General John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Good afternoon, everybody. I was wondering if anybody was going to show up. I see [U.S. Air Force Maj.] Gen. [Anthony] Cotton, [U.S. Air Force Maj.] Gen. [Thomas] Bussiere, that’s good. A bunch of missileers and aviators over there. Well done.
I used to think the worst slot in the AFA [Air Force Association] Symposium had to be the slot after the Chief of Staff [of the Air Force]. And twice I’ve been in that slot. But now I get this slot. But the good news was, I had my buddies coming with me. [U.S. Air Force] Gen. [Darren] McDew, [U.S. Air Force] Gen. [Lori] Robinson, [U.S. Air Force Lt.] Gen. [Charles] Brown. They’re all going to be here, going to be a good time. We can stand up here and talk about what’s going on in the world, wouldn’t have a lot of prep. And then like two days ago. Gen. Robinson, I’m not going to make it. Gen. Brown, I’m not going to make it. General -- you’re on your own, man. Have a good time. Talk for an hour, everybody will love it.
It is great to be here.
I tell you one thing, I never for the life of me thought I would grow up to be the commander of Strategic Command. It’s impossible. It’s absolutely impossible. It can’t happen. A blind kid from Alabama that doesn’t fly an airplane can’t grow up to be a commander of U.S. Strategic Command. It’s just not possible. But I did.
So the greatest thing I get to do every day is I get to work, I get to command an organization, that is 184,000 of the finest Americans that you can ever come across. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines. And the best days, believe it or not, are not days like today when I get to come and stand up in front of a bunch of people and talk. The best days by far is when I get to go to F.E. Warren [Air Force Base, Wyoming] and see Gen. Cotton and I get to go out in the missile fields. Or I get to go to Barksdale [Air Force Base, Louisiana] and see the men and women at Barksdale and look at 8th [Air Force] and 20th [Air Force] together under Global Strike Command and understand what they’re doing. That’s the best part of the job.
The best part of the job is getting underway under the Atlantic in the USS Tennessee [SSBN 734], or being in a nuclear submarine in France and England, in the Pacific. Doing a change of command on the top of the USS Jacksonville [SSN 699]. Airmen just don’t get to do that, but I got to. So I feel very lucky to be where I am. But oh my gosh, we live in a crazy world, as [U.S. Air Force] Gen. [Robin] Rand said yesterday.
So let me talk about U.S. Strategic Command from an airman’s perspective first, and then we’ll walk into the joint world. Because we are among airmen, so it’s great to be home.
Let’s talk about U.S. Strategic Command. Let’s talk about it from a history perspective. So [in] 1946, not U.S. Strategic Command, but Strategic Air Command. SAC was born in 1946. And who was the first commander of Strategic Air Command? Not that guy. The first commander was [U.S. Air Force Gen.] George Kenney. Another hero of World War II. Hero of the Pacific. But the command was not in Nebraska at that time.
It was [U.S. Air Force Gen.] Curtis LeMay who brought the command to Omaha, Nebraska, 1948. And he was the commander from 1948 to 1957. And that is a capture of the painting that’s on the wall outside my office. I want you to look real close at that. You can’t see it really, but if you could move around in the back, because I walk by it every day. One of the things that is really interesting about that picture is the artist who painted that pictured figured out how to paint it so that his eyes follow you wherever you go. So every morning as I walk in the morning he’s looking left, looking at me, saying what the hell are you going to do today? And as I walk across, I look back, and he’s looking back at me. Come out in the evening, he’s looking right and he says how did you do today? That’s the legacy of Strategic Command.
The legacy of Strategic Command is Strategic Air Command. It is SAC. That is our legacy. But that is not who we are.
If you want to find SAC in the United States Air Force you need to go to Barksdale. That’s where SAC is. SAC is Global Strike Command.
I sat next to Gen. Rand on the MAJCOM [major command] panel at the last phase of the AFA Symposium I think two years ago now, and he was asked what it felt like to come back to be the commander of Global Strike Command, he picked up the microphone and he said three words. “SAC” is back. And he dropped the mic. But it was exactly right. That’s what that command is. But it’s not our command.
But the first change that happened in Strategic Air Command was 1961. 1961 was important because it was Curtis LeMay who looked out across the nuclear force and he realized we need to be joint when it comes to employing the nuclear capability of the United States and we need to be joint and we need to integrate the naval capabilities that you find in our nuclear submarines into that force. And so I went back and read the vision for a lot of, his vision for a lot of reasons. The history was dug out, and Curtis LeMay’s vision was a unified command for our nuclear capabilities in 1961. That’s what he wanted to do. He wanted to have a joint command exercising our nuclear capabilities.
But the navy didn’t want to go that way. And because of that we created a band-aid called the Joint, JSTPS. The Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff. A staff to integrate, and that’s where the single integrated operation plan, the SIOP, came from. That’s our history. And that lasted that way for 30 years. Then in 1992 the vision of LeMay was actually achieved with the creation of U.S. Strategic Command where all the joint forces came together to execute the nuclear mission.
But then, ten years later, when U.S. Space Command was stood down, space came into STRATCOM. Then cyber came into STRATCOM, and missile defense, and ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance], electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, all came in to U.S. Strategic Command. And we created a series of subordinate commanders in order to manage those pieces.
So today you see still a very powerful command. It is the most powerful command in the world. A lot of my peers joke when I say that. But there’s no other nation in the world that integrates everything in one command like we do. All the strategic nuclear capabilities, the space capabilities, currently the cyber capabilities, missile defense, all in one command. There’s only one command that does that. That’s our command.
So it’s a pretty amazing history.
But the one thing I brought back, which is unbelievably important to me and it should be important to every airman in this audience, is the motto at the top. The motto at the top is the one thing that is consistent since the beginning of Strategic Air Command. Peace is our Profession. That defines who we are. That applies to every mission of U.S. Strategic Command.
But if you notice, there’s three dots at the end of Peace is our Profession. And the three dots are there for a reason. And it is because legend has it, and I’ve heard it often enough from enough people that I believe it to be true so I’ll state it as true even though I have no proof. Is that Curtis LeMay, when the motto was brought to him, said I really like Peace is our Profession but I want a dot-dot-dot at the end, because the dot-dot-dot at the end will mean to everybody in the world that if you cross that line you need to know the United States is coming and we’re coming big. That’s what the dot-dot-dot means.
So if you look over here and you see the gentleman sitting right here in this room, the Commander of 8th Air Force, [Maj. Gen.] Tom Bussiere; the commander of 20th Air Force, [Maj. Gen.] Tony Cotton. They’re the dot-dot-dot. They’re ready every day.
I’m a big believer in mission-type orders. I don’t like commanders who think they can execute the detailed mission of their component commands. So I published a commander’s intent, and I expect every member of the 184,000 people in our command to have read that commander’s intent and understand it. It’s unclassified. You can pull it off the web. Anybody can read it. And in that document, right up front, you’ll find the mission and vision of U.S. Strategic Command. So I ask you to read them right there. And I’ll just tell you, right up front, I don’t like the mission statement. So why the heck would the commander publish in his commander’s intent a mission statement that he doesn’t like? The answer is, that’s exactly what we do, that’s why it’s our mission.
So our mission is to provide tailored nuclear, space, cyber, global strike, electronic warfare, missile defense, intelligence capabilities. That’s what the UCP [Unified Command Plan] tells us to do and we do that. But today we do every one of those in its own stovepipe. Even the nuclear and global strike in many cases are stovepiped off of each other. The conventional global strike is separate from the nuclear. Space is separate from everything. Cyber is separate from everything, missile defense is separate from everything. And we are U.S. Strategic Command and we deliver the strategic capabilities of the nation. You’ve heard [U.S. Air Force] Gen. [Larry] Spencer describe my responsibilities, but nonetheless, we do it in seven stovepipes.
So the vision of my command is one team, one warfighting team. Innovative, joint, providing the integrated multi-domain combat capabilities that we need in this nation. And we have all those missions in right now. And cyber’s about to leave, but we still have all those strategic missions, and we’ll be successful as a command when you can integrate them together and the effects that we provide will be at the time and place that is right, and be able to seamlessly integrate all those capabilities together. That’s what we’re moving towards.
That’s our vision.
So look at the threats we deal with. So the threats we deal with are on that chart. It’s the 4+1 that every person in here is familiar with. So let’s think about what our adversaries are doing and how it impacts U.S. Strategic Command.
Russia. Last year Russia, in the fall did the largest strategic force deployment and exercise they have done since the Cold War ended. The largest by far. Significant percentages. Significant percentage of their long-range aviation; significant percentage of their mobile rocket forces; significant percentage of their submarine-launched forces. All integrated together and providing capability.
At the same time, they did a civil defense exercise involving 40 million Russian citizens. Forty million Russian citizens. You can’t hide a civil defense exercise with 40 million Russian citizens.
So when’s the last time in the United States we even remember that annoying emergency thing come across your television or radio? You don’t even see that anymore. But the adversary, and they announced it as a response to a strategic attack from the west, exercised 40 million citizens. Which means every Russian citizen basically was involved in that exercise. That’s how one of our adversaries is thinking about our business.
China. All you have to do is read what China’s been writing for 20 years and you understand what they’re doing. China said 20 years ago that in order to counter the United States of America, we’re going to have to figure out how to integrate our strategic capabilities. So when China does a strategic exercise they integrate nukes, space, cyber and conventional to achieve an overall strategic effect. Both from a deterrent and a response aspect. They look at it all together, and they’ve written that way for 20 years. They’ve told us exactly what they’re going to do. They’re putting all those pieces together.
They just stood up a brand new command in the PLA [People’s Liberation Army]. The command is called the Strategic Support Force. In the Strategic Support Force, it is space, counter-space, electronic warfare, cyberspace. Under all one command in order to achieve the strategic effect they need to do for a support the strategic deterrent element.
Why are Russia and China thinking that way? It’s simple. Because they’ve been watching us. They’ve been watching us since the first Gulf War. They’ve watched us create the most dominant conventional force in the history of the planet, and they looked at it and said how did they do that? Can we counter that threat directly? The answer was we can’t counter it directly, but we can counter it strategically. We can counter it in nukes, space, cyber, electronic warfare. That’s where we can counter the advantage the United States has built. So they’re going down that path. And they haven’t hidden it. They’ve said it out loud. They’ve said it in speeches. Vladimir Putin said in 2006 we’re going to modernize 70 percent of our nuclear force by the end of the decade. And whether they get there or not, you can ask [U.S. Air Force Lt.] Gen. [VeraLinn] Jamieson whether they get there or not, but at the end of the decade they’re going to be a long way there, and we’re going to still be sitting at zero percent because we won’t have started our modernization programs.
North Korea. I’m sure everyone on this stage has talked about North Korea this week. The thing about North Korea is they’re moving fast. And two years ago I kept getting questions about the fool in North Korea that was just blowing up missiles. And it scared the heck out of me when I started getting those questions. The reason is, because when I started in the space program which was yes, a very long time ago, we were blowing up missiles too. Gen. [Bernard] Schriever, who we’ll talk about at the end of the speech, when he first started down the Corona program building the first overhead spy satellite, blew up or failed 13 times in a row before he succeeded. Imagine doing that today. But North Korea’s going fast.
Iran. The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is holding right now on the nuclear side, they’re building ballistic missiles all over the place. Short range, medium range, long range, space range. All kinds of things are going that way, and we have this violent extremism threat that is there, it’s going to be there, it’s something that we have to be concerned about all the way through, and everything we do in Strategic Command has to be there to support all those threats. That’s the environment we’re in.
November 3rd last year, I showed up at Offutt [Air Force Base, Nebraska]. A day that you never think is going to come. A combatant commander in the United States military. My family’s there, everybody’s there. Friends from every assignment I’ve had. The chairman, the Secretary of Defense. Ten o’clock in the morning the change happens, 11 o’clock, it’s over. Noon, I walk into the Dougherty Conference Center at Offutt to meet with all my commanders. I look around the giant table and the giant table has every commander that worked for me down to a couple of colonels, navy captains. They’re at the end of the table because they work directly for me. Then I look at the agenda, and every one of those commanders around the table has a speaking role with the exception of the four star Navy Adm. Phil Davidson, to my left; and the two Air Force four stars, Gen. Robin Rand and Gen. Jay Raymond to my right, who don’t have speaking roles because they’re not operational components of STRATCOM. All the other commanders around the table are the operational components.
And the other thing that struck me was, holy cow, all those components actually work for these four stars. Why can’t I just turn to the four star and say what the heck’s going on? How come I don’t have a warfighting structure? Because STRATCOM, even though we’re listed as a functional combatant command in the Unified Command Plan, STRATCOM is the ultimate warfighting command. It is our nation’s ultimate power, and it is a warfighting command from beginning to end. So how come we aren’t organized as a warfighting command? How come we have functional components all the way through? How come we have standing nuclear task forces across the board that work directly for me? Because if you have an organization like this, guess where the only integration happens in that command? In my office. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not smart enough to command an organization like that. I just can’t do it.
And I want an organization that is organized for warfighting.
So on June 16th we pulled the trigger and here’s the new organization of STRATCOM. Has anybody seen an organization like that before? It’s really not that difficult.
On the 30th of September we’ll achieve IOC [initial operational capability] of the new air component. The air component is going to be Gen. Robin Rand, the commander of Global Strike Command. He’ll have an AOC [Air and Space Operations Center] that works for him, and he’ll have direct coordinating authority with the tanker and airlift business, the 618th AOC. Just like we do in every other warfighting theater. And when I need an air solution or a missile solution to a problem, I will look to one commander to give me that one solution. That means I want an integrated bomber, tanker solution. I want an integrated ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] solution. I want an integrated solution from the air component. That’s the way it’s going to work.
We’re going to have a four-star maritime component. We’ll take our time working through that because the task forces we have right now work just fine, but the Navy agrees it would like to have a single maritime component under STRATCOM.
We’re going to have a space component, because space is big in this. The space component is not going to be subordinate, it’s going to be the four-star space commander and that is Gen. Jay Raymond. We’ll put the joint forces under him.
And then we have missile defense. One of the interesting things about Strategic Command, And I use the word interesting because it can be defined any way you want it to be defined, is that I have some very unique responsibilities when it comes to missile defense. I, I, the commander of STRATCOM, am the coordinating authority from all the combatant commands for missile defense. That’s why I have a joint functional component for integrated missile defense.
I’m also the approval for operational tests and the certification authority for any missile defense system that is delivered. A combatant command certifies systems before they can deploy. I think that’s a service responsibility. But somehow it’s assigned to STRATCOM. So in the BMDR [Ballistic Missile Defense Review] we’re going to address this issue, but until then I will have a missile defense component because I have to be able to execute those responsibilities. But basically, look at that, and if you lay the service component on top of that, son of a gun, they’re the same people. What do you know? Just like we have almost everywhere that airmen operate. Just like we have almost everywhere that sailors operate. Just like we have everywhere that soldiers operate. That is the way we organize for warfighting, and if you’re in a warfighting command, that’s how you should be organized and that’s the way we’re going to go.
I have three priorities in my commander’s intent. Those three priorities are quite simple. So I’ll run them very quick.
Priority number one. Above all else, we will provide strategic deterrence.
Priority number two. If deterrence fails, we will deliver a decisive response and we’ll do that in a way that means everything that those words say.
And priority three is, we’ll do it with a combat-ready force, resilient, equipped, trained and ready. A combat-ready force.
The interesting thing about STRATCOM, every time I say that, everybody in this room, probably 90 percent of you, as soon as I said strategic deterrence, decisive response, combat-ready force, you went to a nuclear mission in your mind. And that’s where you should start, but that’s not where you finish.
Those three priorities apply to every mission in U.S. Strategic Command.
So if war extends into space, and oh by the way, there is no such thing as war in space. There’s just war. But if it extends into space, then we need to be able to ideally deter that from happening. If that doesn’t work, we’ll provide a decisive response, and that decisive response may or may not be in space, but it will be decisive and we’ll do it with a combat ready force of combat ready airmen that are trained to operate in the dynamic environment that space has become.
It applies to cyber, it applies to missile defense, it applies to electronic warfare. It applies to every mission in U.S. Strategic Command. But somehow we only think about strategic deterrence from the nuclear perspective, so we have a problem there. And the airmen in this room need to start thinking about that problem.
The problem is that strategic deterrence in the 21st century does not equate to 20th century deterrence. The fact that we have 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons under the New START Treaty, and the fact that the Russians have 1,550 weapons under the New START Treaty, does not provide the total strategic deterrence of our nation.
Strategic deterrence in the 21st century involves any strategic attack on the United States, and that strategic attack now can come through space. Come through cyberspace. And if you think that’s not true, imagine a world where through cyberspace we lose our entire electrical grid. Through space, we lose all of GPS that is for the world. If we lose GPS, we lose the ability to get gas out of gas stations. We lose the ability to get money out of the ATM [automated teller machine]. We lose the ability to go to the bank. We lose the ability for stoplights to work. You’d have pure chaos in the world. We have to defend against those attacks. That is a strategic attack with a strategic effect. We have to figure out how to do that.
But if war extends into space, the response may not be space. But it needs to be strategic, and we have to figure out what that really means.
This is a multi-polar world we live in, not a bipolar world like it was in the Cold War. When it’s a bipolar world all you have to worry about is your actions, what do the Soviets think about your actions? When you’re in a multi-polar world, everybody watches you everywhere. Any action we take in the northwest Pacific today impacts multiple nations. Anything we do in Europe impacts multiple nations. Everything we do in CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] is watched by the entire world. It is a multi-polar, multi-domain problem and strategic deterrence is fundamentally different than it was last century. And we have to figure out how to talk about that. We have to figure out what that means, because our job is to be able to provide the Secretary of Defense and the president of the United States strategic options to deal with in our most difficult times. And those strategic options need to cross the spectrum of what we can do as a nation.
So a lot of people ask me, what worries you the most? What keeps you up at night? That seems to be a favorite question for the commander of Strategic Command. Because I think everybody expects me to go right to talking about Kim Jung Un and North Korea. Or maybe I go and talk about Russia. What I talk about is that I’m very concerned that our nation has lost the ability to go fast. And that we have adversaries now, and we see proof in those adversaries that they’re going faster than we are. Faster than we are on nuclear modernization. Faster than we are in building hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic deployed weapons that are very difficult to counter. Faster than us in space. Faster than us in building counter-space capabilities to deny space. Faster than us in cyber.
So I ask myself, how is that possible? Because one of the greatest strengths of our country, one of the greatest strengths of our Air Force, one of the greatest strengths about the entire joint force we operate in is we’ve always been able to leverage the industrial base and go faster than anybody else in the world. And now we’re not, we are not. Other people are going faster than us.
So I went back and I looked at the beginning of the navy nuclear program. I looked at [U.S. Navy Adm.] Rickover. Then I went back and I looked at Schriever who is one of my heroes. And the interesting thing about Schriever is that, you know, I think everybody in here knows Gen. Schriever, but my guess is very few people in this audience know Gen. [Sam] Phillips. If you want to know who was the key to Minuteman I, all you need to do is ask Gen. Schriever and he would tell you it was Sam Phillips. Because the Minuteman I program was structured by a small number of airmen in a little red schoolhouse in Los Angeles in 1957. Initiated by Congress in 1958 with $214 million in appropriations. And then $2 billion of appropriations for the next five years. And when we got to 1964 we had invented the three-stage solid rocket ICBM with a very similar capability that we have today in the Minuteman III. We deployed it at five Air Force bases across the country in 800 brand new missile holes with brand new infrastructure with brand new nuclear command and control across the board. Brand new copper cable, that went all the way across the Midwest in order to hook everything together. Nuclear hardened, EMP [electromagnetic pulse] certified, all those capabilities, five years, total cost in today’s dollars, $17 billion.
Today our program, the GBSD [ground-based strategic deterrence] program, IOC 2029, FOC [final operational capability] 2035. Four hundred three-stage solid rocket ICBMs. Refurbishment of missile holes. The nuclear command and control is a separate budget. Total cost estimate right now, $84 billion. Slow, expensive. That’s the way it is.
So I’ve said that now for a few times this summer, trying to get people’s attention. And it’s been reported in the newspaper that I have trashed the acquisition community, or I have criticized the test community, or I’m criticizing Congress and the budget process. Only one has ever reported, what I’m actually doing is criticizing the entire process. And it starts with the budget. If you want to know why Gen. Schriever was successful, Gen. Schriever was successful because, number one, he had simple requirements. Everybody understood what they were. On the first of the year every year he got his full budget. If he needed more money he went back and he got more money. He was able to structure the program accordingly.
He also had Sam Phillips, who was the program manager for Minuteman I. Sam Phillips understood what it took to go fast. He understood what it took to take a risk. He understood how to take a smart risk. He understood that failure was part of the process. We needed to fail every once in a while in order to move forward. He understood that integrating three stages together and firing it off for the first time is not any riskier than doing it one at a time, as long as you understand that each one of those things work.
Why is that important in our nation’s history? If somebody knows Sam Phillips in this audience, you don’t know him from the Minuteman I. Why is Sam Phillips most famous in my opinion? Sam Phillips in 1964 was pulled, kicking and screaming from Gen. Schriever to go manage the Apollo program for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration]. He’s the one that convinced Wernher von Braun that it was okay to stack three stages together and launch. Because he’d seen it in the Minuteman I, and yes, it’s risky, but it’s no more risky than taking one at a time and then putting them together and finding an error. And he said, oh, by the way, that’s the only way we’ll get to the moon by the end of the decade. And he was given the authority and responsibility to execute that program, as a one-star Air Force general assigned to NASA. He was given that as a colonel and a one-star for Gen. Schriever to execute the Minuteman I program. We gave authority and responsibility, we put him in the right place and said go, and go fast.
The test program was structured so that we would understand the tests, but we understood what a developmental test was and an operational test was, and we didn’t just duplicate it because we could duplicate it. We did it one time and we deployed the capability.
I look at our industry today. People think I am insulting industry when I talk about them. I’ve worked with industry. Industry has the ability to go as fast as we want them to go. As fast as we tell them to go. If we get them good contracts, good incentives, they will go fast. If we don’t, they won’t. It’s really that simple.
You go back to our history. The history of airmen in the United States Air Force. You go back to Maj. Gen. Schriever on the cover of Time Magazine in 1957. You go back to Brig. Gen. Sam Phillips that became, both of them became four-star generals before they retired. Both of them in the same job, the commander of Systems Command, Materiel Command is where they both finished their career.
That’s our legacy as airmen. This is our legacy as a joint force. This is our legacy as a nation. We have the ability of we want to go fast. All we have to do is put the right people in the right place, put them in charge, give them the authority and responsibility, have a budget for gosh sakes on the first of the year, and then figure out how to execute and go fast. And I tell you, when you have threats like I’ve talked about earlier, that are going faster than you are, it’s not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s because it’s for the security of this nation. We have to go faster. And we’re not. And it is frustrating the heck out of me. And I ask everybody in this room to make sure that as you go forward, wherever you work -- in industry, in the Air Force, in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, wherever you happen to work. One of our things that we all have to do is talk about going faster than our adversaries and look at the threat. And if we’re not going faster than the threat, then it’s wrong. I don’t care what it is. It’s wrong if it’s not faster than the threat.
So I’ve said enough there.
Holy cow. U.S. Strategic Command. A global warfighting command. The most powerful command in our nation. We do amazing things every day, and we focus so that we are ready to respond to any threat that requires our capabilities. That’s who we are.
I’m looking forward to taking your questions. Thank you very much.
Moderator: Thank you, Gen. Hyten. That was great. I certainly learned a lot.
There were several questions, as you can imagine. Many of them thematic. So let me take off with one of the charts in the brief. There were several questions about it, and let me summarize it this way. We’ve been told all week that the air force is too small for its mission. We talked a lot about the lack of resources, the age of our aircraft, the lack of pilots, the lack of maintenance folks. We don’t have a budget. We’re looking at another CR [continuing resolution]. And the basic question is, given all those things that the Air Force is wrestling with, how can we go fast?
Gen. Hyten: I don’t want to answer a question with a question but I’ll start that way. The corollary is, how can we not go fast?
When we were, and we are still the most dominant military on the planet. We are. And I think we’ve become spoiled by that. And we’ve become spoiled about space-operating in a benign environment. Spoiled about not really encountering an air threat for really a long, long time. We have airmen that have really never experienced an air threat in combat. We have all those capabilities, but we have adversaries that are looking at it different.
So we went through a period where we went through what was called capability-based development. And capability-based development says kind of define what you want that can deal with any threat that’s out there and we’ll just kind of build that capability. We’ll take our time and we’ll get to that capability. People forget what came before capability-based development. It was threat-based development. Everything was about the threat. Everything was about responding to the threat. So I’ll tell you, Gen. Spencer, if we don’t change our attitude and we just talk about capabilities and we don’t talk about what we need to respond to the threat, nothing will change. Nothing will change.
But if people take the threat seriously, and oh, by the way, why is China building weapons in space? Because they think it’s a cool thing to do? Or they love to expend their gross national product on those kinds of weapons? No, they’re doing it to challenge the United States. That means we have to respond. Why are they building hypersonic glide vehicles? Why are they testing ahead of where we are? Because they think it’s just a cool thing to do and it’s fun? No, they’re doing it to challenge the United States, to challenge our strategic deterrent. That’s why they’re doing those things.
We have to get back to everything based on the threat, and if we don’t start talking about the threat, in public, in open, what it really means, nothing will change.
Moderator: A lot of questions, as you can imagine, on the strategic triad. Ranging from do you still believe in a strategic triad? I already know the answer to that is yes. So let me shift to some of the other questions along those lines, really dealing with recapitalization.
The basic thrust of the questions are, you know, all three legs of the triad need to be recapped. Can we afford it? And if so, or if not, can we afford not to?
Gen. Hyten: You said it. We can’t afford not to. Again, you go back to the question about do we need to modernize? Do we need a triad? It has to start from the threat. And the threat starts with Russia. And you need to be able to make sure you can deter Russia in any strategic environment, and the strategic capabilities that Russia has right now, with long-range aviation, mobilized ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Fixed based capabilities and missile defenses. When you put all those capabilities together, the triad that we have is essential to being able to deter Russia.
And you heard the Secretary of Defense this morning talked about why that’s the most important mission, so I won’t repeat what he said. But if we’re going to do that, it’s about countering the threat.
So if you want to say I don’t have to build, I don’t have to modernize everything, the only way to do that is to change the threat. Which means that’s the job of the State Department and others to figure out how to get to a different world where the threat is not the same. But as long as the threat is out there, our job as a military is to deter that threat, which means if we look at a threat-based perspective, we have to have the ground-based strategic deterrent. We have to have a bomber. Oh, by the way, we have to have cruise missiles along with that bomber. Anybody that’s here in this room, if you only have a bomber that can attack one target at a time with a gravity bomb, that is not the most effective deterrent for an adversary. You have to have that. You have to have a submarine. You have to have a submarine with modernized capability. You have to have modernized nuclear command and control, and you have to have modernized weapons. You have to have those capabilities unless the threat changes.
If the threat doesn’t change and this country doesn’t do anything about the threat, then that is what is absolutely essential and you have to have it and there’s really no way to argue around it.
Moderator: Thank you.
As a COCOM [combatant command] commander you had the opportunity to step away from the Air Force and sort of look at it from the outside looking in. Having done that, is it your opinion that the Air Force is doing a good job to prepare its officers and NCOs [non-commission officers] for joint duty?
Gen. Hyten: No. I don’t think we’re doing a good job. You’ve got to understand, I love the Air force. I really do. I’m an airman at my core. When I look at myself as a professional, that’s what I see. I see an airman. And I love the Air Force desperately, but we don’t build people, we don’t prepare people for joint duty until really the general-officer levels. The general officers the Air Force nominates to come to STRATCOM are spectacular. They’re really the top of the litter, and all the other services are the same way. But the lower you go in rank, we don’t prepare people well to go into the joint community. People don’t understand the joint community. They don’t understand joint operations. We have to teach them that when they come to our command. And we are. But when you don’t do that that puts us at a disadvantage. Us as airmen in this case, at a disadvantage with other services. Other services are focusing on doing that, from the major perspective forward. They really, strategically think about that. And I think as an Air Force it’s our responsibility to make sure we provide the joint force not just with the quality people. The quality is not the issue. It’s the training. We don’t really train people effectively for those joint duty assignments and so when they come to STRATCOM in particular, and I’ve talked to other commanders, we have to build that up. It shouldn’t be that way.
Can you discuss the threat of EMP effects on the U.S. and what are we doing to counter that threat?
Gen. Hyten: The reason I’m laughing is that during my confirmation hearing last, whenever it was, October, I guess. A year ago now. I got that question from Senator [Roger] Wicker from Mississippi. And he said, have you read the book “One Second After”. No, Senator. I haven’t. He said, well, let me tell you about the book. So he gave me a 30-second description of the book which is about an EMP pulse going off and a novel written so he gave me a 30-second description and he said, so now give me an assessment of the book.
Guess what? I went and read the book. It’s book about EMP. But I’ve looked at EMP since I was a young officer, a young engineer, so I was building systems to respond to EMP.
And the EMP pulse is a very dangerous threat and it’s a realistic threat. It’s something that would basically, if you’re not nuclear hardened, it will basically shut down any digital computer that is operating in the range of EMP. So if you set off an EMP, a high-altitude burst EMP, basically every light in this hotel’s going to go off, every computer’s going to go off, every cell phone’s going to go off, and every automobile in the parking lot will no longer work. That’s what an EMP does. Therefore, we have to be able to respond to that EMP.
So I was asked is STRATCOM ready to respond to an EMP attack? The answer is yes, because we have nuclear-hardened satellites, nuclear-hardened control shelters. We can be able to respond to that, et cetera. But our nation as a whole has not really looked at EMP. We’ve not looked at the critical infrastructure that could be damaged by EMP. And we need to kind of take a step back and look at that entire threat, because it is a realistic threat.
You can use a nuclear weapon. The most likely way of creating an EMP is with a nuclear weapon. And you don’t have to actually kill anybody directly with a nuclear weapon to create that horrible EMP pulse. So we have to think about what that means and how we respond to it, and we haven’t really stepped up.
If there’s any good news in that story it is STRATCOM will be able to respond to that kind of attack because of our capability to survive that kind of attack.
You mentioned one of your first, or your first priority was deterrence. And one of the questions was, can you discuss or describe what deterrence looks like in space and cyber.
Gen. Hyten: So there is no such thing. You know, I actually, for whatever reason it took me a long time to come to that realization.
Deterrence is about an adversary. It’s not about a place. You don’t deter space. You don’t deter cyberspace. It’s about an adversary.
So take space. If something happens, bad happens in space. There’s something really bad going on this planet somewhere. Somewhere with an adversary. There’s some significant conflict going on in this, and so the first thing I’ll do, say the conflict’s in the Pacific. And there’s something going on in space and cyber. The first thing I’m going to do is I want to talk to [U.S. Navy] Adm. [Harry] Harris who’s in the Pacific and find out what the heck is going on there.
So what we want to deter is our adversaries. We want to deter our adversaries from carrying a war into space, which means we need to use all the tools of deterrence to influence the adversary not to take the war into space.
Now the other thing to think about is deterrence is about deterring strategic attack against our country and our allies. That’s what deterrence is. People think deterrence is about eliminating weapons. No. Deterrence is about making sure weapons aren’t used against our country because we’ll either impose such a cost on the adversaries that they can’t stand it, or we’ll deny the benefit they want to do because we defend ourselves so well and we communicate that credible capability so that everybody understand what that is. And we’re going to have to do that with our space capabilities, our cyber capabilities, our conventional capabilities, our nuclear capabilities. That’s what 21st century deterrence really is. It’s all of those pieces together to deter our adversaries. Because if you just think about space and you just think about cyber, you’re not thinking about what is motivating our adversaries to go that way.
So the deterrence is about an adversary, not a place.
Moderator: In the spirit of total force, do you ever see a reservist or guardsman taking senior positions in a combatant command?
Gen. Hyten: I personally have no trouble with that. The smartest person on nuclear execution in my command is [Air National Guard] Maj. Gen. Rick Evans who’s a guardsman from Lincoln. I asked him the other day how many nuclear exercises have you done? He doesn’t know, but it’s either hundreds or thousands. He can do it. He understands the nuclear capabilities of this country backwards and forwards. He’s the most significant advisor/trainer we have in the command. He happens to be a guardsman.
I don’t know about you guys, but when I deploy I honestly don’t know who a guardsman or reservist is when I deploy. I really don’t. I’ve been shocked multiple times at one, two, three stars that I’ve worked with forever and all of a sudden they tell me no, I’m an Alabama guardsman. What? How long have you been a guardsman? Well, pretty much my whole career. Really? I didn’t know that.
One of the strengths of our service is that it is a total force. So my belief is you should pick the best person for the job and I don’t care what uniform they wear, what component they come from, where they are. It’s the best person for the job. If it’s Navy, it’s Navy. If it’s guard, it’s guard. If it’s reserve, it’s reserve. I don’t care. I just want the best person for the job and nobody I know cares what component you come from. They just care that you are competent and you can lead. That’s all they’re worried about.
So I have no problem with that at all.
Moderator: This is an interesting question. How do we balance national missile defense (ballistic missile, cruise missile) against emerging threats, against the cost and the destabilization and the stabilizing impact of a deterrence relationship with Russia and China?
Gen. Hyten: There’s two or three books written on that subject that I would recommend to you as you walk through.
The concept of missile defense is an unbelievably complicated concept. And cost is a critical piece of the piece as you come into it. But let me just talk about missile defense and the overall strategic deterrent and then I’ll walk into it. I won’t actually give you a dissertation or recite a book. I’ll just give you the key pieces.
Probably the biggest piece is three elements of deterrence. I went through them a while ago. Impose cost, which is our nuclear capability. That’s the ultimate imposition of cost on an adversary to prevent them from acting.
Number two, deny them. Guess what our missile defenses do? They deny the adversary the benefit from an attack because if North Korea launches a ballistic missile at the United States, we will shoot it down. We will. So whatever benefit they have in their calculation they think they’re going to achieve because of that, they will not achieve it because with missile defense, we’ll shoot it down.
So what is the value proposition of that capability to deny the benefit to North Korea? To me, it’s almost infinite. Whatever you have to pay to do that, you have to pay. But in the overall construct of missile defense, one of the things we have to do in the overall deterrent construct is we need to figure out how much and what kind of missile defenses do we need? As long as we’re on the interceptor train, we need the most effective interceptor we can and we need to be looking at new technologies like directed energy in particular, to figure out how to change the cost equation to put more of the advantage on the defense rather than the offense. We always need to be looking at that. We need to figure out how to integrate the other domains in with that equation so that we understand what is the best sensor suite? And right now it’s a ground-based focused sensor suite, and I believe that it should be a space-based sensor suite that enables missile defense, because in the long run it’s actually cheaper. I don’t know how many islands in the Pacific and islands in the Aleutians and in the middle of Alaska we’re going to build giant billion dollar radars that only protect one thing when you can put capabilities in space. Yes, they cost equivalent to a billion dollars, but cover the entire planet, that then enables that. So you’ve got to change the cost equation as you go through that by looking at the entire enterprise.
So it’s about the fundamentals of deterrence. A benign benefit is extremely important. That’s what missile defenses do, so it has to be part of the architecture.
When is the last time you’ve seen somebody in academia, in a think tank, write an integrated deterrence story that talks about the integration of offense, defense, space, cyber, to create the effect? I don’t know of any in the United States that have integrated those together. But I can point you to some very good Chinese authors. So we need to think about that.
Moderator: Okay, Gen. Hyten. One final question.
One of the great things about this week is as you can see, we’ve got a sea of blue uniforms, and one of the things we’re really happy about this year is a lot of those uniforms are young folks, young lieutenants and captains, young airmen and young NCOs, and almost every forum we’ve had, there have been questions about work/life balance. And you have a very busy job, a very responsible job. Some would say a stressful job. How are you able to balance that with your responsibilities to the nation with your responsibilities to your family?
Gen. Hyten: The smartest thing I ever did was marry Laura because those that know her, I just heard some applause, it’s the smartest thing I ever did. Because guess what? If I was left to my own devices, and I can tell you that’s the way I was as a young officer. And actually my first ten months in squadron command I was that way -- I was in the office when I was a first year squadron commander probably 16 hours a day at least six days a week, sometimes seven. I was in the ops center on mids, I was in the dorms in the mornings, I was everywhere because I thought that’s what I had to do and I was so excited to be a squadron commander that’s what I wanted to do. Laura was just beating on me and beating on me.
Then there were three master sergeants that worked in my squadron. And the three master sergeants saw me frustrated one day. They were the three senior NCOs in the organization. A 250 person squadron. 100 first term airmen. The commanders in here can understand the challenges that come with that kind of organization.
They came into my office and said sir, we understand your frustration. We can see it. Why are you frustrated? I said man, I feel like we’re doing good as a squadron but I can’t get through to the airmen. I’ve tried everything I can do, and we keep having these discipline problems. I can’t get through to them. I know every one of them by name. I’m in the dorms, I’m doing this, I’m doing that. They looked at me and they said, sir, why don’t you just ask us to take care of the airmen? That’s our job. Why don’t you just be our commander? If you’d just be our commander, I think we’d all be a little bit happier.
You know, those three master sergeants -- Jim Patton, Robbie Robinson, Bill Vokel. Just amazing, amazing folks. They looked out for me, and my wife watched me to make sure I wasn’t there.
So I made a commitment that day that I was only going to be a commander if I was a commander. I wasn’t going to do the NCO’s job, I wasn’t going to do the DO’s [director of operation’s] job. I was just going to do my job. And then Laura says, why don’t you come home for dinner every night? So every night for dinner, I came home. I’d leave the office at 5:30.
Now, every day at STRATCOM when I’m back at home, I actually go home roughly 6 o’clock at night, 1800. I go home. I have dinner with Laura.
Now I have a SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility] in my basement and I -- All right. So I’m cheating a little bit there. But I do go home and have dinner with my family every night. I have dinner with my wife. And you know the amazing thing about that story? Jim Patton, Robbie Robinson and Bill Vokel, those three NCOs, the last year I was in command I was getting home for dinner, I was seeing all my kids’ soccer games -- unless something happened. I was going to school plays and all those things. Yeah, I still got called in the middle of the night, and those things happen.
The second year I was in command my squadron set every operational record Air Force Space Command had ever seen. We won the Guardian Challenge competition as the best. We won the Henry Award for the best squadron in the Air Force. And I was getting home every night at a reasonable time. And my family life was a lot better. And Laura was a lot happier, which meant I was a lot happier.
I remember that to this day and to this day I fight to get out of the office. Because the other thing that happens if you don’t leave the office? All your folks don’t leave the office either. And they don’t have balance in their lives. And you know what? As busy as my job is and as crazy as this world is, if something really bad happens, guess what? I’m fully connected. They’re going to call me. And guess what that stack of stuff on my desk, I’ll be able to get to it tomorrow. And if it’s really important, somebody on the staff is going to come in there and say sir, we need this right now, and I’m going to do it.
So you can maintain balance in the most difficult jobs. And if you talk to Laura, she’ll tell you the job I have right now is the most stressful job I’ve ever had. Every time there’s a launch out of North Korea, I don’t know how it’s going to go, and every time we’re on it. Whether it’s the middle of the night or wherever. We’re all over it and understand what it is. We’re working with all the other combatant commanders.
It is a difficult challenge to have the responsibility for all the strategic nuclear weapons in the nation. It’s a significant challenge to understand that if the day the nation has its worst history, it’s going to come down to me to explain that to the President of the United States so we can figure out what to do. Through one military aide that will translate what I’m saying to you. It’s a challenge to have all those things.
But you know the best thing that keeps everything together? Is I come home and Laura’s there. And I know not everybody is married and not everybody gets to know somebody like her.
I’ll tell you one last story to tell you the power of the spouse, and then we’ll finish. I think it’s a good story to end a formal conference on.
I was working for the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a one star, and it was Gen. Jim Cartwright, former STRATCOM commander, United States Marine. And I’ll just let you know, I swear to God, he never slept. He never slept. And my standard meeting with him was 0545 on Monday morning and I wasn’t the first on the calendar. I was going like crazy all the time, and I was TDY, away from my wife. And then I got PCS [permanent change of station] orders so I actually kind of PCS’d in place. I started out as TDY [temporary duty]. Then Laura had to do the move all by herself. I went to Gen. Cartwright and said can I go back and help with the move? He says okay, you get a day and a half. So I went back for a day and a half. The mover was delayed. I actually left Laura as the moving truck pulled up. Bad moment. All those things are happening, everything’s going wrong. I come back and I’m working with Gen. Cartwright. Laura did the move all by herself. She does everything all by herself. Everything was all set up. She does that all by herself. Then about a week later all is done and she picks up the phone and she calls me and she said, so John, I understand you have a tough boss and you have a tough job and you’re doing important stuff. But here’s the deal. I’m tired. I’m going to take a vacation. I’m going to Cancun. I’m taking a date. I’d like it to be you.
So I don’t care how scary your boss is, because the next moment I had a chance I went in and told Gen. Cartwright, I’m taking leave and here’s why. And he looked at me and said that’s a good reason, have a good week in Cancun.
So thank you everybody. Thank you very much.