Defense Department and Congress recognize the importance of the nuclear triad and the need to modernize it. “The good news is that I am a part of the decision-making apparatus,” he said. “I’m able to ensure â€¦ through the [budget] deliberations that occur that our leadership understands what we need as we go forward.”
-- Partner with other combatant commands to win today.
Stratcom provides many of the capabilities that directly support warfighters on the ground and military operations around the world. Its contributions range from satellites that allow them to communicate, cyber defenses that protect their networks, and GPS capabilities that help them navigate and, when necessary, lock in on and engage targets.
Stratcom also coordinates the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that give U.S. and coalition forces a decisive edge on the battlefield that saves lives.
“We work diligently with our fellow combatant commands,” Haney said. “When you look across those [mission] areas, it is very important that we are able to work as a team and synchronize our efforts so that at the end of the day, we can win. We win by working together.”
-- Address challenges in space.
Stratcom’s mission includes ensuring space-based assets are available to support military operations and that these high-demand resources are used efficiently and effectively to promote mission accomplishment. But the importance of space extends beyond military operations, Haney emphasized.
“When you look at where we as a nation have gone in space and our dependency on it â€“ not just militarily, but as a society at large â€“ you realize how important it is and why we work that particular area,” he said. “There is just so much going on in space today that it clearly warrants our attention in how to operate efficiently and effectively and have that awareness we need [that enables people] to do everything from banking to understanding weather patterns.”
-- Build cyberspace capability and capacity.
“Our command-and control and communication structure and our network-centric methodologies all require continuity of the ones and zeros in the cyber world,” Haney said. Working primarily through U.S. Cyber Command, one of its subordinate commands, Stratcom focuses on protecting military networks, helping other combatant commands as well as allies and partners confront cyber challenges and building a strong cyber workforce.
“Cyber is a day-to-day business that we are all involved in,” both through addressing immediate challenges and “at the same time working on our strategic approaches to address this for the future,” Haney said.
“There is a lot of work going on,” he said. “There is also a lot of work to do, and our plans are moving forward to synchronize those efforts across all the other geographic commands.”
-- Prepare for uncertainty.
As commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Haney frequently took people to the USS Arizona Memorial to talk about the history-changing events that occurred after the surprise Pearl Harbor attack. “Then you look at the variety of events that have happened since: the USS Cole [attack in Yemen], the Kobar Towers bombing [in Saudi Arabia], and the 9/11 attack,” he said.
Stratcom has a robust planning cell that studies “the way the world is,” the admiral said. But Haney also challenges its members to think “in terms of what we see and what we don’t see â€¦ and what we know and what we don’t know” so they can connect the dots in new and often revealing ways.
“Our ability to predict, and refining that capability requires dedication and effort, wargaming and analysis, intelligence and fusing that all together in order to work as best we can to prevent surprise,” he said. “So clearly, dealing with strategic surprise and uncertainty is at the top of that [priority] list. Our nation has been surprised in the past. So it is very important that we use our unique capabilities and fuse them together in order to deter conflict and, at the same time, be ready to respond, if called upon.”
As the U.S. military winds down combat operations in Afghanistan and the Defense Department rebalances toward the Asia-Pacific region, Haney said Stratcom will continue exploring ways to strengthen America’s deterrence posture.
“When you look at U.S. Strategic Command’s missions, they are enduring. These are missions that don’t go away with Afghanistan,” he said. “The business of strategic deterrence goes on day in and day out, and that is the piece that excites the folks who work for me. They are making a valuable contribution to our country, day in and day out.”
(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)