WASHINGTON - The global financial crisis and the threat of nuclearproliferation and persistent warfare in the Middle East and Central Asia areplaying a major role in determining future national security capabilities,the commander of U.S. Strategic Command told Congress today.
Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton told the House Armed Services Committee'ssubcommittee on strategic forces that "2009 is an especially noteworthyyear" because of the unique security challenges America faces.
Those challenges, along with the ever-changing rate of technology "oftenoutpaces capabilities and policies," Chilton said. He added that he islooking forward to the upcoming Congressional Commissions Report on theStrategic Posture of the United States, as well as this year's DefenseDepartment Quadrennial Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review. "The recommendations made in these studies will shape our national securitycapabilities long into the future," he said.
This year will be an important year for Congress to act on the issue of theaging U.S. nuclear stockpile, Chilton said. The stockpile, nuclearinfrastructure and human capital are the most urgent concerns for the U.S. nuclear enterprise, he said. Modernization, he added, will "relieve growinguncertainty about the stockpile's future reliability and sustainability. "
Credible deterrence operations depend on a reliable stockpile of nuclearweapons, Chilton said. And although U.S. nuclear weapons deployment,production, and testing have reduced substantially since the Cold War, manyallies rely on the United States for those capabilities, he noted. "Deterrence remains as central to America's national security as it wasduring the Cold War," Chilton said, "because, as ever, we would prefer toprevent war rather than to wage it. "
On space operations, Chilton said space-based capabilities give the nationessential, but often unnoticed, capabilities. However, the satellites thatcarry those capabilities require more and careful attention to eliminatepossible delays in launches.
"We have made progress in space situational awareness, but capability gapsremain, and require sustained momentum to fill," he said, noting lastmonth's collision between the U.S. Iridium communication satellite andRussia's decommissioned military satellite.
Cyberspace, another key aspect of Stratcom's mission, has becomeincreasingly important to the warfighter, Chilton said. He remains concernedabout growing threats on computer networks and is calling for changes withinthe Defense Department's "fundamental network of culture, conduct andcapabilities to address this mission," he said.
"We also endeavor to share our best [networking] practices with partnersacross the government," he said. "Still the adequate provisioning of cybermissions, especially with manpower, remains our greatest needs. "
Stratcom continues to be proficient in executing operations in the realms ofspace, cyberspace and deterring war, Chilton said. He praised his commandfor its ability to provide "a unique global perspective in advocating for"missile defense, information operations, intelligence, surveillance andreconnaissance - capabilities the country needs to ensure national security,he said.
"In this uncertain world, [Congress's] support is critical to enablingsuccessful execution across the command's assigned missions," he said, "andin realizing [the U.S. ] vision to be leaders in strategic deterrence andpreeminent global war fighters in space and cyberspace. "