TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- "Your mission is important to the United States of America," the commander of U.S. Strategic Command told the Sailors of Strategic Communications Wing 1 here recently.
"The work you do day in and day out, helping to keep the U.S. nuclear deterrent triad connected, is deeply appreciated by us in leadership," said Adm. Cecil Haney. "It's refreshing to know you folks are behind the scenes, making things happen."
The admiral visited SCW-1 on Jan. 24. "The real reason for this trip," he told the Sailors, "is so I could understand the mission from your perspective."
SCW-1 has two missions. One is very-low frequency communications with the Navy's fleet of ballistic missile-equipped submarines conducted in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In addition, the Navy's fleet of E-6B Mercurys provides command and control for all U.S. nuclear forces in the event that ground-based command centers are destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable.
Because of dramatic changes in the geopolitical and operational environment, "ensuring that we have the right balance" of weapon systems so that no one will want to attack the U.S. or its allies "has gotten more complicated," Admiral Haney said.
For example, the depth and breadth of cyberspace have increased the "potential for mischief that can distort our ability to detect, and defend against, attacks," he said.Also, "the number of players in the nuclear arena" is changing, and determining the "ambitions" of each of them is more difficult now, he said. In a related matter, the U.S. military must know with absolute certainty that its nuclear weapons work "even though we don't do nuclear testing anymore," the admiral asserted.
"This is a complicated world we live in," the 1978 U.S. Naval Academy graduate noted. "As I look at this uncertain future, I think strategic threats will continue for some time to come."To cope with uncertainty, USSTRATCOM personnel "work through prediction methods" and conduct war game exercise and tabletop exercises "where we stretch the possibilities and think about them ahead of time," Admiral Haney said.
"We need to continuously reassess what's likely, what's not likely, and prioritize our capabilities accordingly," the admiral said. He also said he has asked his military advisers to evaluate "how some of our potential adversaries are looking at our deterrence capability."
USSTRATCOM, headquartered at Offutt AFB, Neb., is one of nine unified commands in the Department of Defense. Its personnel represent all four services: Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and includes Guard and Reserve members plus DOD civilians and contractors.
USSTRATCOM relies on various task forces for the execution of its global missions, including space operations, information operations, missile defense, global command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; global strike and strategic deterrence, and combating weapons of mass destruction.
SCW-1 and Task Force 124 are comprised of almost 1,700 Navy personnel. They include approximately 1,200 stationed at Tinker plus another 500 at three forward operating bases: Travis AFB, Calif.; Offutt AFB; and Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md."...The cohesive tissue amongst our combatant commands is even more important today than perhaps it was yesterday as we look at deterring the threats that face America and the world today," Admiral Haney told the Sailors of SCW-1. "So while you're out either swinging a wrench, working on electrical circuitry, working in the trainers or flying up at altitude, know that you are a part of that, as well."