Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command Commander: Good afternoon. Dr. John Christensen [University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Chancellor] and Dr. Louis Pol [UNO Dean of the College of Business Administration], thanks to both of you for your remarks and for your leadership. Dr. Christensen, what a kind introduction - thank you. Thanks to everyone for coming out today. It’s great to see such an impressive group of leaders. It speaks volumes about the importance you place on the partnership between the University of Nebraska and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), and of course, our fellows program.
It is a real pleasure to be here. I am one who truly values higher education, and I have spent a good portion of my career motivating our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and civilians to take advantage of every educational opportunity. I cannot stress enough the importance of what I call “beta-learning” - or in other words, a state of continued, open-minded learning.
Today's complex and multi-faceted security environment involves nation states and non-state actors that are challenging well-respected international norms and our democratic principles. Given that, our current and future leaders must be able to rapidly connect to and digest traditional and non-traditional reams of info, integrate it into historical and cultural models to stimulate critical thinking necessary to create timely operational and strategic options for national security decision makers. They must have the capacity to understand adversary perceptions and apply that knowledge to developing comprehensive strategy and plans - with an ultimate goal of increasing decision space of our nation’s most senior leaders.
So, being back on campus in this unique academic setting really gets me charged up. Even at my tender age, I still consider myself a student. I fundamentally believe that in order for my command to continue to have impact, my workforce must have a culture of learning throughout my organization. So today, having this diverse group of intellectual professionals around me, I know I will leave a lot smarter after spending time here.
The other exciting part of being on a university campus is the camaraderie associated with the sports teams. Any Mavericks fans in the audience? It’s great to see the men’s basketball team doing so well. If I have my intelligence correct, the Mavs just ended North Dakota’s 31-game home winning streak, putting them at the top of the Summit League. What about the hockey team being number seven in the nation? One of these days, I will make it over to your new Baxter arena - which also just hosted our Commander-in-Chief, President Obama - perhaps he, too, left as a Mavs fan.
You might be surprised, however, to learn that I tend to view these spectacular sporting results from a different perspective. In fact, it’s a different kind of sport for me altogether. It’s the sport of “critical thinking.” You see, it’s not lost on me that in order for the basketball team to be at the top of the Summit League or the hockey team to be number seven in the nation - there must have been some strategic critical-thinking and methodologies put in place. These athletes and their coaches had to think bigger than just their own teams’ playing skills. They likely had to have a deep understanding of the competition to support best positioning for offense and defense, the timing and tempo these UNO players would generate, and how they would take their opponents off their game with the element of surprise.
It is exactly this type of strategic thinking that the University of Nebraska does so well, and perhaps why I enjoy the conversations I’ve had with many of you.
This is actually the second time in two weeks I have been fortunate to be in such esteemed company. Last week, it was my pleasure to host at my headquarters Dr. Hank Bounds and about 22 others from the University of Nebraska, including Dr. John Christensen. I want to publicly salute the University of Nebraska at large for your continued partnership and contributions to national security. Together, we are working on some very pressing issues - from studying the forensics of Weapons of Mass Destruction to looking at cybersecurity for industrial control systems.
I know there are also a number of initiatives that UNO is working on through my command’s Academic Alliance Program. I would be remiss if I didn’t pass on my gratitude to Dr. Lana Obradovic and Dr. Jodi Neathery-Castro. Both have been instrumental in the planning efforts for the inaugural deterrence and assurance workshop that UNO is hosting in early March. On top of all the great work, they also managed to secure a UNO alum - former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel - to speak. I’m sure this is going to be a fantastic event.
Getting back to today, we are here at UNO to kick-off our third, 13-week fellowship program. This is such an important part of professional growth and development for my civilians, who make up more than 60 percent of my headquarters. Our civilian workforce provides the “institutional memory” and intellectual capital that is so vital to my command as military members like me rotate in and out every few years.
Some of you may have heard Secretary of Defense [Ashton] Carter talk about building a “force of the future.” Our fellows program is exactly the type of opportunity, or “off-ramp” as Secretary Carter calls it, that will help build the knowledge, expertise and leadership necessary to preserve excellence in our force of the future.
Dr. Gina Ligon [UNO Associate Professor for College of Business Administration], Dr. Douglas Derrick [UNO Associate Professor for Information Technology Innovation] and faculty members: I sincerely appreciate the tremendous efforts, guidance, and mentorship that you provide our fellows. I know you will stretch their minds professionally, personally and intellectually. You will move them out of their comfort zone, and encourage them to research fully, think critically and write professionally - just as you have done with our previous fellows. Isn’t it fantastic we now have 20 in our fellowship alumni? To date, five of these graduated fellows have had their capstone articles accepted for publication in various journals on topics such as:
- Cybersecurity in the U.S. Energy Sector
- Using the National Guard in a state role for protection of critical infrastructure
- Building Tailored Strategies to Battle Islamic State messaging
- Artificial Intelligence and National Security
- Collaborative Planning
Looking at the efforts of our 20 alumni, they have coupled their efforts directly to the priorities I have set for my command:
- Delivering comprehensive warfighting solutions
- Addressing challenges in space and cyberspace with capability, capacity and resilience
- Building, sustaining and supporting partnerships
Interestingly, several papers applied the type of thinking our Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense are looking at as we work on the third offset strategy. Part of this new strategy focuses on “Human-machine teaming” - or how computers and humans can help us think and make decisions faster. It was great to see that theme codified in some of the papers, as well.
While not all fellows published their papers - many others are in the submission process. Daniel Gunn, for example, looked at potential origins of a strategic attack against the U.S. in the next five to 10 years - analyzing the need to comprehend potential causal chains to better recognize crises. This couldn’t align better with my priority of anticipating change and confronting uncertainty with agility and innovation.
Mark Crown examined the need for a realistic and holistic approach to deterrence - putting strategy first. Heather Kearney looked at improving the assessment of adversary intent - specifically that of Kim Jong-Un - and the challenges associated with strategic deterrence. In fact, based on her analysis, Lt. Gen. Seve Wilson [USSTRATCOM Deputy Commander] invited Heather to travel with him to Stanford University to discuss her work with some of Stanford’s leading Asia Pacific experts.
I think you can see some of the opportunities this fellowship program is providing our graduates and the return on investment it is providing my command. Both Mark and Heather’s studies of deterrence are linked to an area I am very passionate about. Understanding how to get the balance right is critical, because deterring strategic attack against the U.S. and providing assurance to our allies is my top priority.
I won’t go through every fellow’s research, but know that I was duly impressed, and I am extremely proud of your combined efforts. In fact, I am also impressed at how the alumni of this program still band together as a team. My hope is that through USSTRATCOM’s partnership with UNO and other universities around the country, that being “passionate about strategic deterrence” will become a common theme and area of research. The world we live in today is more diverse, complex and uncertain than ever.
As we look in the rear-view mirror over the last year and extrapolate into the future - our nation is dealing with a global security environment that remains dynamic and uncertain. We are supporting coalitions in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and dealing with tensions in the East and South China Seas. We are carefully watching for potential flashpoints in the Middle East and there are many ongoing efforts to deter and combat violent extremism. Cyber and counter-space activities are increasing, and a number of nations states are developing, sustaining and/or modernizing their nuclear forces - look no further than North Korea’s Jan. 5 claim of a hydrogen bomb test.
The reality is that the strategic environment I just described is more like a complex, multi-player game of chess, where plays (threats) must be surveyed across a spectrum of conflict. As our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford, has said, we must view today’s threats in the context of transregional, multi-domain, and multi-functional. In other words, the complexity of warfighting is not contained within borders or stove-piped domains of a specific area of responsibility.
This means we must be thoughtful going forward. Our country needs professionals that can think deeply and strategically, voice an educated opinion, coherently document those thoughts, and drive effective solutions. We need individuals who are willing to develop and stretch their intellect well beyond a one-dimensional problem.
We need leaders who do not become static, and who search for (and recognize) signals of change - and then find connections and solutions that are seemingly impossible. We need “chess players” who can operate in a multi-dimensional environment, with multiple activities taking place simultaneously, on a board where they may not fully understand the rules by which multiple adversaries are playing. We must be able to maintain situational awareness of what matters, and act where necessary.
We need to inspire and develop the next Thomas Schelling or Henry Kissinger to address 21st century deterrence, assurance and escalation control issues.
To our 10, 2016 fellows sitting before us today - no pressure! Congratulations on your selection to this prestigious program. You have certainly chosen difficult and perplexing problems that face our nation today. I implore you to apply critical, original thinking as you explore areas such as:
- The value of information operations to deter violent extremism
- The impact to violent extremist organizations following targeting operations
- The application of emergence theory to humans and
- Challenges associated with global command and control in today’s threat environment
I am confident in your success, and look forward to hearing about your studies. The wealth of knowledge you will bring back to USSTRATCOM, and to your workplace, will be invaluable.
I’d like to charge you with the following:
- Learn from each other, and learn all you can in the next 13 weeks, because we intend to put your leadership skills, your intellect, and your energy to full use when you return.
- Help grow a “culture of learning” at USSTRATCOM
- Get comfortable with being a continuous learner, and in beta-learning mode.
- Develop your network of peers
- Maintain questioning and inquisitive attitudes
How about a round of applause for our fellows and the faculty members who will lead them through this journey?
Thank you, UNO, faculty, and mentors for your role in fostering a high-velocity learning environment, and for helping to create leaders who not only understand the challenges associated with the world we live in today, but who can develop and apply solutions.
As Albert Einstein reportedly said, “education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”
Thank you again, and may God continue to bless you and the USA.