Speeches

Nuclear Posture Review Discussion at National Defense University

By Gen. John Hyten | U.S. Strategic Command | Feb. 16, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - (As Delivered) —

General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Well good morning everybody. Honorable [Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David] Trachtenberg and [Vice] Adm. [Frederick] Roegge [National Defense University president], Fritz. It’s good to be here, thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to come and speak to you about the Nuclear Posture Review. My remarks will be focused on the Nuclear Posture Review today. You’ve heard me talk about a lot of things but today I’m just going to talk about the nuclear business of our nation. It is one of the most significant things we do, it is the most significant thing my command does. And after my remarks, I will make sure I set aside time for some questions, we’ll have plenty of time for questions at the end … so let’s get right to it.

For seven decades and across 10 administrations, presidents and leaders from both political parties agreed that nuclear weapons were the foundation for deterring both nuclear and non-nuclear state aggression. We just completed, as Secretary Trachtenberg said earlier, our fourth review of U.S. nuclear policy since the Cold War, and the 2018 NPR reinforces and clearly defines long-standing national objectives regarding nuclear weapons. The review reflects significant continuity in nuclear policy and highlights the administration’s strategic priority to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent that will successfully deter strategic attacks, assure our allies and partners, respond decisively should deterrence fail, as well as hedge against future uncertainties and dangers. It continues our commitment to fully fund sustainment and replacement programs for the triad and our nuclear stockpile, while underscoring continued U.S. commitment to nonproliferation and arms control.

Today, I am going to give my warfighter perspective on the NPR and specifically address the change in our strategic environment and how this Nuclear Posture Review addresses that change through a threat-based approach. You’ll hear me say that a few times, as I go through, this is a threat-based approach.

So my command, the United States Strategic Command, is a global warfighting command. We are the ultimate guarantor of national and allied security. Our forces and capabilities underpin and enable all other joint force operations.

USSTRATCOM forces are dispersed across and above the globe – from the depths of the ocean, on the land, in the air, and far into space. The men and women of USSTRATCOM are responsible for an extraordinary breadth of mission areas including strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, analysis and targeting, and cyberspace, at least for a little while longer till the new commander of U.S. Cyber Command is confirmed and we elevate that command.

Nearly 184,000 Americans, 184,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and civilians support the STRATCOM mission providing an umbrella of security for the United States and its allies every day, and it is our nuclear force that underpins that security and provides the bedrock of our nation’s defense.

Now, as a senior military officer and a combatant commander – responsible for defending the United States, its allies and partners – I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the world the way I wish it was. I have to deal with the world the way it is – so let’s look at the way the strategic environment has evolved over the past two decades.

So, after the Cold War our nation, especially the Department of Defense, we changed the way we thought about the world. And through the 1990s, what was, what I grew up with, a threat-based approach to dealing with our adversaries - that threat-based approach to planning went away in the Department of Defense. In the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Department of Defense formally adopted a new approach to dealing with the threats and we called it capabilities-based development and planning. The stated reason for this shift was a belief that there was no longer a specific threat.

The basic concept was the military could no longer know what enemy would potentially pose future security threats to our national interests. And therefore, the QDR stated the capabilities-based model “focuses more on how an adversary might fight than who the adversary might be and where a war might occur.” The idea being, this was a “functional analysis of operational requirements.” And that will drive what we need to do.

There are two problems with capabilities-based planning. First, especially with regard to the nuclear challenge, there were indeed specific threats that did not go away. Our adversaries were also clear about those threats and their capabilities and their intent, and announced them publicly. The threats were there, but we did not take them seriously.

The second problem was the capabilities-based planning allowed our adversaries very good insights into our capabilities and allowed them to develop asymmetric approaches to counter them. Nowhere is this clearer than in our nuclear business. In a 2008 paper, co-authored by then Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, they both stated, “The world has changed a great deal in the last decade and a half. The Cold War stand-off with the Soviet Union is over, and Russia is no longer an ideological adversary.” The same thought was reflected in the 2010 NPR, that you heard Mr. Trachtenberg talk about a minute ago.

But Russia had been clear about their intent all along. Starting in 1999, Russia began incorporating simulated limited nuclear weapons use in large-scale exercises to “de-escalate” conflicts. The following year, in 2000, newly elected President Vladimir Putin signed a new military doctrine, for the first time, allowing for nuclear weapons use “in response to large-scale aggression with conventional weapons in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation.” That year, Russia increased its nuclear weapons budget 50 percent. This is 2000 now, and began Russia’s shift to the use of “non-strategic nuclear weapons” on the battlefield, which they continue to emphasize in their nuclear policy, strategy and doctrine today.

On May 10, 2006, in a public address to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Putin announced sweeping modernization plans to its military, including nuclear forces, through 2020. He said, “I want to have the whole nuclear force 70 percent modernized by 2020.” He said that in 2006. And in 2008 and in 2010 we chose to consider them no longer a threat.

In September 2014, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, publicly stated that the modernization of their strategic nuclear force was going faster than anticipated and they intend to modernize 100 percent of their strategic nuclear forces, rather than 70 percent as previously announced.

Today, Russia continues to develop and field an expanding set of nuclear capabilities including the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missile [GLCM] system that violates the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty. It has completed more than 50 percent of its planned road-mobile force upgrade and is in the process of replacing their nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines as well. Russia is modernizing their heavy bombers to launch the advanced KH-101/102 cruise missiles - recently used the conventional variant of this weapon in support of its combat operations in Syria.

China is also expanding and diversifying their strategic forces, at the same time. China was watching the United States as well during this period. China currently has the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world. It began this transformation 30 years ago but has significantly increased pace in the last decade. The development of the H-6K nuclear-capable strategic bomber gives China the ability to deploy a nuclear triad for the first time. The addition of road-mobile ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles], continued improvements to the Chinese nuclear submarines and associated sea-launched capable missiles, MIRV-capable ICBMs, and a rapidly developing hypersonic glide vehicle capability underscore the evolution of Chinese strategic forces.

Our adversaries are building and operating these strategic weapons, not as a science experiment, but as a direct threat to the United States of America. And it is my job, as a combatant commander, to operate our current capabilities, to deter our adversaries, advocate for future needs, and to provide military advice to our nation’s leadership in order to best protect the United States and its vital interests.

We, as a nation, have long desired a world with no, or at least fewer, nuclear weapons. That is my desire as well. The world, however, has not followed that path. Our adversaries have not reduced the role and salience of nuclear weapons, quite the opposite. They’ve done just the opposite. And so, the only way I can see a change in our future, is if the threat changes, if our adversaries change and unfortunately, I see no immediate indications of that behavior. Nonetheless, I remain hopeful – but until that day comes, we have to be ready, and we must respond to the threat.

So, from a warfighter perspective, there is tremendous consistency between the 2018 NPR and its predecessor. The biggest difference, as it is with the recent National Defense Strategy, is the return to great power competition and a return to threat-based planning. So, we started the NPR with an assessment of the threat, a detailed assessment of the threat, using all the available intelligence and based our approach on what our adversaries are doing today and the increasing challenges of the future. We have to remember the strategic environment is dynamic, it changes constantly. Our approach to deterrence must be equally dynamic to address these threats.

There is no “one size fits all” model for deterrence. We have tried that, and it does not work. We must tailor our approach to every potential adversary. This tailored deterrence approach requires us to have flexible capabilities that include a broad mix of yields and modernized platforms to credibly deter the spectrum of adversaries and threats we face today and in the future. This is what the NPR directs, and why it is critical to our future defense posture.

While deterrence in the 21st Century is based on the integration of all our capabilities across all domains, our nuclear triad will always provide the foundation for that deterrence. All three legs of our triad, as well as our nuclear command, control, and communications [NC3] capabilities provide necessary diversity, flexibility and resilience. The NPR reaffirmed the need to continue the comprehensive nuclear recapitalization programs initiated by the previous administration, including the Columbia-class submarine, the ground-based strategic deterrent [GBSD] ICBM, the B-21 bomber, the long-range standoff cruise missile, our nuclear stockpile and infrastructure modernization programs. Additionally, it directs us to pursue a series of initiatives to strengthen NC3 and address 21st Century needs and challenges.

So, as we evaluated our nuclear posture in light of the threats we face, we found that it is strong today. We have everything we need to address the threats of today. But it is potentially lacking in the future. My worry is that if we do not act now, within the next decade, unlike me, one of my successors might not have appropriate flexible and tailored capabilities to provide the President of the United States options to adequately deal with the uncertain and evolving security environment.

To ensure that no adversary, under any circumstance, believes they can achieve an advantage through limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack, the NPR recommends pursuing additional capabilities that provide that flexibility and bolster the credibility of our deterrent force. Specifically, it directs modifying a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile [SLBM] warheads to provide a prompt low-yield capability as well as pursuing a modern nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile [SLCM] in the longer term. These new capabilities provide greater flexibility and enhance our deterrence.

Now, it is important to note that we have had low-yield nuclear weapons in our inventory for a long time. We have them today. Today they are exclusively air delivered. Our bombers with their gravity bombs and cruise missiles are a critical piece of our force structure, but they cannot be everywhere, always at the same time. So after a year of studying this challenge, we determined that there is a need for additional low-yield capabilities in other elements of our force to enhance the deterrence of limited nuclear use.

If an adversary employs low-yield nuclear weapons on a battlefield, the only option we have should not be just to “go big.” If they believe they can achieve their objectives through the limited use of nuclear weapons, then we risk deterrence failure. A low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile is survivable, prompt and is able to hold at risk targets that are heavily defended and enhances our deterrent. Additionally, these low-yield warheads would replace higher-yield warheads, keeping the U.S. within the New START limits.

A nuclear sea-launched cruise missile is an assured response capability, adding to the range of credible options capable of being delivered at the timing and tempo driven by the conflict. Considering the fact oceans cover over 70 percent of the globe, having a sea-launched cruise missile capability provides additional regional presence, strengthening our extended deterrence commitments to our allies.

Pursuing a sea-launched cruise missile will take some time, but this effort will give room for the diplomatic process to work. And, remember as the secretary said, it is our job to set the conditions for our diplomats so that they negotiate from a position of strength.

Make no mistake, this does not lower the nuclear threshold. It’s just the opposite, rather, it increases the flexibility and credibility of our response - raising the nuclear threshold of potential adversaries, making nuclear weapon use less likely.

By having credible, flexible response options I believe we will never have to use them. However, if we don’t have them, an adversary could underestimate the credibility of a U.S. response and begin a nuclear conflict that neither of us want. But if it comes, we have to be ready to respond decisively and our adversary must know this. The best way to prevent conflict is to be prepared for it – to be prepared to impose unacceptable cost and deny any benefit that an adversary may perceive. That is deterrence. Ultimately, the modernization efforts for our triad and NC3, along with the additional supplemental capabilities, bolster our deterrence. They respond to the threat.

Finally, the NPR defines and expands on what “hedging against an uncertain future” means for nuclear weapons. As witnessed over the past decade, the security environment can change quickly. Technology is constantly evolving; adversaries are seeking to use these technologies to advance their own capabilities and put ours at risk. Hedging against an uncertain future means ensuring we are always ready, always confident, no matter what the future holds. This requires an agile, adaptable deployed force and responsive infrastructure. It requires trained and educated men and women dedicated to the mission and postured for success. It also means having the flexibility to adjust the force with new capabilities and acquire systems quickly.

So, today, as I’ve said, our deterrent force is strong, powerful and ready. But the pace of change in the strategic environment is rapid and demands that we adapt how we operate in order to stay ahead of evolving threats. If we are not careful, I’m afraid, 10 to 20 years from now, our deterrent capabilities will be at significant risk. We can’t let that happen.

What really worries me is this: I am afraid our country has lost the ability to go fast. And if we are to be successful in modernizing our capabilities to respond to the threat, it is going to require some big changes in the way we operate. Our budget, requirements, acquisition and testing processes are all too slow. We have to get away from a culture that is risk averse and empower our people. We have to move fast once again.

First, we need a budget. It is a critical enabler for everything else. I was encouraged last week when Congress agreed to a defense budget framework that provides stable funding for the next two years. That’d be huge, but today we are still under a continuing resolution. A budget will be incredibly helpful, it is essential, but it is just one of the critical areas that have to be addressed.

We also need to fix the requirements process. Why does it take years to build a set of requirements? Right now, I can grab three smart people, three of my subject matter experts, sit down with a piece of paper and write down the requirements of the next generation missile warning satellite, the next generation ICBM. I already know what they are. I don’t need three years of analysis to do that.

Next is the acquisition process. If you are working acquisition, you should be spending most of your time with industry – in the factories. Our acquisition process is challenged in a number of areas, but a big reason we are challenged in acquisition is our program managers spend most of their time in the Pentagon. Now I love the Pentagon. I don’t blame our program managers, that process is forced on them. They spend their time at the Pentagon because they have to get approval for everything. They’re not authorized to really make any decisions. You can’t execute a program that way. We have to give program managers the authority and responsibility to move fast, and then hold them accountable.

Additionally, we need a test process that is efficient and also moves fast. Fast does not mean reckless. It means we have to understand how to take risk and test. Sometimes that means failures and that is okay. Failures sometimes is okay. This is how we learn, how we advance.

A perfect example of this is Elon Musk and SpaceX, the commercial side of the business. I think everybody in this room probably saw the launch of the Falcon Heavy, and watched a cherry-red Tesla go off into never-never land. This is the most powerful operational rocket in the world – by a factor of two. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, which my dad worked on, could deliver more payload to orbit. And then little over two minutes after liftoff, the outer boosters broke away and returned to Earth, touching down almost simultaneously, just seconds apart. Unfortunately, the center core missed its landing mark by 300 feet due to a failure in two of its engines. But it is important to remember that this is a test flight. Prior to the test, SpaceX released a statement saying, “Even if we do not complete all of the experimental milestones that are being attempted during this test, we will still be gathering critical data throughout the mission. Ultimately, a successful demonstration mission will be measured by the quality of information we gather…” That is exactly right, that is why we test. I’m not saying every time we test we should fail, just the opposite. But we have to remember that every test teaches us something, even when it doesn’t go as planned.

Finally, our operators need to understand how to take operational risk and be given the opportunity to do so when it comes. It’s interesting, risk is an inherent part of our business. When we go to war, it is the ultimate risk calculation every day. We need to empower commanders to take logical risks about how to employ weapons systems, how to accept weapons systems.

Our modernization efforts will not be successful if we only address one of these issues. We won’t solve the problem. We need to fix all of these things – budget, requirements, acquisitions, tests, risks –if we are to make a difference. But, there is some good news out there, there’s signs of improvement. As I stated earlier Congress is moving on the budget, the Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs U.S. Air Force] Gen. [Paul] Selva and the JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] are pushing to accelerate the requirements process. Deputy Secretary [of Defense] [Pat] Shanahan and Under Secretary [of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ellen] Lord are pushing on the acquisition business. This is good, but it’s not just good it’s an imperative. We have to move fast, because we have to respond to the threat. Ladies and gentlemen this is all about the threat.

So, these are my thoughts. The rest of this day you have two amazing panels. Some of the best and brightest thinkers on nuclear weapons and deterrence are here to talk with you about nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons and the Nuclear Posture Review. 

But whether you are new to this topic, just starting out in this field, or a seasoned professional that’s been doing it forever like Frank Miller, I hope you take the discussions that you hear today forward. Add your own voice to the issue. We need you to carry the water and broaden and advance the discussion on the threats we face today and deterrence in the 21st century. Thank you for listening and I look forward to your questions.

Moderator: Thank you Gen. Hyten, you certainly provided a strong case for the policy and the force addressed in the NPR. I expect there will be more than a few questions from the audience. So I invite those who have questions for Gen. Hyten to line up behind one of the three microphones in the aisles and when you are called upon, please provide your name and organization. Please state your question succinctly.

Q: Bob Vince, SPA. General thanks so much for being here, thank you for your years of service and leadership and thank you for the 184,000 personnel that work for you. Just a two-part question. And really it’s just about how do we go forward to get the funding in order to do two things. One for U.S. response and balance to the hypersonic threat that you mentioned from China and from Russia, to develop sea-launched, air launched, ground-launched systems. What’s that path to funding and development?

And then second, for a coordinated and funded program really for meeting the need for a cyber-secure nuclear command and control system, nuclear and national command and control system?

Hyten: You bet. So, a set of complicated questions.

So, I’ll start from our secretary of defense’s discussion of affordability, the four-word answer from the secretary of defense is that “America can afford survival”. I think that’s what it’s all about, that’s the basic. When you look at our budget, the nuclear budget is going to grow from about 3.5 percent of our budget to somewhere around 6.5 percent of our budget over the year in order to pay for these kind of pieces.

As we look at the emerging threat, we have to not only look at it from a weapons perspective and a deterrence perspective, but part of that deterrence structure is knowing what your adversaries are doing. Knowing what those threats are. And right now, we have challenges on the sensor side with hypersonics in particular. We have challenges on the sensor side with a number of different, the new threats that our adversaries are going towards. So, right now we are working with the Missile Defense Agency to look at a system called the mid-course tracking system, MTS, that inherently has a capability to not only characterize a threat environment against the cold background in space. But if you looked down to the earth with those sensors, you can see those dim targets like hypersonics and other weapons.

We need to be pursuing those sensor technologies, the characterization technologies and then we have to pursue the nuclear command and control piece as well as you talked about at the end. And one of the big challenges we have as we move forward into the future is that – one of the only good things about our nuclear command and control posture right now is, it is very cyber secure. Because when you built it in the 50’s there was not a significant cyber threat to worry about. So, as we go, we look at GBSD coming online, and the new Columbia-class program and we look at all those we have to upgrade those. So, we’re spending a lot of detailed time now looking with our industry partners at what would it take to actually provide a cyber-secure nuclear command and control, national leadership command and control capability as we go forward in the future.

We have time to work those issues right now. We have put programs together in the budget to go after those. It certainly has the highest attention, it is Secretary Mattis’ number one focus point in my business, is the nuclear command and control piece. And so we are going after that in a big way, thank you for your question.

Q: Tom Collina, Ploughshares Fund: Thank you general for your remarks.

My question goes to the new weapon; well you wouldn’t call it new, but the weapon you proposed the low-yield Trident warhead. As I’m sure you know about a decade ago a similar program was proposed by the defense establishment to Congress for a conventional version, conventional warhead on Trident. That program was declined, rejected by Congress because of their concerns there would be discrimination problem.

How would the Russians or someone else know that was coming at them was a conventional warhead because it’s of course on a strategic missile? That problem seems to be with this new concept ten-fold more, this weapon would actually going to be at the Russians as opposed to the previous construct, which presumably would not have been. This one will be nuclear as opposed to conventional, it would be low-yield yes, but how would the Russians know that?

So my question for you is how do the Russians discriminate this low-yield from a high-yield, and therefore how do you prevent this from lowering the threshold for nuclear war increasing the prospect that the Russians see it as a full on nuclear attack and they would respond with a full out retaliation?

Hyten: So, as you walk through that there is actually two pieces to that question. The first piece is about our requirement for conventional prompt global strike. We still have a requirement for that capability by the way. STRATCOM still supports the development of that as an option for the President of the United States, I support going down that path as well. But as you said, 10 years ago when we looked at the Trident for doing that mission - that ambiguity was not a good ambiguity that we thought.

This deployment on Trident of a low-yield nuclear weapon, an SLBM, does not have that problem. Because if the Russians employ a low-yield nuclear weapon on the battlefield and they see something coming out of the Trident coming their direction, it’s nuclear. There’s no doubt it’s nuclear, it’s coming nuclear. They just went nuclear and now there’s a nuclear response coming back. The question is how big is that response? And they will find out in about 30 minutes. They will. It won’t be a significant issue for them to understand.

It is not a mass raid from the middle of this country, it is not a mass raid from the submarines, it is a focused weapon and they will be able to characterize that and understand it. It does not have the ambiguity of that kind of piece to it. It gives the president an option to respond in a way that would allow a better understanding of what is going on, on behalf of the Russians. So, I look at it the opposite way you described it.

I don’t see it as escalatory at all I see it as that is a logical extension of our capabilities that we should have as warfighters to present to the President of the United States. Again it shouldn’t be just “go big.” Henry Kissinger had a great point, recently I – you know he looked at that scenario and said, if you don’t have these low-yield capabilities, what you are doing is you’re putting the President of the United States in a position where his only choices are surrender or suicide. That’s not a good place to be. Those aren’t good choices. I don’t like either one of those. So, we need these capabilities to provide that, not surrender not suicide, but provide an appropriate tailored response to the situation that is there. So thank you for your question.

Q: Michael Gordon, Wall Street Journal: Sir, Secretary Mattis has suggested that the new SLCM might potentially be a bargaining chip to correct the Russian INF Treaty GLCM violation. The Nuclear Posture Review suggests that something more might be required that there might not only have to be a correction of the INF Treaty violation, but the Russians would have to reduce their tactical nuclear weapons as well. Even then, it’s not specific that the U.S. will even give up the SLCM. Context.

Is this system a bargaining chip potentially for INF and can you put a little flesh on what the plans are for fielding, deploying and developing this system? Cause if you don’t go ahead with it and there is no IOC [initial operational capability] it’s probably not going to be a very useful bargaining chip.

Hyten: So, I think, I never want to speak for Secretary Mattis. Because that could get me fired and that’s a bad thing.

But, I did see his response yesterday to a similar question, and I know from having talked to him that he doesn’t like the term “bargaining chip”. And I don’t like the term “bargaining chip” either. These capabilities that we are talking about are responses to the threat that is out there. Now if that gives our diplomats the ability to then negotiate with our adversaries, negotiate with the Russians and come to a place where we don’t think that those weapons are good for our country, their country, or for the Earth. And we can negotiate, that’s great.

But that’s not why we are building those, we are building those as a response to the threat. Now, I hope that our diplomats can use them to effectively walk down that path. Now with regard to INF, we’re also proposing research and development into ground-launched capabilities. That’s also part of the president’s budget going down that path. Research and development is not prohibited by the INF Treaty. What is prohibited is the employment and deployment of those weapons. Russia has deployed those weapons now, that’s what violated the INF Treaty.

So, we’re proposing we will go down to that research and development place, if they don’t come back into the fold on INF then we’ll be prepared to respond accordingly as we go forward. That’s going to be a very complicated discussion as we go forward. But the capabilities we propose are to respond to the threat and hopefully give our diplomats room to move. Thank you.

Q: (Inaudbile), second secretary for the Russian Embassy: You spoke a lot about Russia, and it mentioned a lot in the NPR. So, I want to ask you two questions. First, how did you make the determination that Russia was increasing its lines of nuclear weapons? Especially since in the unclassified documents the 2014 nuclear military doctrine says that in fact that we are decreasing the reliance and that we are introducing no nuclear deterrence measures, much in line with the United States is doing at the moment.

The second question is, how can Russia be expanding the nuclear arsenal given the New START limits, which I think the State Department says we are doing?

Hyten: So, I’ll say there’s an interesting dichotomy in our nation. We call it the “say do gap”, where you say one thing but you do another. That’s called a “say do gap”. So, we listen very closely to what your president says, we’ve listened very closely to what your leadership say. And then we watch very, very closely to what your nation does. And when we put those two things together we see two things: we see a very mixed message on the “say” side, but we also see a commitment to full modernization to the capability and a commitment to building non-strategic nuclear weapons and a commitment to employing a new doctrine of nuclear weapons that is very dangerous, we think, in the overall scheme in the world.

And because of those pieces and we put them together and we watch very closely. We have to consider those a threat. I’m a military officer not a politician, thank goodness. And as a military officer, I have to look at what is real, I have to look at what is there. So we watch, we watch the tests, we watch the capabilities. We watch all those pieces come together and we understand the employment of those forces in a stated doctrine, and that’s how we characterize the threat. That’s why we recommend to our political leadership how we have to respond to that threat. That’s where we come down that pass.

Q: Hi sir, James Drew from Aviation Week.

So, a couple of things. Here’s a free one for you – have you asked SpaceX for some recallable ICBMs? It might be an interesting one. Should China be a part of any future arms reduction negotiations and should the Air Force be stepping up and flying those Reapers with the forward-looking sensor balls that you mentioned?

Hyten: So I guess there’s three questions there. Number one, SpaceX does not like when I talk to them about weapons on top of their rockets. It’s just not a big thing for them. The second piece of the question was, so the China piece, I’m not a diplomat, I’m a military officer, so I have to deal with the Russia threat, the China threat, the North Korea threat, the Iranian threat. That’s what I deal with. But, as an American, I would like China to be part of any discussion on the future. I would like China – look at the missiles that China is building. I would like to understand China’s role in intermediate nuclear forces. I would like to understand what those kind of pieces are. I would like to have an aggressive dialogue between the State Department and the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and those kind of pieces. I would like to have all those things happen, but that is not my job. My job is to deal with the world as it is, to deal with the world that could be, and be prepared for those kind of things, and allow – ma’am, how are you? – the State Department to walk down that path. I really want them to go.

And then as far as, how do you use Reapers, that’s really not my lane. I don’t know if you’ve looked at the STRATCOM force structure or not, but I don’t have any Reapers in the force structure. So, that’s really a broader question for the Air Force. I am informed on that, but it’s bad to stand on stage with media in the audience and give you a wild-ass response that doesn’t mean anything.

Q: Good morning sir, Rachel Karas with Inside the Air Force. If I could quote from the NPR just to make sure I get the words right, it says DOD is going to prioritize R&D [research and development] funding for rapid development of nuclear delivery systems, alternative basing modes.

Hyten: Can you please back up and start, and slow down, a little bit. There’s just an echo here, so it’s just.

Rachel Karas: Oh, yes. It says DOD is going to prioritize R&D funding for alternative basing modes, missile defense systems and things like that. So are the alternative basing modes – can you dig into what options you’re looking at for that? Are they going to be part of the ongoing GBSD and LRSO [long-range standoff] modernization programs? I’m just looking for a little more insight into that.

Hyten: As you walk down, it’s important to know the NPR, when it talks about the sea-launched cruise missile, it does not say submarine-launched cruise missile. It says sea-launched cruise missile, because we want to look at a number of options. Everything from surface DDG-1000s, into submarines, different types of submarines, fast attack submarines, SSGNs [nuclear powered cruise missile submarine], SSBNs [strategic submarine ballistic nuclear], look across those boards and make sure we understand what it is.

That’s what the President’s Budget has requested us to go look at those platforms, and we’re going to walk down that path.

When we look at the other capabilities we’re talking about for defensive systems, we’re looking at multiple basing options for defense – air, ground, sea. We’re looking at a number of different options for looking at the defense side. And then from a ground-launched cruise missile capability that we’re going to explore the technology for, we’re going to walk down that. There tends to be a focus on the ground-based system, but we’re going to have a ground-based element, a sea-launched element, and we’ll look at those capabilities as an entity. We have not made any commitment to deploy any of those, at this point, we’ve just recommended that in the President’s Budget, we begin to explore those technologies.

Q: Peter Sharpton, MITRE Corporation. The NPR in general and your remarks this morning, focused almost entirely on capabilities that will be available to your successor or your successor’s successor. Given the threat-based approach to planning, do you see a need and is there money in the budget to increase alert levels or be prepared on short notice to increase alert levels, to have higher levels of training opportunities for operations maintenance and so forth.

Hyten: It’s a fair question. I can tell you in the Nuclear Posture Review we looked at those options. You have to understand that the submarine force today is on alert, the ICBM force are on alert, the bombers are not on alert, have not been on alert since 1992. The bombers are the most flexible leg of the triad, they give us a lot of capability both from a deterrence perspective and a messaging perspective. Because if we choose to raise the alert levels of the bombers, in today’s day and age you really can’t hide that from your adversary. So that sends a significant message of an increased posture of the United States. We looked at those kind of things, we looked at the various elements that we have across the force structure. And decided we like where we are right now. We believe it provides the proper deterrent approach and the proper ability to look at different options for the future, and where we want to go in the future. But we still leave that decision with the President with the advice of the Secretary of Defense and me about when and where we would want to raise the alert force of our bomber capability.

Q: Justin Doubleday, with Inside Defense. During his House hearing this week Adm. [Harry] Harris from PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] had mentioned that with the SLCM and the low-yield SLBM, needing to look at the command and control for those weapons. And kind of said, maybe those – the C2 [command and control] needs to go to the COCOM’s [combatant commands] over STRATCOM. Can you say rather DOD is looking at an option like that?

Hyten: We have been directed in the Nuclear Posture Review and the implementer will be coming out shortly. But, we also if you read the language that’s in the President’s Budget, that’s one of the options we have to look at. What is the appropriate command and control for these kind of weapons? What is the employment? In many cases it depends on which platform it’s on and how do you want to set up that command and control structure. I’ve had the conversation with Adm. Harris, that’ll be part of the trade space as we go through.

Let me walk through where his thinking is, if you think if we go down the path of a surface capability versus a subsurface capability and we go down the path. The current command and control in theater is all through the geographic combat commands to get to those platforms. If we go into the nuclear submarines that command and control is all through STRATCOM. It’s all through me. So that part becomes part of the trade spaces about how do we do that, what does that mean to the overall orders that have to go through. Does that have to come from the president to me to the force or does it come from the president to PACOM to the force? That’s the discussion we have to have, so that will be the trade spaces we go through, which is why the budget is written the way it is for us to explore those concepts.

Q: Sir, if I can ask you the final question.

Many of the questions we have had have been appropriately about policy and capabilities as the NPR was focused on. A question fitting for this venue, could you comment on the importance of education particularly deterrence education to the successful implementation of the NPR.

Hyten: I love to talk about that. Especially looking at the folks here in the front row, who have thought about that for their whole lives. But many people in our country have not. You know, as I read the great deterrence theories, you really go back to Herman Kahn and Thomas Schelling and it goes back to the early 1960’s. And that’s where the whole concept of deterrence for the United States really came from. And it’s impose cost and deny benefit, make sure you communicate that capability, be credible. All those kind of pieces are written in there and those are still valid concepts. They are, but the world of Schelling and Kahn is not the world today.

The world of today is wholly different. It is a multi-polar world; it is not just one nuclear adversary. It is a multi-domain world. You can have catastrophic events in space and cyber that could decimate our nation. We have to be able to prevent those. We have to integrate all of those capabilities together as part of our deterrence structure. And it certainly starts with our nuclear capabilities, that is the most critical element but it is a much broader discussion than that. And so when I go and I read the current pieces, and there’s some good books out there, “The Second Nuclear Age”, there’s Keith Payne’s book that talks about the history and goes all the way through. There’s a lot of good things out there – but there’s nobody that is really looking at this broad all domain multi-polar new world that we live in as a deterrent piece.

That’s why education is so important. So you have a great opportunity, the folks that are here today, a great opportunity cause you’re gonna have two panels of the nation’s experts inside the government and outside the government. And you’ll have a certain limit inside the government, but when you get to the outside the government folks, man those guys are going to tell you exactly what they think and there’s going to be differences of opinion and there’ll be arguments and that’s awesome.

That’s what education is about. Education is about differences of opinion; education is about learning, expanding your thoughts. I can tell you Secretary Mattis has learned a ton in his time about strategic deterrence and nuclear policy, and he reads incisively. One of the hardest things – every time I meet with Secretary Mattis he gives me another book to read, I have a stack of books on my desk right now, and he reads like three a week and I’m just trying to get to one a month. But, education is critical to understanding where we live today.

The doctrine we came up with 50 years ago is still valid but it is not current. And so, we have to move into currency and we have to think about how the world is different and what should we do that’s different. Because what we’re talking about is conflict and war, this is the National Defense University home of the National War College. It is the place where we think about war. And [George] Washington and [Julius] Caesar and [Winston] Churchill, have all said the best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war. And that’s what we will have to do. So how do we prevent it? In the nuclear business it is the most significant job that we have, how do we prevent that war from happening.

But that means we have to be prepared for it every day. And that’s why today across the middle of the country there are airmen, men and women, under the ground, sitting alert on top of our nuclear forces ready-to-go on the order of the President of the United States. There are submarines deployed in the Atlantic and the Pacific, deployed today with live nuclear weapons, live missiles ready-to-go. We have bombers that I can order onto alert, literally with one phone call, and the bombers move on alert. They are ready every day. That’s because that’s part of our deterrence force. But what is deterrence in 2050? I don’t think it’s deterrence in 1960. So that’s why education is important. So thank you very much.