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General John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Thank you very much. It’s good to be, really, it’s always good to be home. It’s good to see friends, family, friendly faces. Hey, Scott. That’s my brother. If you want entertainment value this morning, just walk up and talk to him after the speech. You’ll get it.
It’s amazing to come back to Huntsville, it really is. And it’s amazing when I hear an introduction like that, it sounds like a eulogy. But I have no business being where I am. It’s just impossible for it to happen, but it did happen. And it has happened.
Because I’m the STRATCOM commander, I can’t just come up here and talk about space, but my love for space goes back over 50 years. It goes back to when I was a little kid. And I recently learned that Vice President [Mike] Pence and I have something in common. He called it recently in a speech, “space fever.” We were both young. We watched rocket launches from the early space programs. Me from here in Huntsville, the Vice President in Indiana, and we fell in love with space.
However the role of STRATCOM, my command now, has some pretty significant responsibilities that go outside the space lane. Seven missions, to be exact.
As the STRATCOM commander I have to think about nuclear, space, cyber, global strike, electronic warfare, intelligence and missile defense. And the Air Force space business has now been handed over to a good friend of mine, General Jay Raymond, who will come up here after me. They’re in good hands. He’s truly an exceptional officer. He just has one major character flaw – that is he chose to go to Clemson. Why the hell he did that, I have no idea.
But he’s overcome that to do great things in the United States Air Force, which means if you work hard enough, you can overcome anything in this world.
This summer marks the 60th anniversary of Russia’s first successful ICBM test. Some of you are old enough to remember when that happened. I’m looking at my friends over here that are just slightly above 60. Not quite 100, but getting close. But you think back to that time, when you think about the missile gap that was created, and you think about all the things that we had to worry about. And less than two months after the ICBM test, Russia launched Sputnik. And when Sputnik went up, then we were in the space race, and we had to go fast. And I’ll talk about speed a lot in my remarks today because speed is really what it takes to stay ahead of the threat, and that’s what we had back in the ‘50s and the ‘60s.
But despite all the changes that have unfolded since then, nuclear weapons still remain the single greatest threat to the survival of this nation.
So today I’m going to talk about a few topics that have been on my mind since I took command nine months ago, and I can’t believe it’s already been nine months. The biggest privilege that I have is that I get to command 184,000 of our nation’s greatest gifts. 184,000 of our sons and daughters. 184,000 men and women that come to work every day to deter our adversaries and provide a decisive response should deterrence fail.
My favorite days, believe it or not, as much as I love coming to Huntsville and standing in front of you guys and speaking, this is not my favorite thing to do. My favorite thing to do is to walk out inside the command and see the men and women doing the job they have.
So since I’m back here in Alabama, I want to tell you the story of my favorite moment in command, and it’s an amazing story that’s got lots of nuances, lots of, but I tell you what. When I came in I had a pretty deep background. When I came into STRATCOM I had a deep background in almost every mission that STRATCOM has with one big exception. And that one big exception is our nuclear submarine force. I did not have a deep background.
Now I’ve been on nuclear submarines multiple times. I’ve been on the Tennessee, the North Dakota, I’ve been on a number of submarines. And the one thing I can tell you, being 6 feet 4 inches, I chose the right service. Because I have bashed my head on so many elements of a nuclear submarine I can’t even tell you because I forget to duck. I still forget to duck after all this time.
But anyway, the first thing I did is I said okay, I need to go see the submarine force, so I went to Norfolk where the Submarine Force Atlantic is headquartered, and I met Vice Admiral Joe Tofalo [commander of Submarine Forces] and Admiral Phil Davidson [commander of Fleet Forces Command], and started learning the submarine business. Then I went down to Kings Bay, Georgia, where the nuclear submarine force is located, and I spent time there walking through, looking at the nuclear weapons, talking to the Marines that guard the nuclear weapons, talking to the sailors that work out there.
And my wife is with us on this trip. And then we flew out to the middle of the Atlantic and took a boat out and got on board the USS Tennessee, and went down under the water.
Now I felt like I had to be under the water to understand what a submariner has to do. My deputy, Vice Admiral Chas Richard, has spent seven years of his life under the water. So being down for a short period of time was really nothing, but nonetheless, I wanted to understand what it looked like, what it felt like, and most importantly, what the sailors did. And I tell you what, the sailors are really good at what they do.
At that point the USS Tennessee was commanded by a Navy O5, a commander. The captain of the boat is a Navy commander. 160 Americans that serve on that boat. And that boat all by itself is the sixth largest nuclear power in the world. 160 young Americans that operate that. And they’re experienced, they know what they’re doing. The sailors are amazing. It was an amazing experience.
But I’m on board the USS Tennessee, and so when you’re on board the USS Tennessee, let me just tell you, there’s a lot of orange. A whole lot of orange. I mean there’s Phillip Fulmer footballs, there are big men in jerseys, there’s sign this, sign that proclamations. It’s orange everywhere. It is a big orange country on the USS Tennessee, and I grew up in Alabama. And for those of you, most of you who grew up in Alabama, you know when you’re in first grade in Alabama you have to declare. And once you declare, that’s the way it sticks for the rest of your life.
And so I declared in first grade for the University of Alabama. I’m a huge -- even though I have a master’s degree from Auburn that haunts me to this day. I’m a huge Alabama fan. Roll Tide. Thank you very much.
The amazing thing is my deputy, Chas Richard who I just told you about, he went Decatur High School one year after me. So I was Grissom High School Class of ‘77; Chas Richard was Decatur High School, Class of ’78. Now, the four-star commander of STRATCOM is from Grissom High School; and the deputy is from Decatur High School. And let me just tell you, there’s a lot of Alabama stuff around the front office. So everybody that knows me, knows that I’m a huge Alabama fan. Not as big as Chas because he went to the University of Alabama. All his kids went to Alabama. But holy cow, we live, breathe and die Alabama football. It’s huge. It’s why we hate Clemson.
So we go through, we get to the end and I get to the part where I do the nuclear exercise and I have to go forward for the classified exercise. Laura goes aft for the emergency drills. And we do the business and it’s perfect.
And after we’re done, now we’ve got some time as we’re tooling around the Atlantic, so I’m just walking around talking to sailors. And I come up to this petty officer second class named Skyler Blanchard. It’s his first deployment on the submarine. So I’m asking him, so what’s it feel like being on the submarine? How do you like being on the submarine? So where are you from? The sailor, he says -- he doesn’t know me from Adam. But he goes, sir, I’m from Belle Chasse, Louisiana. I go, really? So you’re an LSU [Louisiana State University] fan? He goes, yes, sir, I live, breathe and die LSU football. My brother goes to LSU, my father went to LSU. LSU football is everything. LSU, go Tigers. And I looked at him and I said well, so how does it feel to be stationed on the Tennessee? He looks at me and he goes, well, sir, at least it’s not the Alabama.
You can’t make that stuff up.
But I tell you, everybody behind me, my wife, the staff, everybody knows, they cracked up. They just, they laughed just like you did. And the sailor now turns white. He goes, what did I do? What did I do? I said, I’m from Alabama. He goes, oh, no, sir, I’m so sorry. I said no, no. You’re from Louisiana. If you’d have said anything else, it would be a problem.
And from that moment forward, the conversation on the whole ship changed, because instead of being the four-star that you walk into a work section and they’re trying to just, would you please leave so I can get back to my life, all of a sudden, there were things to talk about. And when people start talking, you start learning. And I just tell you, 184,000 of those people serve in this command, and it’s the luckiest thing I get to do.
But today I want to talk about some serious things. I want to talk to you about 21st century strategic deterrence. I want to talk to you about the threat. I want to talk to you about the threat of being out-paced by our adversaries right now. I want to talk about speed and innovation. Because I think real damage to our national security can occur if we don’t get our heads around the problem set and start learning how to go fast.
I have mentioned in several venues recently, lessons from history, why today a world without nuclear weapons is a bad idea. People ask me. The most common question I get is, can I imagine a world without nuclear weapons? And I can. It’s not hard. You just have to look at history.
Look back to the world before August 1945 and you know exactly what a world without nuclear weapons looks like. It’s World War II. And in the time between 1939 and 1945 the world, in World War II, killed somewhere between 60 and 80 million people. And if you just do that math for a second, just do that math for a second, and you take a mid-point in that number, and that’s about 30,000 people a day are being killed in World War II.
Vietnam is in our memories. The tragedy of Vietnam. And in Vietnam we lost a lot of American heroes. We lost some really, really great American sons and daughters. And in Vietnam, we lost 58,000 American lives. A horrible tragedy. That’s two days in World War II. Less than two days in World War II.
The depth of destruction that was World War II, people don’t remember what that world was like. And that was a world without nuclear weapons. That’s why nuclear weapons exist.
It doesn’t eliminate conflict. Conflict is going to exist as long as humans exist. But what nuclear weapons do is it keeps major power conflict off the world stage. It keeps that huge death and destruction from happening. That’s the primary reason we have to have nuclear weapons.
But nuclear weapons aren’t everything in strategic deterrence in the 21st century. Unlike the Cold War, we have a lot more than just a single adversary to worry about. The world today is a multi-domain, multi-polar problem and we have to tackle it on multiple fronts. We now have to consider space and cyber in everything that we do. We have to consider our allies and our partners. We have to consider all our adversaries. We have to consider the decisions being made in one region of the world will impact the outcome of a decision in another region. It’s a global world. It’s a global world when it comes to conflict as well.
So my vision for U.S. Strategic Command is that we become an integrated, all-domain warfighting team.
Right now those seven missions that I talked about, we do them unbelievably well. We do them all inside their own stove pipes. We do space in its own stove pipe. We do nuclear in its own stove pipe. We do cyber in its own stove pipe. The power of this country will be when we achieve the integration of those to achieve singular effects on the battlefields of the future. The agile, integrated multi-domain approach is what I consider to be 21st century strategic deterrence.
But I tell you, the number one problem we face is being out-paced by our adversaries. It’s hard for me to even say those words out loud. But right now, we are being out-paced by our adversaries. The actions we take today will assure continued American dominance, especially in the critical domain of space.
The nation expects us to own the high ground. China’s 2007 demonstration of antisatellite technology questions our undisputed ownership of the ground and they’ve been moving unbelievably fast in the decade since. The vast reaches of space are becoming increasingly crowded and dangerous. That’s where our adversaries are going, and we need to get ahead of their efforts. But we’re falling behind, and I know why. Because we forgot, somehow, how to move fast in this country.
In both space and missile defense, we need to get back to the basics of speed and innovation.
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the line we developed a culture of risk aversion. We move slowly in everything that we do. The requirements process, the budget process, the acquisition process. They’re all slow and they all have to speed up. That’s institutional. We can achieve greater efficiencies for expanding rapid acquisition authorities and streamlining our processes. There’s too much at stake not to take action.
Our requirements, budget and acquisition process, are all disconnected and none of them move quickly. We must have processes that are integrated, move fast and demonstrate greater risk tolerance.
If you want to go fast, you have to empower people with the authority and responsibility to execute things and go fast. And I, I see that every day. I know that we can do it if we just get out of our own way. If you don’t empower your people, they will not go fast. Because here’s the honest truth. If you want to be able to respond to a threat that’s going fast, you better figure out how to go fast yourself, and you better go faster than your adversaries and we’re not doing that right now, and we need to.
There are two examples of going fast I want to give you today. They come from the history books. So those of you that know me know that even though I’m an engineer, I love history, because history can tell you a lot of stories.
So the first story I want to tell you is about a Navy captain named Hyman Rickover. Fairly renowned in the Navy. Obviously grew up to be a four-star. But in 1949 he was given the task to build a nuclear Navy and put a nuclear reactor on a submarine. A nuclear reactor at the time was basically the size of a city block. He had to figure out how to fit it into the hull of a Navy submarine that was 28 feet across. He had to invent the engineering and the physics necessary to make it work. And in 1954 the Nautilus was launched with a nuclear reactor.
So from 1949 to 1954, just five years, reactors go from the size of a city block to 28 feet wide with physics and methods that did not yet exist and he did it in five years, and the Nautilus was underway. That’s speed and innovation.
Second example. Look at one of my personal heroes, General Bernard Schriever. He had a group of folks at a little red schoolhouse in Inglewood, California, in the 1950s; 1957 they wrote down on a piece of paper the design for a three-stage solid rocket ICBM – the Minuteman I. Never designed before, never built, never invented. The Minuteman I started in 1958 when Congress and the Eisenhower administration appropriated $140 million to start that program. From 1959 to 1964, an additional $2 billion was allocated to that program – $2.14 billion total.
If you do the math, $140 million, $2 billion, $2.14 billion. In current year dollars, that adds up to about $17 billion.
Now they had one significant advantage, because the first of every year they got their money. That’s not insignificant. But for $2.14 billion, $17 billion today, here’s what they did…
1961, the first successful test of the Minuteman ICBM. 1962, the first deployment. 1964, 800 missiles deployed in five different bases across America, 160 launch holes, all the missile alert facilities, all the launch control centers, all the command and control. And in 1965, 800 missiles were on alert. Eight hundred, three-stage ICBMs, five years to deliver that capability. Hyman Rickover, five years to deliver the nuclear submarine.
So how did we get to the point where it used to be we could deliver 800 three-stage solid rocket ICBMs and we could do that in five years for $17 billion; and now the estimates are it’s going to take 12 to 17 years and $84 billion to deliver 400 ICBMs for the future. How did we get to that point?
We’ve got to look at this business in a different way. We have to look at deterrence in a different way. We have to improve our thinking, improve our speed of thinking, improve our speed of development and acquisition. And when I say that, everybody just goes to, I’m criticizing the acquisition community. I’m not. The acquisition community does exactly what they’re allowed and told to do. Industry does what they’re allowed and told to do. So it’s everybody that I’m talking about. It’s the budget process, it’s the Congress, it’s the administration, it’s the Pentagon, it’s the field, it’s everybody has to figure out how to go fast because that is what our nation needs.
We can do it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the United States of America. We have the greatest minds, the best and the brightest. We have motivated people that love this country every day when they come to work. All we have to do is leverage that talent.
Currently, we also have an unhealthy relationship with failure. We’re so risk-averse that sometimes in some programs we test about every 18 months because we’re so afraid of failure.
You go back to General Schriever and the first 13 Discovery missions. The first 13 spy satellite programs. Every one of them was a failure. Number 14 worked and the world was changed.
Now we’ve lost the ability to go fast and test and fail. Watch what our adversaries are doing. Look at Kim Jong Un. What he’s doing is testing, failing, testing, failing, testing, failing, testing and succeeding. He’s learned how to go fast. We tie the hands of our engineers and acquisition folks because we expect every test to work, and if it doesn’t, it’s on the front page of the newspapers. Just Google it.
So I did, and here’s the headline. Here’s just one headline. “U.S. Navy missile defense test fails off of Hawaii.” Eight out of 18 tests of GMD [ground-based midcourse defense] interceptors since 1999 have resulted in failure.
I know what Hyman Rickover would say about it. So here’s what Hyman Rickover said in 1954: “Success teaches us nothing. Only failure teaches.” General Schriever said, “We have a policy in the United States Air Force that the hard jobs we do overnight. The impossible jobs take a little longer.”
We need to learn from these pioneers. And we also need to learn from our youth.
Just recently I was speaking to a group of Air Force Academy cadets, class of 2019, and a young 20-year-old named Joseph Reynolds from Wisconsin, computer engineering major, asked a question about keeping up with our adversaries. And I asked him, so how many failures have you had in your engineering labs? He looked at me, blushed, and he said thousands. I said would you go back and take any of those failures away? He said no, because I learned from my mistakes and that’s how I got to the right solution. I said exactly. That’s exactly how it works. I was happy to hear that people understand that you actually have to allow failure to learn. You have to understand the value of learning from mistakes. And when you don’t, and you expect everything to work, you will not go fast.
Now I want it to work at the end, because when you deploy a weapon system it has to work each and every time. That’s when it has to work. When you’re going through the test program, you want to push the envelope. You want to understand the entire spectrum of capability. You want to understand how those things are going. But you have to make sure that when you deploy it, it works. But in the test program you’re going to suffer failures.
So how did we get to the point where every test has to work? We have to go fast. We have to get back to the basics.
Where are we today? We’re in a world where DoD [Department of Defense] is struggling to effectively fund the warfighter. We’re losing our technical advantage and an overall inability to adapt quickly to multiple external threats. The limiting factors that are causing us to slow down are not unknown. There have been at least 63 independent studies dealing with the problem. We love to study problems. Oh, my gosh. If you want to fix a problem, our answer is study it these days. But all the initiatives, all the changes, all the great ideas, and all the extremely intelligent people we have dedicated to change – we remain slow and sluggish. Initiatives never gain traction at first, but they lose momentum and the status quo just overwhelms them and they come back and we study it all again a little bit later.
Ladies and gentlemen, this cycle has to be broken. Effective change is actually a process. It’s not a one-time change in policy.
I can tell you what we don’t need. We don’t need more laws and regulations requiring even more documentation mandating changes when previous changes are not even fully understood. We just revisit the same symptomatic problems over and over and over. And it’s not just space and missiles. You see the same thing on the airplane side of our Air Force. You see the same thing in all elements of our services.
So we work in a system that’s slow and sluggish. But there are moves right now, moves afoot to change that system. In the meantime, as leaders there are four things in our organizations that we can do today, and this applies to our industry partners, but it also applies to everybody in this room in uniform.
The first thing, subordinates can no longer be deprived, as they are now, of the training and experience, which will enable them to act on their own.
Secondly, they must know how to exercise autonomously.
Thirdly, they can no longer be reluctant, afraid to act, because they’re accustomed to detailed orders and instructions. That’s why I will never give detailed orders and instructions. I will only give my forces mission-type orders and expect them to react.
Fourth, our people must be able to think, to judge, to decide and act for themselves. This is a warfighting enterprise. We have to empower our people. We have to take risk. We have to move fast, and we have to be innovative.
Perhaps we’re a victim of our own institution. With an exceeding amount of structure, creativity and innovation have been snuffed out of our people’s natural thought processes. Our process is so regimented, so tightly managed and so set in its ways that it can be resistant to change. But my travels across this command, my travels across this command, with Laura and the folks that I travel with, tell me that that doesn’t have to be the case. I see the most amazing people in the world. I see 184,000 that come to work every day to defend this nation, and they want to go fast. They want to have the authority to go fast. They want to stay ahead of our adversaries, because they want to defeat our adversaries.
I’ve been as far north as Thule, and I’ve been under the ground, I’ve been under the sea, I’ve been in the air. I’ve watched them all and they will go fast if we allow them.
The building blocks of speed and innovation are alive and well if we can just harness more of it.
So I thank you for your time this morning. Those are my remarks. I’d be glad to take some questions.
Moderator: Sir, we have a couple of questions.
Would you please comment on STRATCOM’s priorities and technology needs, if you would.
General Hyten: USSTRATCOM, you can actually pull it up on the web if you want. I call this my vision and intent so everybody can read it. That means the 184,000, you, our adversaries, political leadership, they can all read it. And in that document I list three priorities, and only three priorities. Because I want everybody to understand it.
Priority number one. Above all else, we will provide a strategic deterrent.
Priority number two. If deterrence fails, we will provide a decisive response.
Priority number three. We will do that with a combat-ready force that’s ready every minute of every day.
It’s really that simple.
Now when I say that, it’s interesting, because everybody jumps right to the nuclear weapons that are under STRATCOM in one line. But it actually applies to every mission. It applies to nukes, to global strike, space, cyber, missile defense, electronic warfare, intelligence. It applies to everything that we do.
We will deter. We will deter an adversary. You’ve got to realize that there’s no such thing as war in space, there’s just war. There’s no such thing as a war in cyberspace. There’s just war. We have to figure out how to defeat our adversaries, not to defeat the domains that they operate in.
So we need capabilities and we need technologies to stay ahead of our adversaries in each one of those elements. So if we go down each one of those, we need to modernize the nuclear triad. We need to modernize nuclear command and control. We have to modernize our global strike capabilities, so we need a new bomber. We have to modernize and develop our space forces because the space forces we’re developing right now were designed in the ’90s and they’re not built for a threat. So I don’t want to build any more of the stuff we’ve been building. I want to build a warfighting, resilient capability in space that will allow you to do that. And we need to have capabilities that can then respond to an adversary.
In cyber, we need authorities and responsibility to act quickly, because we have the people that can do that if we just get out of our own way.
In missile defense. We have to go faster. Missile defense. We need, number one, better sensor capabilities. Number two, we need better interceptor capabilities. Number three, we need more capacity. But unless you get one and two, I don’t want to go down three.
So if you walk down each one of those priorities, the technologies are obvious. And what is the common element of each of those technologies that I just described? The need to go fast.
Moderator: Next question. This is from Jeff Gromburg at Decimal Research.
How do you solve the problem of Congress cutting programs with test failures?
General Hyten: That’s why I’m talking about it now, because we haven’t been talking about it. And it’s interesting. I’ve sat down with many members of Congress now, and I walk them through the logic trail I just have, and I did it in private sessions before I started rolling out that discussion in public. I’ve only been really talking about it in public over the summer. But once you explain that, people realize oh my gosh, that’s true.
But what I point out to members of Congress is, I am as much to blame as anybody else. Why am I as much to blame as anybody else? Because I guarantee you, every time that [Vice] Admiral [Jim] Syring [former commander of Missile Defense Agency], now [Lt.] General [Sam] Greaves [commander of Missile Defense Agency], would conduct a missile defense test, I’m calling them up. Did it work? Did it work? Did it work? You know, you’ve got a four-star calling them up saying that, and every other four-star that’s involved. I imagine General [Lori] Robinson [commander of U.S. Northern Command] is waiting with baited breath. You’ve got the entire world watching you. You have North Korea watching. And so you put huge -- so we are as much of a problem as anybody else. We in uniform.
We have to change that structure.
All of the sudden I realized that I was a big part of the problem because when I was young, I remember being in the test community and failing and how disappointing it was until we looked at the data. And then holy cow, we learned exactly why it failed and we knew exactly what to do to fix it. And we fixed it in a hurry. And I realize, man, it’s the same person that’s now calling Jim Syring going, did it work, did it work, did it work? I should be calling him to say, did you have a good test? A good test means I have test objectives. Did I achieve the objectives? Did I learn what I needed to do from the test?
Success is about the success of the test, not the success of the mission.
So we all have to talk about it differently. Industry has to talk about it differently. The military has to talk about it differently. And then the public will understand differently, and then the Congress will, I believe, start embracing that. But it will be a slow process because it’s not embedded in our culture right now.
Moderator: Someone said that necessity is the mother of invention. So if speed can be achieved during a war, why can’t it be achieved every day?
General Hyten: One of, that’s actually one of my favorite questions. The interesting thing is the American citizen, because people forget that people that wear the uniforms are American citizens sometimes. We have the same dreams about America as everybody else in this country.
One of the things I love about this country is that we have a short memory, and we don’t remember bad things. And we have a country where people wake up in the morning and they just want to go to work and take care of their families and live a good life, and that’s it. They don’t want to think about the North Korean nuclear program. They don’t want to think about the North Korean ICBM. They don’t want to think about the Russian incursion into Ukraine. They don’t want to think about those kinds of pieces. They want to, and guess what? Deep down inside of me I wish I didn’t have to worry about that stuff either. I wish I could just hang out with Laura and the kids and wish I could go play golf every once in a while, and I wish I could come back and see my mom and dad, because I don’t do that nearly enough. And they’re not doing too well. But that’s not the way the world really is.
So we have got to understand that the world is a dangerous place. And we have to balance those two desires of America. One is to live a happy life, a life in the pursuit of happiness. Somebody, somewhere wrote that down. And it’s exactly right. That’s what we want, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But we also have to defend this nation, and we have to defend it against all threats. And we have real threats right now. And we had real threats in the 1950s and that’s why we went fast. And all you have to do is read the newspapers. Kim Jong Un has gone really fast. The North Korea threat is real. The Chinese threat in space is real. The Russian threats in the nuclear business, the space business, cyber, are real. It’s not just PowerPoint charts or somebody, you know, worrying about this theoretical threat. They are real threats, they threaten this country, and because of that, we have to go fast.
So we have to balance those two. We don’t want to use scare tactics on the American people. But nonetheless, we have to be able to respond. And we have to tell that story in a balanced way. If we do, I think this country will go fast, because we always have.
Moderator: This question is from Joe Wysocki.
Have you expressed your views on going fast in congressional testimony? I believe you have. And what has been the reaction or feedback that you received from congressionals?
General Hyten: I have. Not in the early phases. But the way I did it, here’s a question I got from the Senate. It’s a standard question that all four-stars get. It’s what keeps you up at night? And so the first part of that answer is nothing keeps me up at night because I sleep like a rock, because I’ve got 184,000 of the best people in the world that are working for me.
But the thing I worry about most, and everybody expects me now to say Russia or North Korea or China. That’s what they expect me to say.
What I said in testimony was, the thing that scares me the most is, I think we’ve lost the ability to go fast. And then I explain it just the way I did. Because without that ability, we will not stay ahead of our adversaries.
And you can just do some simple -- so if it takes us 25 years to build and field a new satellite capability, and our adversaries are doing it in 10 [years], then 50 years from now we’ve gone through two cycles and they’ve gone through five, and pretty soon, we’re behind. It doesn’t take long to figure that out. That cannot be.
If they’re going in 10, we have to go in eight. If they’re going in eight, we have to go in six. It is a competition. And the one thing I’ve learned about my country is we love competition, so we have to make sure we understand that this is a competition and our challenge is to go fast. And nobody argued with that when I said it.
So I think inherently people understand it, but we have a culture and a process and a structure that has been created for good reasons over the years that just get in the way of that need.
Moderator: This is from James Drew, Aviation Week.
Does the USSTRATCOM need more non-nuclear options for conventional strategic deterrence?
General Hyten: The answer is yes. The quick answer to the question is that when the President of the United States has a problem, and he looks to his combatant commanders, the nine of us, with the Joint Chiefs, we want to be able to give him multiple options.
What I don’t want to be at ever is where the only option I can give the President of the United States is a nuclear option. Because that’s not a place that I want to be.
I want a variety of options. So if you look at the Syria strike recently, or the Libya strike in February. Those, a lot of people don’t realize that the cruise missile attacks were planned by the Cruise Missile Support Agency in the Atlantic, which is a STRATCOM organization. We plan cruise missile attacks. It’s a conventional cruise missile.
The B-2s that came out of Whiteman and attacked the targets in Libya, two B-2s, carrying 160 weapons, attacked 84 separate targets and then loitered a while after. Those are very effective.
So I would like to have more sea-based capabilities. I’d like to have longer-range standoff weapons that can provide those kinds of attacks. Because when the President calls, I want to have a variety of options, and I never want to be in a place where the only option I can give him is nuclear.
Moderator: This question is from Roger Morin.
Regarding accepting risk, are you aggressively pursuing or pushing exercise venues that force commanders at all levels to take hits that put their critical capability in question?
General Hyten: We did that just this last February. It was a very interesting learning process. Not just inside my command but across the entire joint force because the exercise involved forces all around the world in a very complicated scenario. And early on in that scenario the way the exercise was structured is that we took enormous losses which caused us to question a lot of the assumptions that we had about our conventional forces. And then that makes you look at the entire strategic enterprise and say how are we going to respond to a threat?
The other thing that’s interesting is when you look at that, you have to look at a variety of responses to a challenge. And what I mean by that is, the problem is an adversary. The problem is not the thing that the adversary has. The problem is the adversary is trying to do something to you so if you want to defeat them, you have to defeat the adversary. And that’s where exercises and wargames can be hugely helpful. Because we have got into the assumption over the last 15 years where we’ve been operating in an uncontested air environment, an uncontested space environment. We’ve gotten to the place where we assume that that benign environment will always be there and that puts us in really bad habits.
So an exercise you push to take that away and all of the sudden causes you to question what you’ve been doing, which is a good thing. But then, you can’t fall into the trap of saying, okay, there’s a space problem, so I’ll ask the space guy to go fix the space problem. It’s a problem with an adversary. And I may not want to recommend a response to a space problem in space. I may want to recommend it in cyber, or in the conventional domain or one of the terrestrial domains. I may go a different direction. That may be my recommendation. But it has to be from an adversary perspective, not a domain perspective.
Moderator: You mentioned that North Korea, specifically, is willing to test and fail and learn. How about China or Russia and Iran? And on a side note, do China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have the FAR [Federal Acquisition Regulation], DoD 5000, and JCIDS [Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System]?
General Hyten: The answer to that second question is no. They are going fast. They are testing in a very similar way.
Russia, from my perspective, you know, they’ve had the same capabilities we had for a long time. And if you have capabilities for a long time, you tend to become bureaucratic. So there’s elements of a bureaucracy in any big country and I see that across the board. But nonetheless, they’re testing and failing quickly.
But the interesting thing is that three, four jobs ago now, I was the head of Space Acquisition for the Air Force. And it’s one of those things where I left the acquisition community in 1990, never looking back. I went into operations, because that’s where I wanted to spend my career. And naturally, the first thing they do when you make two stars, they put you back in charge of acquisition. That’s kind of the Air Force assignment process. That’s the Army assignment process. As a two-star general. Now the first thing I did, and this is my geek piece coming out. But the first thing I did was I picked up the FAR and I picked up the DoD 5000 and I read them. The whole thing. And the interesting thing I found out is that in the FAR and in DoD 5000 is the authority to do anything you want to do. It’s all written right there.
In JCIDS, it’s actually meant to be streamlined if you actually read what it is.
The implementation of those processes are what’s killing us. Not the actual documents themselves. The documents themselves have been changed over the years because every time something bad happens we add something to document it. But in it, if you find it, you can find something to waive, that will allow you to go as fast as you want to go, if the leadership will allow you to do it. So it’s actually not a problem with the documentation. It’s a problem with ourselves. Because we created all that bureaucracy. We created the entire JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] process. We created the entire acquisition process.
The folks that actually wrote what they wanted it to be, they wrote it back in the Packard Commission and all those days, to go fast. And we just implemented a bureaucracy that wrapped around and made it difficult to go fast.
Moderator: This is from Lt. Col. Carson, German liaison.
Sir, how can you speed up and more effectively integrate allies and partners, considering the extremely slow FDO [foreign disclosure] process?
General Hyten: Here’s the amazing piece of that to me. At the highest classification we have in this country, and I won’t tell you what it is, but just the highest classification, I can work effectively with allies without any problem. But you try to work at the Secret level, it just about kills you. So figure that out. But it’s true. And every one of you that just laughed knows it’s true.
So what we have to do is we have to get past that piece of the puzzle. When I walked into the CAOC [Combined Air Operations Center] in early 2006, the first time, I was a colonel before I ever went into any kind of real combat wartime environment. And I walk into the CAOC. My boss was there, Commodore Swan from the UK. I worked all these special classified things. He would walk into the vault, scare the hell out of me. But somehow we worked a way to clear him to what he needed to do. We worked ways around those kind of issues.
We actually are some of our biggest impediments ourselves. We have to change how we look at that.
So one thing I did right before I left Air Force Space Command, that General Raymond’s having to deal with what I left him, because I left him goodness and a mess all at once. The goodness I left him was I went through all the classification guides in Space Command and I removed all the NOFORN [not releasable to foreign nationals] stuff that had just been created there over the years just because we like to stamp things NOFORN. And there was only like two or three things that had to be left that were NOFORN. Everything else was Secret, releasable to our allies, the allies that are cleared. Not everybody, obviously, but allies that are cleared.
So I re-did the security classification guide. That’s the good news.
The challenge now is that the entire system and everything that’s on the classified SIPRNET [SECRET internet protocol router network] has got everything stamped NOFORN because they date all the way back to the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s because that’s the legacy we have. So we have to somehow clean out that old stuff and apply the new classification pieces to it and make sure we can work it. That’s actually a very difficult thing to do. Because you do have secrets, every nation has secrets. The Germans have secrets. We have a good relationship with the French, the Germans, the Brits, the Australians, the Canadians. Good relationships all the way through. But everybody’s got things that they want to protect, so we’ve got to be careful of that. But nonetheless, we can change ourselves. And when we get to the coalition in space operations in particular, what you’ll find out is that we’ll be able to take allied capabilities and integrate them into our own operations effectively. That’s when we’ll get to a coalition space operations center.
And the example I give is Singapore. Why do I use Singapore as an example? Because when I walked into the CAOC in 2006, the first foreign officers I came onto were the officers from the Singapore Air Force. And the Singapore Air Force, not the largest partnership in the coalition, but they brought two C-130s into the fight, and our CAOC could integrate the two C-130s seamlessly. We could bring Singapore in and integrate their operations into it and take full advantage of those two C-130s.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you take that across all our allies and all our capabilities and you effectively integrate them, then it works fine.
That’s what we don’t have in the Joint Space Operation Center today. We don’t have the ability to seamlessly take those capabilities and integrate them together like we do in the air operation center. We have to change that.
Moderator: That’s the last question we had time for. Thank you, sir.
General Hyten: Thank you.