U.S. Strategic Command

 

Speeches

Minot Task Force 21 Conference on "The Strategic Nuclear Enterprise: Implementing the Roadmap Ahead"

By Admiral Cecil D. Haney | The Army Navy Club, Washington D.C. | October 06, 2014

ADM. CECIL HANEY:  Thanks, Peter, for that kind introduction, and good afternoon.  There are good tactical positions and there are some that are not so good.  Usually speaking after lunch is not so good.

(Laughter).

Also sometimes speaking where you have former bosses in the room is also not too good because then they’re going to critique your performance.  But, it’s all good.  And I’m glad that a number of professionals that I knew are assembled here for this conference. I really thought I’d start off just by saluting your efforts.  I can’t thank you enough for all you do …relative to this important business of the United States of America …maintaining and sustaining its credible, safe, secure and effective strategic deterrent.

And of course this forum is pretty timely in terms of this afternoon Administrator Frank Klotz, who I think you heard from, and the lab directors and I will address the House Armed Services Committee in a classified setting associated with our stockpile.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t start off this session with saluting and acknowledging that this is the 67th birthday of our United States Air Force.  In a short 67 years the Air Force has stood strong in the defense of our nation and has revolutionized, many of the capabilities we take for granted today: dominant airpower, space and cyberspace capabilities, to mention a few, and of course their contribution to strategic deterrence, representing two-thirds of our nation from a triad platform perspective.  So happy birthday, United States Air Force.

Now I did note that Admiral Donald is here. He used to be my boss from the naval reactors standpoint. But some deficiency was noted, because I was expecting before coming up to the podium that we’d have a cake, since it was the Air Force’s birthday.

(Laughter).

I’m still looking for that cake.  Maybe I’ll get my cake later because when I had my VTC (video teleconference) with my command earlier this morning, and we were talking about Air Force birthday, they did tell me that they were having a cake without me today.

It is always difficult following such an elite lineup as you’ve had of guest speakers this morning.  And given the intellect and experience of this crowd, I know you’ve had many rich conversations associated with the topics and the speakers that you’ve had thus far.  I will advertise up front that I am looking forward to your questions as I conclude my formal remarks.

Before I get started, though, I want to thank Task Force 21 for hosting this event.  I was fortunate to meet some of its members as they visited my headquarters back in July.  We had a rich conversation there, so it’s great to see Mark Janser again, and of course you and the other members of your team that are here with you.  I can’t thank them enough for the dedication that they provide, and interest associated with our strategic deterrent mission, and the endless support they provide our Minot community of warriors and, of course, their families.

I want to also thank Peter here publicly for his continued efforts in supporting important opportunities like this one, providing a venue that allows us to come together and discuss strategic issues of importance to our nation.  For 21 years you’ve brought members of this community together to not only inform, but to spark debate amongst us on weighty topics associated with the necessity to maintain a credible strategic deterrent.

While it is important to bring us together to discuss triad issues, it’s equally important we holistically tie the enterprise together.  Most of you have heard me say that strategic deterrence is more than the triad of platforms.  It also includes a robust and agile intelligence apparatus that can provide the necessary indications of warning.  It’s the system of dedicated space and ground sensors that provide critical early warning of missile launches and bomber threats, assured nuclear and national command and control communications to use that information, and the necessary infrastructure to sustain nuclear weapons without testing the warheads.

A credible missile defense system is also a part of that.  It defends against limited attacks from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.  It takes all of the relevant space and cyberspace capabilities, trained and ready people to conduct strategic operations and planning, synchronized treaties, policies and strategies, and of course a campaign plan that orients all of our assigned capabilities and activities to a common daily purpose, to deter a strategic attack and reassure our allies.

These areas are inter-related and connected.  To be successful in future efforts we must leverage these capabilities in an integrated manner, understanding how they influence each other and how they connect across multiple domains.  And it will require us to take a responsive whole of government approach working, of course, closely with our allies and partners.

So while the diversity of U.S. Strategic Command’s missions allows us to maintain a global perspective, ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force remains a core responsibility, as stated in the Nuclear Posture Review, and retains an important role in our country’s defense.  For the foreseeable future, the nuclear enterprise will remain foundational to strategic deterrence.  And as you all know, last year the president released his nuclear weapons employment strategy which stated that retaining all three legs of the nuclear triad would best maintain strategic stability at reasonable cost, while hedging against potential technical problems or vulnerabilities.

Each distinct but complementary component of these strategic capabilities is vital to our deterrent mission, as well as to those nations around the world that count on and depend on us for extended deterrence.  This collection of capabilities also represents an insurmountable challenge for any adversary to overcome.  It provides the president of the United States with flexible responsive options and adequate decision space should deterrence fail.

While I am confident in our capabilities today, there are of course risks that we must balance and prioritize in a way that enhances national security.  And I would like to address three of these with you today.  First, number one is external; two, systematic aging of weapons platforms and infrastructure; and three, budgetary constraints.

So first, is the external risk, a geopolitical surprise.  As DNI Clapper said in January, quote, “The time when only a few nations had access to the most dangerous weapons is long past,” end-quote.  But as you know, it’s not just nuclear threats that we should be concerned about.

There are multiple actors operating across multiple domains, investing in their space and cyberspace capabilities, which are growing in scale and of course sophistication.  As a country, we depend on space, as do other nations around the world.  So it’s very problematic to see countries, such as China, conducting missile tests designed to destroy satellites, as we just saw back in July.  Thankfully, this time, it didn’t hit anything.  You may recall back in 2007 the anti-satellite test that China conducted created thousands of pieces of debris that continues to endanger the space systems of all nations.

Cyber is another area that we as a country must continue to work hard at, as today’s threats are both immediate and evolving.  The news today highlights that even violent extremist organizations are using cyber to recruit, to message, and to deliver effects.  You may have heard in my discussions with Congress and other venues that I see increasing strategic risk as potential adversaries advance their mobile, global reach capabilities with cyber, counter-space and nuclear weapon capabilities.

While I hope that direct military conflict with nation states with weapons of mass destruction remains remote in the near horizon, perhaps, as I look at things like Russia in Ukraine, which I’m sure most of you are following also daily, stepping back reveals an unfolding of nationalism deeply rooted in Russian history.  Some in Russia share President Putin’s assessment that the breakup of the Soviet Union was quote, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 21st century,” end-quote.  And while both the United States and Russia recently reaffirmed their commitment to the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, President Putin continues to stress the importance of Russia’s nuclear arsenal as an equalizer.

You may have seen footage on YouTube of President Putin ordering Russian nuclear forces to conduct two strategic exercises in the past year, and more are likely to be observed in the future.  They have a decade plus of modernization across each leg of their triad; for example, a new submarine and associated submarine-launched ballistic missile, a new air-launched cruise missile, and more advanced mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.  China is also modernizing their strategic forces to include fielding more survivable road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, enhancing their silo-based ICBMs, as well as developing and deploying a new ballistic missile submarine.

More and more strategic nuclear capabilities are going mobile.  I could talk at length regarding the ambitions of Kim Jung-eun of North Korea and his aspirations to develop an advanced nuclear capability, or Iran’s desires for nuclear weapons, or the modernization efforts associated with India and Pakistan.  We should not lose sight that many terrorist groups continue to have aspirational desires to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  Their mobility will likely be through nontraditional delivery means.  That will be a different challenge.

As the report on Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy states, quote, “We must assume they would use such weapons if they manage to attain them,” end-quote.  Given the brutality of their movement, as we have seen recently with ISIL and Boko Haram, we should expect that given the opportunity these groups will have, and in many cases are already displaying, their propensity to behave in ways that are unconstrained by international norms.

The second risk is our aging weapons, platforms and supporting infrastructure.  We cannot afford a technical failure that renders a leg of the triad unreliable.  We have sustained and will continue to sustain our platforms and weapons, but the sustainment efforts cannot last forever, which necessitates moving forward with modernization.

To work through some of these very complex issues, U.S. Strategic Command recently hosted a ballistic missile submarine, and separately an intercontinental ballistic missile, stakeholder meeting.  It was extremely valuable to meet with the leaders of these communities, who fully understand our corporate challenges and are committed to charting the best way forward.  We had some very, very frank discussions on how best we can sustain and modernize today’s platforms and components.  And I look forward to having similar discussions with our bomber leadership at the end of October.

Tomorrow, I will be in Kings Bay, Georgia as our nation celebrates its 4,000th strategic deterrent patrol.  What an important milestone for our nation.  The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine has been extended beyond its original 30-year service life to an unprecedented 42 years, longer than any ballistic missile submarine in the history of the United States.

But let’s not take that for granted.  We have reached the point where no margin exists to extend the Ohio-class and we can ill afford to delay the Ohio replacement program any further.  This is my number one priority, the CNO’s top acquisition priority, and it’s critically important that we move forward with this program.  As such, the U.S. Strategic Command is working very closely, of course, with the Navy, the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to keep the Ohio replacement program on track.

Our ICBM force promotes deterrence and stability.  And as I witnessed firsthand last week during a visit to Malmstrom Air Force Base, our missileers, our maintainers and security forces operate and maintain and secure these platforms with professionalism, dedication and passion 24/7.  I’m really happy that we have some of them here at the table.  Why don’t you guys stand up to be recognized?

(Applause).

Thank you for your service to our country.  And even though we have our best Airmen such as these conducting this mission, there are challenges we must work through.  Our foremost challenge is addressing the Minuteman III near- and mid-term sustainment.  We must take a system of systems approach similar to that taken by our submarines and aircraft and review the system holistically.  The timing also requires us to execute an intercontinental ballistic missile recapitalization strategy that will carry us beyond 2030.

As I’m sure General "Seve" Wilson probably talked about, the Air Force is conducting an analysis of alternatives for the ground-based strategic deterrent.  This will help in the development of the requirements to ensure our ICBM capabilities stay viable for decades to come.

Our aging B-52 and B-2 fleet continues to demonstrate their global presence and agility through involvement in numerous multi-national exercises, through continuous bomber presence in the Western Pacific, and their deterrence and assurance missions around the globe.  Of course, as you know, our B-52 Hotel models are more than 50 years old, and our B-2s are already 20 years old.  While we are initiating and executing required upgrades and life extension activities to meet current nuclear and conventional mission requirements, we are reaching a point where the nation needs a news long-range strike platform.

To preserve the ability to adapt to future challenges, we must continue to pursue a new highly survivable penetrating bomber that will hold any target on earth at risk and provide operational flexibility across a wide range of military actions.  To continue to provide a long-range strike capability, the B-61 life extension program and a new long-range strike option weapon is necessary, as the air-launched cruise missile reaches its end of service life around the 2030 period.

The aviators in the audience -- I’m sure I have some here -- understand that the global reach of our nuclear and conventional bombers are assured by our airborne refueling assets.  This capability was demonstrated to me recently on a flight I took with the talented men and women of the 126th Air Refueling Unit.  It was good also to see the momentum of the new KC-46 program.

Based on stockpile stewardship efforts today, we can confidently assert that our stockpile is safe, secure and effective.  However, the warheads, on the average, you’re talking about being at least on the average 27 years.  And life extension programs are needed to mitigate age-related effects and incorporate modern safety and security features.

We must keep the 3+2 warhead strategy moving forward.  The failure to carrying out planned infrastructure modernization-like extension programs will increase risk to the long-term safety, security and effectiveness of an aging nuclear stockpile.  Even with the efforts we have today, we continue to get older before we get younger.

Maintaining the physical security of our nuclear weapons is important in ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.  Work continues through the services and the intelligence community and Department of Energy to assess threats and determine the most effective vulnerability mitigation measures.  And both the Navy and the Air Force continue to carefully scrutinize and improve security measures.

Finally, the strategic deterrent is of course underwritten by effective nuclear command and control and communications.  National guidance mandates assured, unbroken, redundant, secure and survivable communication paths between the President of the United States, his senior advisers, all the way down to the operating forces.  We must continue to sustain our current NC3 infrastructure, but in the coming decades further investment will be needed to field modern technology and associated procedures to improve the quality, timeliness and availability and diversity of information provided to senior leaders in the course of the nuclear decision making process.

And, of course, all of the sustainment and modernization efforts I just described require funding.  So my third and final point addresses the fiscal environment.  Today I have confidence in our ability to operate a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force.

The Navy has sustained investment, currently for the Ohio replacement program.  The Air Force still is working to sustain investment in the air leg and intercontinental ballistic missile leg.  And we continue to work with the Department of Energy on the right investments for the nuclear stockpile sustainment efforts, which include ongoing life extension programs.

Our predecessors certainly made wise decisions and investments, and we continue to reap those benefits today.  But we must not take that for granted.  Today’s budgetary environment remains a concern as we look to sustain and modernize our military forces, and especially our strategic deterrent capability.

In conclusion, in a world where our traditional adversaries are modernizing, emerging adversaries are maturing, and non-state actors remain elusive and dangerous, we must get 21st century deterrence right.  The reality is that an effective and modernized nuclear deterrent force is needed now more than ever.  And we must view today’s threats in an innovative manner to ensure strategic stability.

My final thought is that the future inherently creates significant uncertainty and will put a squeeze on both our readiness and, of course, our exceptionally talented people who execute our deterrence and assurance mission 24/7.  We owe it to them and our nation to get it right.  As stated in the June 2013 Department of Defense report on Nuclear Employment Strategy, quote-unquote, “The United States will maintain a credible nuclear deterrent capable of convincing any potential adversary that the adverse consequences of attacking the United States or our allies and partners far outweigh any potential benefit they may seek to gain from such an attack,“ end-quote.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we have much work to do.  I’m glad to have you on our team and I thank you for your time today.  I look forward to the work ahead and appreciate what all of you do for a grateful nation.