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SPEECH | July 26, 2017

2017 Deterrence Symposium Opening Remarks

Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Good morning, everybody.  Welcome.  It’s great to be here, it’s great to see you for such a large gathering for such an important topic.  Listening to Congressman Bacon’s opening remarks, the remarks were very timely, but also brought back some very interesting memories for me.   

The first time I came into Building 500 was in 1990, during the early days of [Operation] Desert Storm.  And since that time I’ve been deployed. I’ve had some crazy things happen.  I’ve seen mortar firing, rocket firing, and lots of interesting things go on in this building.  But I can honestly say, the most frightened I’ve ever been in my military career was the day I had to walk into CINCSAC’s [commander-in-chief, Strategic Air Command] office and talk about deterrence with the commander-in-chief of Strategic Air Command Gen. John Chain, back in 1990.  Because CINCSAC was deterrence and everybody understood what it was.  And to walk in to him and actually explain to him one-on-one as an Air Force captain was one of the most frightening moments of my life.  I lost five pounds in five minutes.  You know, if you think that’s physically impossible, with the puddle I left on that floor was proof that it was there. 

But I just want to welcome you to the Deterrence Symposium.  It’s great to be with you here.  We’re back here in the CenturyLink Center where it all started.  I’m going to take a few minutes this morning and talk about our mission here at U.S. Strategic Command, my vision for the command, and how 21st century deterrence is different from the Cold War force that I worked with Gen. Chain back in 1990 for the first time. 

Before I get to that I need to welcome some folks.  You know, it’s pretty neat when you look at the crowd in this room right now, but right up front here there’s a good friend, a commander who’s got a very difficult job these days.  He’s also sitting next to one of his closest allies, right behind him.  But Gen. Vince [Vincent] Brooks, commander United States Forces Korea, came all the way off the peninsula, the first time he’s been off the peninsula in quite a while.  So to come here to Omaha to talk about deterrence.  I think if you look at his responsibilities you understand why he’s here, but nonetheless, sir, you do us a great honor by being here.  And General [Sun Jin] Lee from the Republic of Korea, thank you both for being here and what you do every day. 

I also want to give special recognition to the international guests we have here.  [Maj.] Gen. [Nina] Armagno [director of plans and policy, J5, USSTRATCOM] already introduced the nations that are here, but it’s also important to note that within the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command, in Building 500 down at Offutt today we have representatives embedded in our organization from United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and we’re just now adding the newest liaison officer, about to be a liaison officer from the Republic of Korea.  So General Lee, thank you and your nation for providing that.  It’s important that we talk about deterrence.  That we talk about deterrence inside Strategic Command, that we have a close partnership with our allies, and we do.  And you see senior leadership from each of the countries, each of the close partners that we have, you see leadership around the room, from all those areas.  So we thank each of the nations for their participation.

I took command a little over eight months ago, and the most amazing thing about this job, without a doubt, is every time I get to go out of the headquarters and visit with about 184,000 men and women that perform the job of strategic deterrence every day.  That’s from below the sea, below the ground, above the ground in the air, in space, in cyberspace.  The capabilities that we have are amazing, but the people that we have who perform those capabilities are a whole different level of amazing.  They are the umbrella of safety that the U.S. and other nations rely on for our strategic deterrence commitment. 

The airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines span the globe in our missile fields, in our SSBNs [ballistic missile submarine], at Minot [Air Force Base, North Dakota], at Thule [Air Base, Greenland], Fort Greely, Alaska.  If you want to see the greatness of our country just walk into any one of those places and talk to the airmen that do that mission every day.  Talk to the soldiers that stand watch in Greely, talk to the sailors underway from the USS Tennessee, and I won’t tell my Tennessee story again, but catch me sometime during the symposium and I’ll tell the most amazing story of a sailor underwater on the USS Tennessee.  They’re the best and brightest this country has to offer. 

We’re responsible in STRATCOM for not just the nuclear mission, but for space, cyber, electronic warfare, missile defense, analysis and targeting.  All of these critical capabilities are an integral part of our command, and our mission in STRATCOM.  We have a mission statement, and let me read it to you.  It’s to employ tailored nuclear, cyber, space, global strike, joint electronic warfare, missile defense and intelligence capabilities to deter aggression, decisively respond if deterrence fails, assure allies, shape adversary behavior, defeat terror and define the force of the future. 

Now I have a lot of friends in here.  I saw Ed Thomas out in the lobby awhile ago.  Ed’s known me a long time.  A lot of you have known me a long time.  You probably know that I don’t like long mission statements.  What did I just read out to you?  I just read out a long mission statement.  And it’s a mission statement I approved.  So why did I approve that mission statement?  Because that’s actually the minimum number of words that we can use to describe the way we do our mission today.  Each one of those missions is unbelievably important and well executed and accomplished by the men and women of this command.   

Nuclear, cyber, space, global strike, joint electronic warfare, missile defense, intelligence, analysis and targeting.  Those are the missions of Strategic Command. We do them well, and we do them in stovepipes.  Every one of those is done in a stovepipe.  Space folks like space.  Cyber folks like cyber.  Nuclear folks like nuclear.  Global strike folks like global strike.  Even global strike folks who do nuclear.  Electronic warfare people are ignored by the world because they love electronic warfare.  But what we don’t do is we don’t integrate those capabilities.   

So it’s important for you to understand also what our vision is.  Our vision is fairly simple.  One STRATCOM team, fighting and delivering integrated multi-domain combat effects across the globe, in space and cyberspace, wherever and whenever needed.  That’s what we’re working to.  We’re working to create integrated effects.  When we talk about integrated effects, we talk about all of the capabilities of U.S. Strategic Command being brought to bear on any adversary anywhere in the world at any time.  That’s what we have to do and that’s what we have to grow to.  That’s the world that we live in in the 21st century.  I’ll come back to that as we talk about strategic deterrence. 

I published a vision and intent for all in our command to read.  In it I talk about that mission and the vision, but I also talk about the priorities.  The priorities are pretty simple, pretty straightforward.

Priority number one.  Above all else, we will provide strategic deterrence. 

Priority number two.  If deterrence fails, we will, we are prepared to deliver a decisive response. 

Priority number three.  We will do that with a combat-ready force. 

Now as I say those words, very simple priorities, my guess is that everybody in this room went immediately to the nuclear capabilities of this command.  Strategic deterrence.  Decisive response.  Combat-ready force.  Everybody goes with strategic deterrence.  And that is actually okay, because that’s where your mind should go first.  That’s where it starts, that’s where deterrence starts.  But the actual missions of this command all apply to those priorities.  

Space, same way.  We’ll provide strategic deterrence. If deterrence fails, we’ll provide a decisive response.  We’ll do that with a combat-ready force.  It applies to cyber, applies to missile defense, to electronic [warfare] – all of our missions that applies to. 

If we’re going to create an integrated capability, an integrated deterrence structure, we have to figure out how to pull all of these together to provide that integrated effect as we go into the future.

During the Cold War, deterrence really focused on one thing – the use of nuclear weapons to deter a single adversary.  It was the Soviet Union.  And that’s what I grew up in, and the first 10 years I was in the Air Force I worried about strategic deterrence and I worried about the Soviet Union.  I was an engineer in communications command when I started out.  But it didn’t matter whether I was an engineer in the communications command or a missileer or a pilot, there were no space guys when I came in.  But it didn’t matter what I was.  If you were in the club on Friday night, it may sound strange, but somewhere in the conversation, the Soviet Union came up in the conversation.  Somewhere in the conversation, deterrence came up as part of what we were thinking about, because we thought about it every day.  We read about it.  There were books written, books read by young lieutenants and young captains, and we discussed what those things were.  We discussed the importance of deterrence, the importance of our element of the deterrence structure.  It didn’t matter how big or how small.  We all understood we were part of that and we were looking at a singular adversary.   

At the height of the buildup of the Cold War, we had 65,000 nuclear weapons in the world.  Over 98 percent of that was in the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  Our deterrence strategy hinged on the assured destruction of the other nation if nuclear war would break out.   

In addition to the nuclear forces, there was relative parity in the conventional war capability.  If conventional capability was altered in any way, the nuclear piece was there as a backstop, and we all understood what that was. 

But today’s security environment is complex, dynamic and volatile, perhaps more than at any other time.  Henry Kissinger in an address to Congress said the U.S. has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War. Deterrence today is not a single adversary.  Deterrence today is not a bi-polar world.   

Deterrence today is a multi-polar, multi-domain problem.  The United States has to be concerned, along with our allies, with multiple actors with an expanding range of capabilities that are available.  Nuclear weapons are no longer the only weapon that can cause catastrophic effects that can disrupt our way of life.  We’ve become increasingly reliant on space and cyberspace – –. not only in the way we conduct war, but also in our day to day lives.  Mass disruption to our power grid, to our financial institutions with cyber-attacks or space attacks are now constant concerns.  And our potential adversaries study this as well, learning from us.  Demonstrating an advanced understanding of how to leverage nuclear, space, cyber, anti-access/area denial, electronic warfare, the information spectrum to exploit our vulnerabilities.  But make no mistake, the components of our nuclear triad have, always been, and will continue to be the backbone of our nation’s deterrent force.  That is where deterrence starts.  But today it’s more than just nuclear.  It requires the integration of all our capabilities -- nuclear, space, cyber, missile defense, electronic warfare, and conventional forces.  And the integration has to occur in every domain and in every theater. 

So when I state those three priorities – strategic deterrence, decisive response, combat-ready force – remember, it applies to all of our missions.  There is no one size fits all approach. 

With my background, the question I often get is how do I deter an attack in space?  How do I prevent war in space?  Because I’ve spent my entire career, for the most part, in the space business, I get that question all the time.  But the answer is there is no such thing as war in space.  There is just war.  And war is with an adversary, not a place.  You don’t deter places, you deter actors, you deter an adversary.  This requires us to be flexible about the tailoring of the messaging on employment of our capabilities to account for the actor, the scenario that we’re looking to deter.                                                                              

As you’ll see from the discussions over the next two days, the approach we’ve taken necessary to deter Russia is very different than what is necessary to deter North Korea and what is necessary to deter China.  Any potential adversary we have to look at, we have to look at the adversary.  Not the things.  It requires a deeper understanding of them, what we are trying to deter, why are we trying to deter it, what do they value, what do we value, what influences their decision-making both internally and externally?  This integrated tailored approach is the key to deterrence in the 21st century, and I think unfortunately across our nation, many have forgotten how to have a real conversation on deterrence.  That is what this conference is all about.  A real conversation on deterrence.   

I’m not here to say exactly what the right answer is or the wrong answer.  I have very strong opinions, and I’ll be glad to share those opinions.  I share those opinions all the time.  But in this room are some of the best and brightest minds in the deterrence world, and you‘ll see them up here on the stage sharing their thoughts.  And I ask you to think about what they bring to the problem.  Think about what they talk about and what their ideas are.  And if you disagree with them, challenge them.  If you’re wondering why they believe what they do, ask them the question.  Form your thoughts.  And then take those thoughts out and go back to whatever nation you come from, whatever place in this country you come from, and carry on that discussion because it needs to be part of not just the national debate but an international debate on deterrence in the 21st century and what we have to do. 

We’ll look to see an expanded debate with our Academic Alliance.  We have 38 members of the Academic Alliance right now in STRATCOM.  We also have representatives from across the government, the allies, think tanks, national labs, industry, and academia, all here to carry the discussion forward.  We have to invigorate this broader international discussion on deterrence. 

So finally, I just want to thank each and every one of you again.  [Lt.] Gen. [Charles] C.Q. Brown from Central Command, [Lt.] Gen. Dickinson coming up from the joint functional component for missile defense. You look at the leadership here in the front row.  I thank you for your time and your energy.  And I thank everybody for their combined resources you have taken to attend this event, and for what each and every one of you does for your nation, for our nation, to try to bring security and safety and peace to the world. 

Because at U.S. Strategic Command we have a motto.  The motto dates back to Strategic Air Command.  It’s an important motto, and we’re emphasizing it once again here in U.S. Strategic Command.  If you want to see SAC, and I talked about CINCSAC and I talked about Gen. Chain.  If you want to see SAC, you need to go to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana because that’s where the Air Force has the command that has the bombers and the ICBM’s [intercontinental ballistic missiles]. 

But U.S. Strategic Command’s legacy goes back to SAC, and our motto goes back to SAC.  And the motto is Peace is our Profession.  That is what we do every day when we go to work.  We bring peace through the capabilities that we have.   

But the lessons of [Gen.] Curtis LeMay, and I’m honored to sit in the job that [Gen.] Curtis LeMay had.  To live in the house that he lived in for nine years.  It’s quite intimidating.  But when [Gen] Curtis LeMay approved the motto Peace is our Profession, the legend has it that he also said there’s a dot-dot-dot at the end.  Peace is our Profession dot-dot-dot.  That means if you cross the line, the United States and our allies will be there with a very, very large response. 

When you think about Peace is our Profession, think about the dot-dot-dot at the end.  Think about the three priorities of this command.  Above all else, we’ll provide strategic deterrence.  If deterrence fails, we’ll provide decisive response, and we’ll do it with a combat-ready force because Peace is our Profession. 

Thank you very much.