NEWS | Sept. 12, 2016

U.S. Strategic Command hosts Advanced Operational Law Conference

By U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. − For the first time, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), in collaboration with the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) and the University of Nebraska College of Law, hosted the Advanced Operational Law Conference here, Sept. 7-9, to explore the legal perspective on USSTRATCOM’s mission areas.

In his welcoming remarks, Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USSTRATCOM commander, discussed the importance of legal support to the success of USSTRATCOM’s nine missions and highlighted the command’s continuing collaboration with other Department of Defense (DoD) organizations and academic institutions. In particular, he credited the Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance and NSRI - one of 13 University Affiliated Research Centers (UARC) in the nation - for stimulating new thinking to develop future generations of deterrence practitioners.

“This type of collaboration with our partners in academia and government enables USSTRATCOM to view the strategic environment from a different perspective and adjust our decision calculus accordingly,” said Haney. “I am excited about this opportunity for USSTRATCOM to host such renowned legal experts from prestigious universities and government agencies, and I look forward to exchanging ideas and sharing information.”

DoD General Counsel Jennifer M. O’Connor, who met with Haney during her visit to USSTRATCOM headquarters, said the role of legal experts in DoD operations and policies is crucial to the success of combatant commands like USSTRATCOM, and the government as a whole.

“As a global leader, the United States has a responsibility to set the standard for our partners and allies, as well as our adversaries,” O’Connor said. “We must ensure our actions and polices meet the highest standards of legality and comply with international standards in order to maintain our credibility. I am happy to see that forums like this are taking place to give our legal practitioners and distinguished experts from across the legal spectrum a venue to share ideas and explore lessons learned. I think everyone involved will benefit from the presentations and discussions held here.”

As general counsel, O’Connor is the principal legal advisor to the secretary of defense, has authority and responsibility for legal policy and determinations, and provides legal services within the DoD and its components.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Bob Hinson, NSRI executive director, said “the conference, and the talented participants it has brought together, is an exciting milestone for better understanding the modern day operational complexities impacting decisions of commanders and legal professionals.

“The impact we’re making across the emerging legal frontier advances improvements to U.S. national security, from better protection of assets to more effective consequences for malicious behavior,” Hinson continued. “Today’s legal system is a prime target to fuel innovation for advancing technologies used in defining and defending our national security. By connecting leading University of Nebraska scholars with various federal agencies, we’re keeping pace with new and dynamic threats. The NSRI and the University of Nebraska are proud to partner with the USSTRATCOM Office of the Staff Judge Advocate to further the conversation around legal challenges and comprehensive solutions.”

During the conference, international legal and defense experts from government agencies and academia participated in discussion panels on a variety of topics, including the use of cyber means below “armed attack” or “use of force” thresholds; economic targeting; and China’s use of lawfare.

Before participating in the economic targeting panel, Beth Van Schaack, the Leah Kaplan visiting professor in human rights at the Stanford Law School (2014-15) and a visiting scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said these multi-disciplinary gatherings are crucially important because “many academics are unaware of the constraints and challenges facing their colleagues in the field.

“Likewise, people in the field don’t have the luxury of sitting and thinking quietly about these issues to try and develop larger frameworks in which to situate their day-to-day challenges,” she added. “When we come together in [forums] like this, we can share these perspectives and inform each other’s work to a more effective outcome.”

Van Schaack’s participation continues Haney’s engagements with Stanford University, and others, to promote military-to-university cooperation and innovation, and provide a better understanding of USSTRATCOM’s global missions.

In March 2015, Haney and USSTRATCOM leaders hosted faculty members and fellows from Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation when they visited the command’s headquarters; and the previous year, Haney visited Stanford University’s campus to meet with senior leaders and staff members.

The event also featured presentations by retired Air Force Gen. Robert C. Kehler, former USSTRATCOM commander; David A. Koplow, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center; and Mark Kramer, director of Cold War studies at Harvard University.

The final day of the conference featured two panels comprised of Department of State, DoD and military service component-level speakers. Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III, judge advocate general of the Navy; Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Rockwell, U.S. Air Force deputy judge advocate general; Brig. Gen. Stuart Risch, U.S. Army Legal Services Agency commander; and Col. Michael Smidt, USSTRATCOM staff judge advocate; provided remarks about legal support to combatant commands during the first panel.

The conference concluded with the second panel during which attendees heard senior leader perspectives on key issues from Eric Desautels, Department of State Office of Emerging Security Challenges director; and Audrey Schaffer, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Space Strategy and Plans director. Danielle Miller, law college research associate for NSRI activities served as the moderator for the final panel.

Haney thanked the attendees for their participation in the conference and said he looks forward to continuing to build, sustain and support partnerships with academia, ally nations and other DoD organizations.

“The adversaries, potential adversaries and challenges we face in the 21st century have global ramifications,” Haney said. “As we work with our partners and allies to address these challenges we must ensure that we’re doing things the right way. Having the collective intellect and legal expertise assembled here − whether they work for the military, academia, or industry − is very important to that effort.”