Washington D.C. - (As delivered, Edited for Clarity)
General John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Good morning, everybody. It’s good to be back here again. It’s good to see so many friendly faces, people that I’ve known for a long time.
[Lt.] Gen. Deptula, thank you very much for those words. I very much appreciate it. [Lt.] Gen. Deptula has been a mentor, teacher of mine. I think the first time I met him I was his director of Space Forces in the Pacific when he was the JFACC [Joint Force Air Component Commander] at Hickam. I remember going in, and the first time I really met him one on one, and he tasked me with a very interesting task. And the task was to build a space campaign plan. And this is 12, 13 years ago. And so building a space campaign plan that would integrate with the other campaigns that were going on in the Pacific was an interesting challenge. But I can tell you, most of the time when I brought back the answer to him, it was not quite right. You can imagine how those meetings went.
I was a colonel at the time, but I never expected to be a general, so I probably wasn’t as respectful as I should have been, and I apologize.
But it’s interesting. When we put the campaign plan, we put everything in place. The problem with the plan was that we went to source the intelligence that we needed to execute the plan, there was no intelligence. Because we had taken our eyes off of the ball that was the strategic problem for years and years. And when you take your eye off the ball, you don’t have the capability. You don’t have – but when you think about it, and you start putting the requests in, the intelligence community still has to decide to put the resources against it. And it took us a long time, and we’re still on that path. So it’s been a challenge. But [Lt.] Gen. Deptula, it’s good to see you.
Thanks to Peter Huessy and the folks. I tell you, when you look at the agenda that the Mitchell Institute, and that you have, there’s a lot of interesting things going on. So thanks very much for taking that on.
What I’m going to talk about today, I can talk about in Q&A anything you want to talk about, and I always tell folks, you know, you can ask me any question. I will give you my best answer. The only thing we can’t do today is go classified. But other than that, I’ll give you my straightforward answer.
But I’m going to talk about the mission of Strategic Command, which is a pretty interesting place. I’m going to talk about the role of deterrence in the 21st century, because I think that we as a nation really don’t understand what that means. We say strategic deterrence, but we really don’t understand what that means.
And then I’m going to end with a couple of stories. I want to talk about Adm. Hyman Rickover and Gen. Bennie Schriever, and I’m going to talk about some Navy captains and colonels. Capt. Rickover at the time that it started. And I’m going to talk about the need for speed and innovation. Because we desperately need that in this country. And somehow, I don’t know when, I don’t know how, I don’t know where, somehow we’ve lost the imperative for speed, and we go so slow in everything that we do, that our adversaries have had a chance to catch up, and if we’re not careful, they can pass us. We cannot let that happen.
So I’ve been in command seven months now, a little over seven months. It’s hard to believe, because it feels like I just got there. But nonetheless, November the 3rd of last year, I took command of U.S. Strategic Command. And if you ever think you’re going to grow up and be a general? If you ever think you were going to grow up and be a combatant commander, you’re an idiot. Because it is impossible, it cannot happen, and when it does, it’s pretty overwhelming. It is an amazing set of responsibilities. But the best thing about the job, without a doubt, is the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines I get to meet when I go out to the command.
Because the command is the most global of all commands, it is a global warfighting command. It is the most global command there is. From under the sea to 2,300 miles above the earth, north, south, east, west. Above the surface of the earth, on the surface of the earth, under the surface of the earth in missile fields. But everywhere you go, you get to meet the best and brightest that the country has to offer.
A little over 180,000 men and women assigned and attached to U.S. Strategic Command, doing some of the most difficult jobs that we have in this nation. Some of the most brilliant people we have in this nation, that in many cases [don’t] get the credit that they are due.
My deputy, [Vice] Adm. Chas Richard, was here speaking to this audience just a few weeks ago. I hope many of you were here to listen to him, because he’s a pretty interesting guy. But he does not toot his own horn. One of the interesting things about his career is he spent seven years of his life under the water. Seven years of his life. Not deployed. Seven years of his life under the water. That’s hard to imagine. I’ve spent one day of my life under the water. It was an interesting experience. I got to spend it with my wife on the USS Tennessee. And to meet the sailors on the USS Tennessee and to see the professionalism of how they deal with 20 sea-launched ballistic missiles, 20 Trident D5’s deployed on the USS Tennessee, and how professional they are. It’s just amazing. How upbeat they are. Because they were coming to the end of their deployment when we got on board somewhere in the Atlantic between the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States, we got on board. And we spent a day going up and down that amazing ship, understanding what it is. And then when we get to the nuclear drills, I go forward, Laura goes aft, and Laura’s back watching the crew do their emergency drills because the emergency drills are unclassified. How do you fight fires, how do you fight floods? And then after the nuclear drill was over we come together and it’s just a chance to talk to the sailors. And it’s just awesome.
I don’t know where we get these people that want to come serve our nation, but they do.
Those of you who know me, know I grew up in Alabama. And when you’re in first grade in Alabama, you have to declare. So I declared for the University of Alabama in first grade. I never went there. But once you declare, you can never go back.
The other interesting thing about [Vice] Adm. Richard is that he went to a high school 15 miles from my high school in Decatur, and I was in Huntsville. He was one year behind me, and he went to the University of Alabama. So we’re huge University of Alabama fans.
So I’m on board the Tennessee, and everywhere you go on the Tennessee, stinking big orange colors – Phillip Fulmer signed this, Peyton Manning jerseys, footballs, all kinds of stuff everywhere.
So I’m walking through and I’m talking to sailors, and I talk to this one young sailor, and I said so, Sailor, where are you from? He said, Monroe, Louisiana. I said Louisiana, really? You’re an LSU fan? Oh, yes. I live, breathe, die LSU football. My brother goes to LSU, my dad went to LSU. It’s just everything to me. So I said, so how’s it feel to be stationed on board the Tennessee? And he looks at me and goes well, sir, at least it’s not the Alabama.
Those are the best days. Not that today isn’t fun. Well, maybe it’s not that fun, it’s not that Washington isn’t a fun place, but if you want to see the greatness of this country, look at the people who are serving each and every day. We get to meet the people who are deployed overseas, they’re the best and brightest. You meet the people on the Tennessee, deployed at F.E. Warren, Malmstrom, Minot, watch the folks that somehow take care of air-launched cruise missiles at 20 below zero on the ramp at Minot Air Force Base in the middle of the winter time, keeping B-52s running that are older than their father. It’s just an amazing thing to see.
But, the mission of U.S. Strategic Command is much broader than that.
When I came in, I looked at the seven mission areas that we have, and the seven mission areas are: nuclear, number one, by far the most important mission; global strike; space; cyber; missile defense; electronic warfare; and analysis and targeting. The seven missions assigned to the Unified Command Plan. Actually, when we came in we had nine, because we had countering weapons of mass destruction and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Those have been kicked out.
But I looked at those, and the thing that struck me was the old motto of Strategic Air Command still applies. And somehow we had dropped that motto out of STRATCOM for a while. The motto is: Peace is our profession. So I looked into that, I talked to a lot of people, and I have to walk by Curtis LeMay’s picture every day when I come to work. His painting is hanging there on the wall. And if you’ve ever seen it, whoever the artist was, wherever you go, his eyes follow you. It’s really scary. I live in the house that Curtis LeMay lived in for nine years, from 1948 to 1957. And he’s the one that brought SAC to Omaha. But SAC is not STRATCOM. It’s not. If you want to see SAC, go to Global Strike Command at Barksdale. That’s where the bombers and the ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] are commanded from.
But U.S. Strategic Command, that is our legacy. The legacy is Curtis LeMay. It is defending this nation against all enemies. And he came up with the motto. He approved the motto, peace is our profession. But the legend has it, and it’s been told enough that I believe it’s true, that he always added a dot-dot-dot to the end of peace is our profession. Peace is our profession..., and that meant if you crossed the line with the United States of America, we will respond. We’ll respond with overwhelming power in a way that will ruin your day and make it so you’ll never attack the United States of America. That is the ultimate strategic deterrent.
And so when I say peace is our profession, I talk about it that way. I came up with three priorities for the command. And the command’s three priorities will not change in the time I’m there. They’re pretty straightforward, and they are as follows:
Number one, above all else, we will provide strategic deterrence.
Priority number two, if deterrence fails, we will provide a decisive response. Decisive in every way that word means.
And number three, we will do it with a combat-ready force that’s resilient, trained and equipped to do the mission every day. Those are the priorities of U.S. Strategic Command.
But the interesting thing is when I say those priorities, people immediately think right to the nuclear weapon side, and that’s where they lock in. And that’s actually okay as a starting point, but that’s not the whole mission of U.S. Strategic Command. Because if you want to see the message of Strategic Command, go to any one of our missions, and peace is our profession applies, and those three priorities apply. And you need to understand, we don’t want war to extend into space. We don’t. It’s not, it’s bad for the United States, bad for the world. And so we will provide a strategic deterrent to keep somebody from going into space and attacking us. But, if deterrence fails, we will provide a decisive response and we’ll do that with a combat-ready force. It applies to space and cyber and global strike and missile defense and everything that we do in this command. Peace is our profession is the motto for all 184,000 people, and those priorities apply to every element of this command.
But nuclear is still the backbone of deterrence. And it has to be our top priority.
When you think about, one of the questions that I often get asked, and I’ve told this story a few times now, but it’s worth repeating. And that is, can I imagine a world without nuclear weapons? People, since I’m STRATCOM, since I’m the legacy of Curtis LeMay, they expect me to come – I can actually easily imagine a world without nuclear weapons because I know what it looks like. Because we had a world without nuclear weapons for most of our existence. And all you have to do to know what a world without nuclear weapons looks like is go back to the period before August of 1945. Just go back and think about what the history books say. [Lt.] Gen. Deptula, you were not there yet, no.
But go back to August of 1945 and the six years prior. The six years prior to that the world, in World War II, killed somewhere between 60 and 80 million people. Sixty and 80 million people killed in World War II. Do the math. If you do the math, take a mid-point. It’s a little over 30,000 people a [day] killed in World War II.
Take our experience in Vietnam. A horrible experience in Vietnam where we lost 58,000 of America’s greatest heroes, 58,000 of our greatest gifts, our sons and daughters, in our experience over the, over a decade-long experience in Vietnam. Less than two days of World War II.
That’s what nuclear weapons have done for the world. It does not eliminate conflict. Conflict will exist as long as humans exist. But what it has done is it has kept major power conflict off the world stages. It’s kept that huge death and destruction from happening when you have major power conflicts that get out of control. It’s kept world wars from happening. That’s the primary reason why we have to have nuclear weapons.
And if you look at our modernization approach, because people ask me how can you afford to modernize the entire triad, the question you have to ask yourself is how can you not afford to modernize the triad? Because if you look at our capabilities across the board, look at the ICBMs, the ground-based strategic deterrent, the new program for that. Can you imagine a nuclear capability without the most responsive element of that? And that is the ICBM in the missile fields, because that creates a huge targeting problem for our adversaries. Because 400 separate ICBMs that have to be targeted, with multiple weapons at a time, in the middle of the United States, in order to defeat that side.
And then if you did that, the most survivable element is the submarine force that is on alert every minute of every day as well.
Then we have the most responsive element which is the bomber force that can be employed and called back if we need to. So it gives the flexibility for the United States to deploy capabilities and recall them if needed.
But if you look at all those capabilities together and you put all the modernization programs on the table, it adds up to a whole lot of money. And you see the money talked about in the papers all the time. You can pick a number that goes from $600 million to over a trillion dollars over the next 30 years in order to modernize the capability.
How much is that really? Overall, it’s a little over six percent of our defense budget. Six percent of our defense budget to somehow make sure that the world knows that the United States is ready and you cannot attack the United States. You cannot destroy the United States of America. We have to do that.
But the bomber, the submarine, the cruise missile, the ICBM, the nuclear command and control piece, the weapons, if you put them out on a table, they all deliver just in time, and just in time is about 2029 to about 2032. Which means, if you’ve been in the acquisition business at all over the last 20 years, you realize we already have a broken program, we just don’t know where. Because nothing in the acquisition business ever delivers exactly on time, exactly on budget anymore. Now how does that happen?
So that leads into the story I wanted to tell you, and I’m going to come back to strategic deterrence at the end, but let’s just think about what really worries me the most. What really worries me the most is I’m worried that our nation won’t be able to go fast enough to keep up with our adversaries anymore.
And how did we get to that place? I don’t know but you all have been in this business a long time. I want you to think about that.
But go back to a couple of stories. Capt. Hyman Rickover, United States Navy. A fairly controversial leader of the Navy. Not well-loved by many people, scared the heck out of many people, but he had a vision and he knew where he was going. 1949, he was given the task to build the nuclear Navy. He was given the task to put a nuclear reactor on a submarine. 1949, he was given that task. A nuclear reactor at the time basically took up most of a city block. And he had to figure out how to fit it into the hull of a Navy submarine 28 feet across. In order to do that, he had to invent capabilities to pull zirconium out of the raw material. He had to invent the engineering and physics. He had to come up with new physics for how to apply nuclear power to that. And in 1954 the Nautilus was launched with a nuclear reactor. 1949 to 1954.
It’s just amazing when you think about it. Five years, reactors go from the size of a city block to 28 feet wide. Physics and methods that did not exist when he started that program. But he did it in five years and the Nautilus was underway.
Go to Gen. Bennie Schriever, one of my biggest heroes. One of the honors of my life was to be an idiot major in the Pentagon when the Chief of Staff, Gen. [Merrell] McPeak, looked for a space guy and he said who’s that idiot major that does space down in AQ [acquisition]? I was in the room at the time. I did not raise my hand. But I was that idiot major, and I got to go pick up Gen. Schriever in a C-21 and take him to some places and show him what we were doing. Because Gen. Schriever, even at 80 years old, was criticizing what the Air Force was doing. And rightly so, because we were not moving fast enough.
But Gen. Schriever and a group of folks at a little red school house in Inglewood, California, 1957. They write down, literally, on the back of a piece of paper the design for a three-stage solid rocket intercontinental ballistic missile. Never designed before, never built, never invented. It’s called the Minuteman I. 1958, they convinced the Eisenhower administration and Congress to start that program. They started the program with $140 million in 1958. From 1959 to 1964, an additional $2 billion is allocated to that program. Total cost of the Minuteman I program, if you do the math, $140 million plus $2 billion, $2.14 billion. If you do the math even further, and compare it to current year dollars, that’s $17 billion that we spent.
Now they had one significant advantage, because on the 1st of October every year, they got their money. That’s not insignificant. But, for $2.14 billion, $17 billion in this year’s money, here’s what they did. In 1961, the first successful test of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile. 1962, the first deployment, 1964, 800 missiles deployed in five different bases across America. 160 launch holes. All the missile alert facilities, all the launch control centers, all the command and control, from zero, and on the first part of 1965, 800 missiles are on alert. Eight hundred three-stage ICBMs. Circular error probable – 200 meters.
Five years to deliver that capability. Hyman Rickover, five years to build a nuclear submarine.
Now, people say I criticize the GBSD [ground-based strategic deterrent] program when I say this. I’m not. I’ll come back to that. The GBSD program now. Current cost estimate, current year dollars, $84 billion. For $84 billion we will get 400 three-stage solid rocket ICBMs, to go into existing infrastructure. We’ll have to modernize the nuclear command and control, but oh by the way, that’s a separate budget. We will get that initial operational capability, if everything goes right, in 2029 – 12 years from now. Full operational capability, 2035 – 17 years from now. To get 400 three-stage solid rocket ICBMs.
Now I could tell the same story in space. I could tell the story about Midas and DSP [Defense Support Program] and SBIRS [space-based infrared system]. I can tell the same story about DSCS [defense satellite communications system], WGS [wideband global satellite communications]. I can tell you the story over and over again about space. I can tell that story about the Navy. I can tell that story about the submarine. I can tell it about any [of them], but where did we lose the ability to go fast? And this is not an indictment of the acquisition community. It’s not an indictment of the political process. This is not an indictment of our budget process. This is not an indictment – it’s an indictment of every one of us, because we’re all part of that, whether you work in the Pentagon, on the Capitol, in Los Angeles, at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, at any one of our shipyards. It doesn’t matter where you work, you are now part of the process, and the status quo is unacceptable. It is unacceptable. This nation has the ability to go fast. We have the best and brightest. And I meet them every day when I go out. I see the 180,000 plus men and women and I talk to them, and they’re the best and brightest, and you’ve seen them too, and you work with some of the best and brightest, and you’ve seen those.
So how do we get to the point where it used to be that we could deliver 800 three-stage solid rocket motors, 200-meter circular error probable air basket, and we could do that in five years for $17 billion, current year money, and now it takes us 12 to 17 years, so in other words, four times as long, four times as expensive, for half the capability. I don’t follow that, and I don’t accept that that’s the way that it has to be.
It does not have to be that way. But it is that way, and if we let it continue the same way we’ve been going, it will stay that way. And if you look at what our adversaries are doing, you’ll see something completely different. And you don’t have to be in the classified world to see the classified intel I see every morning. All you have to do is read. Just pick up the paper and read, and you’ll see that the Chinese have a very focused program for developing integrated strategic deterrence. There’s a RAND [Corporation] study out there if you want to read it, you can go read the source intel, the source capabilities in China. You can just pull it up off the internet and read it if you want.
When they talk about strategic deterrence, China talks about integrating nuclear, space, cyber and conventional capabilities to deter the United States of America. And they write it down for everybody to see. And when we talk about deterrence, we talk about 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons somehow deterring everybody in the world. And it doesn’t do that.
Deterrence, the way it was defined in the 1960s by Herman Kahn and Thomas Schelling and Bernard Brodie and those folks, that’s still the basis of where you start from but that’s not 21st century deterrence. So we have got to look at deterrence in a different way. And our adversaries are, and if we don’t, we will not catch up. We have to improve our thinking, we have to improve our speed of thinking, we have to improve our speed of development and acquisition, and ladies and gentlemen, we can do that. This is the United States of America. We have the greatest minds, the best and brightest, we have motivated people that love this country every day when they come to work. We just need to leverage them.
So let’s talk about leveraging somebody.
So everybody gives Gen. Schriever all the credit for the ICBM and credit for Discovery, the credit for the father of space and missiles, and read the book, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War. It’s an awesome story, and he deserves it. And he is my hero.
But who delivered the Minuteman I? A gentleman named Col. Sam Phillips. Because Gen. Schriever was not a brilliant, I mean he had a master’s in mechanical engineering from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], but he was not a career program manager. He was not a career acquisition guy. He was a warfighter from World War II. That’s what he was. But he understood we needed to go fast, and so he hired Col. Sam Phillips, and Col. Sam Phillips put the Minuteman I in –
What was Col. Phillips’ probably big claim to fame in the acquisition business? He’s the first guy that said, you know, the first test we ought to do with the Minuteman should be we’ll slap all three stages together and light it off. You know why we’re going to do that? Because if we do that, we will learn the fastest. Because if it fails, we’ll figure out what went wrong and we’ll fix it and we’ll try it again. You go back to Gen. Schriever, the first 13 Discovery missions, failure. Fourteen worked and the world was changed.
Now we’ve lost the ability to go fast and test and fail. Watch what our adversaries are doing. Look at Kim Jong Un. Our newspapers often call him, you know, a buffoon or a clown or all kinds of terms. What he’s doing is testing and failing, testing and failing, testing and failing, testing and succeeding. Fast. He’s learned how to go fast.
We tie the hands of our engineers and acquisition folks because we expect every test to work, and if it doesn’t work it’s on the front page of the newspaper – missile defense system fails. No, that’s a test.
You know, there’s a quote from Hyman Rickover, let me get it for you because it’s exactly right. Here it is. Hyman Rickover, 1954. “Success teaches us nothing. Only failure teaches.”
We have got to get back to where we accept risk. Why is Col. Sam Phillips famous in the history books? My guess is there’s only a handful of people in this room that knew he was related to Minuteman I, but I bet you a lot of people know the name Sam Phillips. Why do you know the name Sam Phillips? Because [Dr. Wernher] von Braun and NASA in the early 1960s, when the President said we want to go to the moon and we want to get there by the end of the decade, said I’ve got to have somebody who can go fast. And so they brought Brig. Gen. Sam Phillips from the Air Force to NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] to be the program manager on the Apollo Program. And if you do the math there, they went from zero to the moon, really, in about six or seven years. Zero to the moon in six or seven years. They went from a failure on the launch pad of Apollo I in January 1967, to walking on the moon in July of 1969. Thirty months later. From the most horrible failure we had in the space program to the most, the greatest success maybe mankind will ever have in space. Walking on the moon for the first time. Just amazing. Because we were able to go fast.
And why was Sam Phillips famous in the NASA business? Because von Braun, he wanted to test the first stage and then test the second stage and then build it up, and Phillips looked at it and said, “you know, Dr. von Braun, we can do that but we won’t get to the moon by the end of the decade. My recommendation is strap them all together and light it off.” And son of a gun we went to the moon.
We have got to get back to where we allow people to take risk. We’ve got to get back to where we assign the best and brightest program managers and let them run their programs. Let them work directly with industry. Success will be when a program manager in our business spends more time with industry than he does in this town, because right now they spend all their time in this town, not with industry. That’s where they have to spend their time.
We have to go fast. We have to get back to the basics. We have to learn from our history and not just allow the status quo to overtake us.
So those are the remarks I have this morning. Thank you for your attention.
Question: Hi, Gen. Hyten. I’m Bruce MacDonald, with Johns Hopkins School of International Studies and I visited you and your fine people at Space Command back three years ago.
My question is, you possess a challenging mission, and you elegantly spoke about the nuclear mission. One of the things about space and cyber that’s always puzzled me, and I’m interested in your perspective, it puzzled me so much I wrote a book about it, Crisis Stability in Space. But the question is, missiles and bombers and submarines deter by predominately visually. But electrons are real small. Cyber deterrence and space deterrence is exceptionally important, but it’s not as, it’s visceral. How do you make credible both to your adversaries and also the people who you are protecting, how do you do that in a way that it’s convincing and it really does deter. I appreciate your perspective on that.
Gen. Hyten: Thanks for that question, Bruce.
There’s a lot of interesting dynamics built into that question. There really are. But the first thing that I’ll say is that deterrence is not about a place. [Lt] Gen. Roger Dekok was a mentor of mine, boss of mine. He taught me one of the most important lessons I ever learned as a young space officer and that was, he looked at me and he said, “Major, I want you to always remember this about space. Satellites don’t have mothers.” To be honest, as a major I had no clue what he was talking about. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s true. Satellites don’t have mothers. Therefore, if a satellite is attacked, the country really doesn’t care. But as I’ve looked at deterrence over the years, over the many years, what I realize is you actually don’t deter space. You don’t deter cyberspace. Those are domains. Those are just places you do stuff. Deterrence is about the adversary. You’re deterring an adversary. And one of the challenges we have with space and cyber in particular is that we like to think about space and cyber as special. As somehow unique in the overall scheme of things. Because they’re unique, we have to treat them special, with kid gloves and rules and if you want to do anything in space you have to go all the way to the secretary of defense or the president of the United States in order to do anything. But they’re just places. One is a place I’d look up and dream since I was a little kid. The other place is a place we created with our own hands, the cyberspace domain. But they’re just places.
So if you want to deter somebody you have to deter them. You have to deter them from wanting to go into space. And if somebody someday wants to take war into space, it will not be a space war. It’s just war. And it’s war against an adversary, and that adversary lives on this planet, and that adversary is the adversary that we have to deter. And our response, what I point out to a lot of people is our response to an attack in space may be significant. It will be decisive. But it may not be in space. It may be in cyberspace. It may be from the air. It may be on the land, in the sea. I don’t know. But it’s the nation’s job to deter our adversaries and we have to look at it in total.
So that’s what I’m talking about with 21st century deterrence. We formed an academic alliance in STRATCOM, and now it’s 37 members. Universities, think tanks, folks that are involved in this. And what we’re trying to do is generate a debate on what deterrence really is in the 21st century. What is strategic deterrence? Because it is not just nuclear weapons. You have to look at the writings of the Chinese. You have to look at how they’re thinking about things. You have to look at the world that we live in, not the world that we once lived in, and figure out how you deter. And deterrence has to be across the entire spectrum of capabilities and spectrum of conflict because if you just look at space only, you end up in a very bad place. If you just look at cyberspace only, you end up in a very bad place.
So it’s the actor you’re trying to deter, not the place. So thanks very much for that question. I can go on that question for probably the rest of the day. I would be excited, you all would be asleep. So I’ll stop right there. Thank you, Bruce.
Question: Thank you, General. Jon Harper with National Defense Magazine.
You noted all the different modernization programs that are going forward and the price tag associated with that. Would it be possible to continue extending the life of the Minuteman III and delay the GBSD program a little bit? Or is that not really viable?
General Hyten: No. It’s not viable. I can’t say that any stronger.
I’ve worked with Minuteman III. I did not work on the Minuteman I system. But I’ve worked on the Minuteman III for a long, long time. In fact, when I was at Space Command I was the Director of Requirements ten years ago. I wrote a requirements document for the follow-on to the Minuteman III because at that time we were finishing the guidance replacement program and the propulsion replacement program for the Minuteman III, and we knew that that would give us maybe 20 years. Twenty years at best. And then the system would actually fall apart.
And so I saw it with my own eyes. I saw what we were doing. I saw the reality of it. And that system will not last. It will not. It will cost us, you’ll basically be building a new ICBM out of the old core which will end up costing you more money. But nobody believes me. I don’t blame them. I’m not, I don’t wear a rocket on my uniform. But they did a study. They being the Department of Defense did a study and looked at it, and son of a gun, the Department of Defense with the best and brightest minds they could bring to it, looked at it and said gosh, if we try to extend the Minuteman III more, it’s going to cost more than building a new missile. So why would we do that?
So we have to build a new missile. We have to. But I tell you, it’s a three-stage solid rocket ICBM. I’m looking at Boeing – sorry, Jeff. I’m looking at all of our industry partners. Lockheed, Northrop. We can build that capability. And you can do it for less than $84 billion. But you can’t do it if you don’t have a budget every year. You can’t do it if you have to come back and ask “Mother may I” for every step on the process. We have to empower our industry, and when we do that, we will also get the young best and brightest minds excited again about coming in and going fast. Because when they come in and it’s going to take them 15 years before they see the fruits of their labor, they end up going to Google and Microsoft and other places. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s good for our nation, it’s the strength of our nation. But we have to be able to go fast and do that.
So we have to be able to build the GBSD program. It’s essential to the security of the nation.
Question: General, I couldn’t agree more with your focus here on going fast. Do you see examples of how we can, either examples of things that are happening that suggest that we might go in that direction? Or proposals other than trying to get Congress to do the right thing and to loosen up on some of the risky issues. But what are the, what very concrete things do you think should be done here?
Gen. Hyten: I see lots of specific examples that are out there. If you want to see a specific example in space, just go look at the commercial business. I don’t want to pick on Jeff I already picked on him once. But you go to Boeing Commercial, if they can’t build and deliver a large wideband commercial com [communications] satellite in less than three years, they will be out of business. A whole constellation in three years. It will kill them.
So you have to be inside three years to build a large SATCOM system. So you can look at the commercial side and they can do a wideband, large, 10,000-pound spacecraft in three years. Why can’t we do that in the government?
You also have to ask yourself on the wideband side, with the wideband commercial side, why are we even buying wideband satellites? Why don’t we have the commercial side that’s already building them in three years go ahead and buy that for us and we’ll just lease it back or come up with some other arrangement in order to do that.
We have to build the nuclear-hardened side, because I don’t know about you, but I haven’t figured out the commercial business case for a nuclear-hardened command and control system yet, probably not going to be one. So we better figure out how to do that. And oh by the way, Northrop has some pretty amazing capabilities; Boeing can do it; Lockheed can do it; but we have to figure out how to apply those commercial models into the, so you can look at that.
Look at what happens in the classified world. Look at the classified world and when the authorities are given to a small number of people in the Rapid Capabilities Office, usually a lieutenant colonel, sometimes a colonel, in order to go fast and do things, we give them the authority, we give them the money at the beginning of the year, they go fast and deliver capabilities. I can give you an example on the space side of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program. Fairly small. Fairy simple satellite. There’s pictures of it now out on the internet if you want to see what the satellite looks like. Built in just a few years.
But somehow when we go to ask the question, the answer always comes back, 12 to 14 years to build that capability. It can’t be that.
So there are examples out there, sitting there right in front of us, to go faster.
SpaceX, going very fast on the commercial side. Building a rocket that is working pretty well. Oh, by the way, they’ve had a couple of failures. Yep. Rockets, especially in the early stages, blow up. And they always have. And they always will.
Blue Origin just had a failure. Son of a gun. That’s part of learning.
It really upsets me when I see headlines come out in the newspaper after the Blue Origin failure the other day, Blue Origin takes huge step back. Big failure. I’m going, no, they’re pushing the envelope and if they did it right, and I’m sure they did because Jeff Bezos is a pretty smart human being, it was fully instrumented and they pushed it all the way up to the edge and they found out where the edge was and now they can fall back. I’m hoping that’s what they did. I expect that’s what they did. That’s just part of learning.
So it’s all sitting there right in front of us, inside our own country. Look at other countries if you want to, to see other countries going fast, but I prefer to look inside our own country. We can do it.
Question: Dave Myers
General, can you expand for a moment further on what is it that’s stopping us from going fast? What is getting in your way?
General Hyten: Everything. That’s why I said, this is not a criticism of the acquisition business or the political process or the Pentagon or Space Command or Global Strike Command or Air Force Materiel – it’s not. It’s a criticism of all of us, because every one of us is part of that process.
So my assessment as a somewhat educated person watching the process for the last 36 years, is that every time we’ve had a problem in our acquisition business, what do we do? We have a blue ribbon panel of some kind that gets together, figures out the root cause of the failure. Almost every time they’re correct. And then we form a new office to make sure that that failure never happens again. And whoever the next program is, has to come to that new office to ask for permission to go forward. And you can look at it from any aspect you want. You can look at it from software, look at it, you know, software’s a great story. Everybody remember Ada? There’s a good idea. It was a good idea at the time. It was created by a bureaucracy in the Pentagon that said all of our software programs are running amok. Therefore, we need to actually control the software, so we’ll create our own programming language and make everybody build to that program, because that will solve all the problems. Except where are the Ada coders? Oops. Don’t know where we’re going to find those folks. We went down that path for a dozen years before we realized that industry just won’t do that.
We come up with all these brilliant ideas, and they’re all based on a real problem. But the answer that we come up with for each of those problems actually makes the problem worse.
So my metric for success to you is, every time you see a problem and you come up with a new answer, if you add the total number of people in the Pentagon and it’s more, you just made the problem worse. If it’s less, you made the problem better.
You laugh, there [were] chuckles going on, but it’s true because you have to, if you want to go fast you have to empower people with authority and responsibility to execute things fast. And if you don’t empower those people, they will not go fast. We have not been empowering people.
Now there is a downside for empowering people. The downside is if there’s a failure, it is a huge, miserable failure. But my response is how you deal with that failure is you fire that person in a very public way and you go find somebody else. I always remember when I was a young engineer in Los Angeles, the heroes, my heroes, were not the generals. Although [Lt. Gen.] Forest McCartney and [Lt. Gen.] Don Cromer were certainly heroes. But the people you wanted to grow up and be were the colonels. They’re the ones you wanted to be, because they had the power. They were the ones that delivered everything. They’re the ones that really got things done because they were given the authority and the responsibility to say go fast. And when, I remember one colonel who got fired in a very public way, and I always remember, there was like 10 colonels lined up fighting for that job, because they’re the ones who can be able to fix it.
It’s empowering people. That’s what this country does. And every time we empower people, we have the ability to do amazing things like go to the moon, build a nuclear submarine in five years, build a three-stage solid rocket ICBM in five years. Every time we empower people and say go, this country succeeds. And every time we don’t empower people, it just pushes things out.
Question: Good morning, General. Drew Walter with House Armed Services Committee.
You want to stop picking on contractors and pick on Congress. Feel free to direct fire this way.
But real briefly, we’re in NDAA season so a small plug, we’re going to have our marks coming out of the subcommittee today. But I wanted to ask you, as the good idea fairy is visiting because it’s NDAA season on the Hill, specifically on LRSO, the cruise missile. Do you think we should defer funding, defer the program until the Nuclear Posture Review is done as the NPR considers whether it wants to go forward with the program? Or should we fully fund it for the FY18 budget request and continue the program?
General Hyten: I wish we had a schedule that allowed this to happen, but we don’t. Because if you want to see an ancient weapon system, go look at the cruise missile now at Minot. It’s a miracle that it can even fly. Without going into classified detail, I’ll just say as amazing as those maintainers are, and as amazing as the operators are, the reliability of those weapon systems is already unacceptable, and it’s going to get worse every year as we go forward. And so we need that capability, and we can’t defer it. Because every time you remove funding, it’s not just a one-year delay. It’s usually a two-year or longer delay. We do that every time. And when I look at each element, we cannot slow them down.
So I would strongly urge Congress not to slow down any element of the triad. If the administration makes a decision on the Nuclear Posture Review that we’re going to go a different direction, great. We’ll understand what that is and we’ll adjust. But because of the place we find ourselves in the entire nuclear modernization program, we can’t slow down anything. At all.
Because like I said, the programs are already broken, we just don’t know where. We actually need to accelerate them, not decelerate them.