Media: This is Ahmad [Khan] from Pakistan. I’m a guest editor of Astropolitics.
I would like to have a question about [inaudible] and I know your position, you are the STRAT commander, mostly I know you are nuclear mission. The first question is that I’m working on space security. Do you think that in case [inaudible] nuclear war and the ongoing development between Pakistan and India about the nuclear developments, what do you think the prospects of the U.S. playing as a third party to stop heckling of a nuclear war or stop the ongoing arm race between the two countries?
General John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): The challenge with starting a question like that is the question revolves around nuclear weapons, which is a sovereign question for any nation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the United Kingdom or France or the United States or Russia or China or India or Pakistan, you’re talking about a sovereign capability for the nation, that the nation feels they need to have those capabilities in order to defend themselves.
So as we look forward into the world situation, our desire, and STRATCOM is the operational execution of our nation’s desire there, is that nuclear weapons are never used on the planet. That’s why we maintain a very strong deterrent, and at the same time, we’re part of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty that we don’t want nuclear weapons to proliferate any further than they are right now. We want to be able to control any situation.
Space plays an important part of that because a lot of the monitoring capabilities we have use different space capabilities in order to understand that. But our goal is that nuclear weapons are never used on the planet by anybody, and therefore we need a strong deterrent to do that. So I don’t deal with hypothetical questions, and the end of your question is a hypothetical question. I don’t like to deal with that. But from a broad policy perspective, that’s where our nation is.
Media: Stew Magnuson, National Defense Magazine.
I was going to ask this question in a round-about way but I’ll try to do it very directly. Have you, with your national technical means, observed Russia launching a hypersonic mission that traveled 2,000 kilometers at Mach 10?
General Hyten: We have observed Russia and China operating hypersonic missiles. I won’t give you any specifics about the means we used to watch that. I won’t give you any of the technical specifics about the capabilities of those missiles. But I can tell you that we have observed both Russia and China testing hypersonic capability.
Magnuson: Should I believe Vladimir Putin when he says he has that?
General Hyten: You should believe Vladimir Putin, that everything he said, he’s working on. Everything he said, he’s working on.
Now the operational status of a lot of those capabilities we can have a discussion in a different forum, actually, not you and I. But that’s a different issue. But everything that he said, I know that Russia’s working on. We watch them very closely. We also listen to what they say very closely. And none of what he said surprised me. I guess that’s probably the easiest way to say it. Nothing he said surprised me.
Media: Steve Hirsch Air Force Magazine.
Is it your impression that people in the government, people in Congress, have a firm idea of the strategic threat overall in space? I mean in a broader sense, not in a narrow sense. Or is this a learning process that they are going through?
General Hyten: I think five years ago there was very little understanding. Today there’s a broad understanding that continues to expand.
One of the great things that the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee did, and it showed up in the National Defense Authorization Act, and it was also in their bill coming out of the House, was they defined the problem statement of what we have to do in space exactly right. They talked about the threat exactly right. They talked about the need to respond to that threat exactly right.
In the press and in the public domain, we got into significant discussions about space as a warfighting domain or space corps or space force. But the real benefit, the real strength of that law was the identification of the problem. That will allow us now to engage with the broader members of Congress to further educate them on what the threat is. And we’ve also shared a very detailed tabletop exercise with the members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees so they can see the full implication of all the things that we’re worried about. But we’re still on the education path. But it’s far more mature than it was just five year ago.
Media: [Tom Roeder, Colorado Springs Gazette] Sir, as you look at these threats like you’re seeing from Russia and China with their development of hypersonic weapons, are you happy with the hand you’re playing in missile defense?
General Hyten: I’m happy with the hand I’m playing in missile defense because missile defense right now is focused on North Korea. Missile defense is not focused on Russia and China and hasn’t been focused on Russia and China. We’re about to have a missile defense review that comes out, I would say sometime in the next month. It’s going through the final coordination now within the Department of Defense, and we’ll talk about broader issues of missile defense in that missile defense review. But we’re aimed right today against the threat we have today in North Korea. The missile defense capabilities we have in Alaska and California, they can deal with the North Korean threat.
What I’m worried about is not today, though. I’m worried about five years from now and 10 years from now. Can we move into the direction we need to, to make sure we can deal with any threat in the future, so any future combatant commander can make the same statement I just made to you?
Media: [Liudmila Chernova, Sputnik News] My question is about Russia. In the wake of the recent activities, for example in Syria, do you believe there should be more dialogue between the United States and Russia in order to avoid miscalculations? Or do you think the deconfliction channel is enough? And what type of communications or calculations you think may be different between our two nations?
General Hyten: I think we have a deconfliction channel with the Russians and that’s in another command. That’s not my command. And I think that is working well for the situation that we find ourselves in Syria in particular. You’d have to ask [U.S. Army] Gen. [Joseph L.] Votel [commander of U.S. Central Command] or [U.S. Marine Corps] Gen. [Joseph F.] Dunford [chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] their perceptions of that, but I think that works well.
From a broader perspective, though, I will always advocate for more dialogue with our potential adversaries. I would like to have more dialogue on the strategic level with Russia and China both. I think it’s always better, when you have an adversary, if you sit down across the table and you talk about the capabilities that you have and you talk about how they work and how real they are, because I don’t believe anybody on this planet, no rational person on this planet, ever wants nuclear weapons to be exchanged. That’s the worst-case scenario. The worst day of the world. I always think it’s better when we talk. So I continue to advocate for the State Department to have dialogues, I advocate for the administration, I advocate for mil-to-mil dialogues from our nation’s military leadership, including myself.
That’s a political discussion for political leaders to decide how we want to do that, but I always believe it’s better when people talk.
Media: Colin Clark, Breaking Defense.
North Korea has been enormously complicated, challenging, often for many of you very baffling, because you don’t have great sources of information for the most part. As you look at the deterrence calculus, do you believe that the conventional and nuclear military response that North Korea faces is acting as an effective deterrent? Or are the diplomatic and sanctions side of this playing a greater role?
General Hyten: The answer is I think they all play a critical role. What we’ll never be able to do is do a math problem that says this is the bigger piece of the puzzle. But the overall pressure campaign that was diplomatic, economic, military, international, that clearly had an impact. Clearly had an impact. So the military is a piece of that.
I went to Korea and Japan last year with [U.S. Navy ] Adm. [Harry B.] Harris [commander of U.S. Pacific Command] and [U.S. Army] Gen. [Vincent K.] Brooks [commander of U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command, and Combined Forces Command] and I went there and I actually didn’t speak very much in public. I had one press conference where I answered two questions. But the fact that the commander of U.S. Strategic Command was on the Korean Peninsula sent a very important message. Those are strong messages that we have to send. And the messages are received, there’s no doubt.
So I don’t think you can deny that the overall pressure campaign had an impact and that is opening up diplomatic possibilities and as a military person, I hope those diplomatic possibilities work because I think nobody wants war less than a military commander.
Clark: I have to ask. Are you optimistic at this point? Or is it possible to be either optimistic or pessimistic?
General Hyten: As a commander, I have to be realistic. As a human being, I want to be optimistic, but in my job I have to be realistic, which means I have to be ready every minute of every day for it to go wrong the next moment in time. I hope that doesn’t happen as a citizen of the United States. I hope that the peace process works. But as the commander of Strategic Command, I keep my command ready and focused every minute.
Media: Jen DiMascio, Aviation Week
Given what you’ve seen from Russia and China on hypersonic weapons and from Vladimir Putin’s nuclear demonstrations of different nuclear weapons he’s talked about, how does that change the deterrence calculation for the U.S., and what capabilities you might need to pursue in the future to respond to that?
General Hyten: That’s an interesting question. The interesting part from my perspective as commander of Strategic Command, it doesn’t change my calculation at all. I have an unbelievably powerful triad that is poised and available to the nation’s leadership right now, and the Russians and the Chinese can’t do anything about it. They can’t attack it, they can’t destroy it, they can’t eliminate it. It’s ready, and it can be brought to bear against them, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s their traditional ICBMs, their mobile ICBMs, their bombers, their submarines, their nuclear-launched, nuclear-powered cruise missile, their nuclear torpedo. It doesn’t matter. The capabilities I have are set to respond and they will deter Russia from that strategic attack.
So it doesn’t change my calculation at all.
The existence of different numbers or different types of nuclear weapons that can be employed on the battlefield—that does change my calculation. And you’ll see in the Nuclear Posture Review that because of that calculation we’ve decided that, in addition to the low-yield nuclear weapons we have on our gravity bombs that can be delivered from aircraft, we also see the need to have a more timely, more survivable low-yield nuclear weapon response. So we’re going to build a small number of submarine-based ballistic missiles with low-yield nuclear weapons on them to make sure we can deter Russia from deploying those on the battlefield.
It’s a similar story with the sea-launched cruise missile to respond to a threat.
So the thing about the Nuclear Posture Review, it’s all focused on the threat, and the two supplemental capabilities that we’ve asked for are capabilities that we’ve had before, that we believe are needed to deter the additional capabilities in Russia in particular.
Media: You spoke during your—David Ignatius from the Washington Post—, during the panel about the need for greater speed, executing the mission, especially the space missions. If that’s the goal, why wouldn’t it make sense to consolidate commands in something like a space force or some more unified command that breaks from the legacy structure that has existed and that by your account and everybody else’s on the panel it’s been part of something that moves too slowly?
General Hyten: The interesting thing about that history, in the early days of the space business it was the Air Force that moved the fastest. It was the Air Force that led the entire way. It was Air Force leaders that were assigned from the Air Force acquisition business to the Apollo program to work for [Wernher] von Braun and to work for the Apollo program, literally dozens of Air Force program managers and an Air Force brigadier general moved across. Sam Phillips was the Air Force general’s name. That part of history is many times lost. So the Air Force knows how to do that.
So I have a little bit of bias in that I believe the Air Force can step up to that, and we have a secretary and a chief now that are embracing that same need and desire and they’re going to step up to that.
So rather than going through the difficulty of new organizational constructs, I believe that the leadership we have now can execute the missions that we need to.
Nonetheless, we have the Congress asking, the Department of Defense is interested, the president has made statements about organizations to do differently. We have a law now in the National Defense Authorization Act that requires us in two ways to look at new organizational constructs for space, as well as an independent organization, which has recently been announced at the Center for Naval Analysis, to do a full assessment of what it would take to create a space force. STRATCOM will work closely with both of those to make sure we come up with the right recommendations.
But the key, in my perspective, is the organization is secondary. The need to deal with the threat is primary.
Media: Chris Davenport also with the Washington Post.
I wonder if you can give us a status update on the United States’ capabilities with respect to hypersonics, where we are now. Are you pleased with the progress or frustrated that there hasn’t been more, especially given what’s going on with Russia and China?
General Hyten: I think frustration is the wrong term. But I do have a desire to move more aggressively in the area of hypersonics.
There are certain areas that I think we have advantages on Russia and China in hypersonics, but what they’ve done that is significant is they’ve done full-up integrated testing of those capabilities and we have been -- we did a couple of tests a few years ago. They weren’t fully successful. And because of, again, you heard me talk in the panel about the no-failure mode. We had a couple of failures so we kind of stopped and regrouped to look at the overall structure to make sure we understood the technology, what was working, what was not working, those kinds of pieces.
From my perspective, I’d have liked to have just learned from that mistake and keep going. Don’t stop. The point was, that when we decide that we need to do something, I think there’s an importance for hypersonics. And oh, by the way, I’m not really interested in the nuclear piece of that, I’m interested in the conventional hypersonic piece because I think that can give Adm. Harris in particular some significant capabilities in the Pacific.
So when we start down a program like that, I would just like us to fight through it, see through it, test fast, fail quickly, learn fast, and get to the point where we have a great capability at the end. And we’re going that way again in hypersonics. The good news is that [Dr.] Mike Griffin is now R&E [under secretary of defense for research and engineering], and even though, well, I can tell you that if the program’s not aggressive right now. A year from now it’s going to be aggressive because Mike Griffin has had Secretary [of Defense James] Mattis look him in the face and say we need to really go on hypersonics. That’s pretty much all Mike Griffin needs. It’s pretty exciting to have him in the Pentagon.
Why he would choose to come out of the private life that he was living as a former administrator of NASA, former corporate executive, everything -- that tells you his motivations are in the right place. It’s all about service for him.
Media: Warren Ferster [Senior Strategist for Bryce Space and Technology], freelance.
I want to go back again to the panel that you moderated just about an hour or two ago. Again, your emphasis on speed and forgive me if this question kind of falls a little bit out of your bailiwick, and I’m happy to go to another question if so, but nobody mentions fixed price contracts and the way that fits into the equation. I wondered what your thoughts are.
General Hyten: I don’t mind talking about that. That’s really not my bailiwick as a combatant commander, but I have a lot of previous experience in that side of the business so I don’t mind sharing my perceptions. I think that when you know what you want to buy and it doesn’t stress the state of the art of industry, you ought to buy it fixed price. If you don’t know what you’re buying exactly and you’re stressing the technology, then you need to come up with some kind of way to share the risk with industry, and that’s for other pieces. But I think in most of the cases we’re talking about, the technology is mature enough where we ought to be doing a significant amount of fixed price work, because if you listened to Leanne Caret, the head of Boeing that was on the panel. She talked about that early on actually, because that’s the kind of business she does on the commercial side.
So when I ask her to start talking about how she does commercial and how she does military, on the commercial side it’s almost all completely fixed price. This is what I want, this is what I do, and that’s one of the ways they get to what she described as a 30-36 month program because they know exactly what they’re going to buy and they contract for it fixed price. But there’s also a use of the other vehicle. It depends on what you’re trying to buy.
Media: Valeria Insinna, Defense News
I wanted to ask about SBIRS [Space-Based Infrared System] follow-on. At Reagan, you sounded kind of perturbed about the state of the program, now the Air Force has made a lot of changes, so I wanted to kind of gauge how you see their new path with that Next Generation Overhead versus the Infrared Systems. And we haven’t really heard much about what that might look like. Do you have any ideas about how they can build that more survivably?
General Hyten: I’m really excited right now. I’m really excited about what the Air Force is doing. I’m excited about the decision they made. And I’m excited about the decision the department made in the budget. I’m a combatant commander, I’m not the buyer. The service is the buyer. So I won’t tell the Air Force what to buy. But if they’re going to buy something that I can’t use as a warfighter, I will say that, and that’s where we were.
I made a little bit of an overstatement to make a point in saying that I wouldn’t support the development of any more big, fat, juicy targets. Now that’s a little bit of an overstatement, to be honest with you, but I wanted to make the point that I need a flexible warfighting capability to meet the requirements I have. My job is to put forth the requirements and the attributes of the capabilities. But my job is not to define the system. That’s the Air Force’s job. And I will not, I will not do the Air Force’s job. I have plenty to do as the STRATCOM commander. I’m going to just focus on doing that. But I have to define the requirements and attributes, and I’ll speak up if we’re going down a different path, but the Air Force has made really important decisions over the last few months and the department has supported those decisions. And even more importantly, the budget, we actually have a budget now and the budget supports going that direction.
So now, like I said earlier on the panel, now it’s figuring out how. And the case of what comes on in next generation missile warning, the how is the job of the Air Force, not the job of Strategic Command.
Media: Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One
You as a combatant commander and the Air Force leadership have been very focused on this overhaul of the space enterprise with the attention that it’s getting. So if you do not go with actually creating a space corps, how do you ensure that this attention stays and lasts after you guys depart?
General Hyten: I think Secretary Mattis gave a great answer to that on Thursday in front of the House Armed Services Committee to Chairman Rogers who asked him a similar question. I don’t want this to sound the wrong way and it’s probably going to, so let me choose my words carefully. I’m going to try to quote the Secretary of Defense, which is always the safe thing to do. But he said when I have a problem and I want something done, the person I look to is a combatant commander because that’s where the military missions of the country are executed. I don’t necessarily look to a service chief or a service secretary, I look to a combatant commander.
And when you talk about how do we make sure that we can fight and win future conflicts that extend into space, the combatant command has to restructure to do that. That’s why we restructured the combatant command to focus on that. That’s why [U.S. Air Force] Gen. [John W. ‘Jay’] Raymond [commander of Air Force Space Command, and the Joint Force Space Component commander] has now been elevated as my component commander.
One of the things that we’ll look at it as part of the law is that should he be elevated further into a more of a unified commander, a sub-unified commander? I think those are things that we’ll continue to look at. The law requires us to do that and I support doing just that.
And then we have to make sure that whatever the process is, and the thing you always have to remember is the person at the top that makes the decision is always the same person. It’s the Secretary of Defense. It doesn’t matter what organization structures under him. The secretary’s got to make that decision.
So the key is getting the right information to the right—and right now the Air Force, I described it briefly, but I’ll spend a little more time here. The Air Force has aligned their leadership perfectly. If you listened to Dr. [Will] Roper, [assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics], on that panel, and you can see he understands it completely. It’s perfect. His view of how to do this is exactly right. And the secretary and the chief they work for are giving him the reins to go and do that unbelievably fast.
So I believe that the Air Force will step up and do that. I believe the leadership in OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] right now with [Mike] Griffin and [Ellen] Lord [under secretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics], and [Patrick M.] Shanahan, [deputy secretary of defense], and [James N.] Mattis, will support that being done. And that’s the best way we have to move fast. The leadership is fully aligned, now we have to get the machine moving. I think the machine can move again. I don’t think we need to go a different direction.
Media: Sandra Erwin with Space News
I wanted to ask you about communications, space-based strategic communications. The Air Force has used satellites for the nuclear mission and the tactical missions, some people say there are problems. And we have not heard you say much about it, do you believe they may change the architecture for the way you see, in terms of defense and capabilities.
General Hyten: Once again, that crosses into the job of the Air Force, so what I’ll do is I’ll describe what my piece of that puzzle is. What my piece of the puzzle, is to describe the requirements and attributes of what I need from the Air Force for survivable nuclear command and control and survivable communications. Both tactical and strategic. That’s my job.
So I write down those requirements. I describe the capabilities that I want to have, and then I describe the attributes I have to have in order to effectively fight with those, and the attributes are, I need to be nimble, quick and defendable. I need to be able to survive jamming attacks. I need to be able to survive physical attacks and work through those pieces.
Now it’s the job of the Air Force to come back to the department, which includes me, and say here is the architecture I have. Now I’ve looked at the classified architecture they’ve come up with. It describes a mix of capabilities. I support that in general. But over the next year the Air Force will have to come in with a full-blown plan for how they’re going to do that and I’ll get a chance to vote on that.
So again, to go back to a previous question. One thing I really try to avoid doing is defining what the service’s job is. I try to just make sure I do my job.
Media: [Sandra Erwin, Space News] But when you say within the next year is that a hard deadline or is it something you told them?
General Hyten: No, that’s a practical deadline. Because the practical deadline is that they’re going to submit a 2020 budget in February of next year, and in 2020 they have to have that program defined. So it’s not a STRATCOM requirement, it’s not even, it’s the fact that they’re going to have to tell the nation and they’re going to have to tell the Congress and they’re going to have to tell the president this is the right answer and they’re going to have to fund it, and then we’re going to have to work with the Congress to get those funds approved and authorized and appropriated.
Media: Tariq Malik with Space.com.
You mentioned the importance protecting space assets in orbit from different types of attacks. I’m just curious with Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement over a space traffic management plan for the nation. How that will factor into protecting orbital assets from debris or strategical attacks or what not, what type of improvements you might be asking for or looking for in that type of review.
General Hyten: I think it’s important to go back and look very closely at what the Vice President said. The Vice President said exactly what you just said. But then the follow-on line was, and from my perspective, it was the golden moment. Now maybe from [Department of] Commerce and [Department of] Transportation the first part was. But from my perspective, the next piece when he said, and that’s to allow the men and women of the military to do the job that they’re supposed to be doing and that is protecting and defending our nation and our capabilities. That’s what we’re trying to get to.
So we act as basically the clearinghouse for the entire world when it comes to space traffic management. The United States Air Force, through STRATCOM, provides warning to everybody on the planet including China and Russia when we see a pending collision, so people can maneuver and we can avoid that. That’s because it’s in our best interest.
We’re going to continue to collect all the data of where the objects are because we have to in order to do our job. But to remove that workload from the airmen that have to do that so that they don’t have to go through okay, this is the rule for dealing with China, this is the rule for dealing with Russia, this is the rule for dealing with the British, this is the rule for dealing with Vietnam. Whoever the partner is that we’re dealing with, we’ll work with them, but to remove that burden and just say hey, you collect that data, you feed it to somebody else, they’ll provide that interface to the rest of the world. You focus on what you have to do to defend our nation and our allies. That’s the broad concept that the vice president talked about, and I thought the way he said it was just right.
Media: Eligar Sadeh with Astropolitics
I had a question that kind of follows on. What’s your view on the balance between, on the one hand, obviously we have space militarization that’s ongoing since the rise of the space age.
General Hyten: Space miniaturization?
Media: Space militarization. I want to contrast that with space weaponization. What’s the right kind of balance you see in terms of those factors?
When you talk about space weaponization you have to get into counter-space systems. Do you see a need to deploy those kinds of systems in the future? Or do you think we can maintain, protect the space assets through our ongoing space militarization?
General Hyten: There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to have to deploy defensive counter-space systems because our adversaries are building offensive counter-space systems. We’re going to have to defend ourselves. Then the nation’s going to have to make a decision on what we do in order to challenge somebody else’s space capabilities. I think we’re going to go down that path. I think we have to go down that path.
But the term space weaponization is a little awkward for me, so let me just describe why for a second.
What is a weapon in space? We have a satellite that is a surveillance satellite. It’s called GSSAP, the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program. It has a sensor on board and it has maneuver capability, and it’s basically a neighborhood watch spacecraft that flies around the GEO [Geosynchronous] belt making sure that we can characterize everything that’s there, and we’ve told the world that’s exactly what we’re doing. So I’ll ask you. Is that a weapon? I just told you it wasn’t. It’s not a weapon. So what would a weapon be?
A weapon would be a satellite on orbit that has a sensor that has a lot of maneuver capability that you run into something with. It’s like the car that you drove here today in. I don’t know what car you drive, but I drive an F-150 pickup truck. Rarely, but I do get to drive it every once in a while. And when I drive that truck it’s not a weapon. It’s absolutely not a weapon. I drive it safely. I have fun with it.
But If I take that truck and I drive into a shopping center like happened recently overseas, I’ve now just made that truck a weapon.
So how do I define weapon? I can’t really do that. What I can define is behavior, and that’s what we’ve done in the air. That’s what we’ve done at sea. That’s what we’ve done in every domain. We’ve defined the right behavior internationally so we know what the right kind of behaviors are. That’s what we need to focus on. And when we keep focusing on weapons and weaponization, we miss the whole construct.
We don’t want to have war in the air. We don’t want to have war at sea. But we have to be able to defend ourselves. We have to be able to defend ourselves in space, too. And it’s the same principle. So the key is behavior.
Media: Tom Risen with Aerospace America
Do you have any thoughts about the Outer Space Treaty of ‘67 and possible updates to it to keep some ground rules in space organization--
General Hyten: I like the two rules that impact me that are in the Outer Space Treaty of ’67, and it’s funny because people think it says a lot more than it does. But the only two things that impact me are, I can’t deploy weapons of mass destruction in space and I can’t declare or I can’t declare celestial bodies for my nation. Those are the two things that impact me out of the Outer Space Treaty, and I support those completely. I don’t want weapons of mass destruction moving into space. And you can define weapons of mass destruction in space. You can define nuclear capabilities in space. You can define all of that, and that’s what the Outer Space Treaty does.
So I like where that is. I really don’t want, that’s a State Department job to figure out where we want to go, but what I’ve asked my friends in the State Department, and when I’ve been asked by Congress, what do I want, I just want to work through the same process we did when we came up with civil aviation rules and laws of the sea. Many of those were not worked through treaties, they were worked through development of norms of behavior about what the international norms would be, and they’re international conventions and norms. We didn’t necessarily need treaties to do that. I would like to walk down that path in space to make sure I understand.
The reason it’s so important to me, and a lot of people look at me and say why would the commander of STRATCOM even want that kind of stuff? And the answer is real simple. It’s because you heard Gen. Raymond talk about his 30-plus thousand people and [U.S. Air Force Maj.] Gen. [Stephen N.] Whiting [commander of 14th Air Force and deputy Joint Force Space Component commander] talk about his 16,000 space experts. It’s the only military arm that we have that when those people go to work every day they don’t have rules of engagement. Why don’t they have rules of engagement of what they can do and what they can’t do? That’s because we have no norms of behavior to deal with. So we’re actually making them up ourselves now because I don’t want the airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines that are going to work to go to work without rules of engagement. But should we be making them up ourselves in the United States military? That’s why I think norms of behavior are a good thing.
Media: Bill Young, with African American Voice.
In past years, we’ve had a lot of discussion about cyber here, and I haven’t seen much of that this year. I’m wondering in looking at cyber, what risk does cyber play in our satellite systems and warfare? And are there any steps that you’re taking to mitigate those that you can actually tell us about?
General Hyten: It’s a very important topic and we’re about to do something very significant in the United States because somewhere, pending confirmation of [U.S. Army Lt.] Gen. [Paul M.] Nakasone [commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command] towards the end of the month, early next month, we’ll have a ceremony at Fort Meade, [Maryland] and we’ll stand up a new U.S. Cyber Command, and that U.S. Cyber Command will be elevated to be equivalent to U.S. Strategic Command. That currently is a sub-unified command under me.
For a long time, Tom sitting next to you has heard me argue against separating space and cyber. But the interesting thing I’ve noticed over the last three or four years, is that how when we brought space and cyber under a similar command and then we create stovepipes in those commands for dealing with space and cyber. We actually don’t develop normal command relationships about how we fight amongst the different domains that we have to fight with.
What we have to do is we have to integrate them all -- air, land, sea, space and cyber. We have to integrate all those effectively together. And so when we elevate Cyber Command, the great opportunity that’s going to present itself and the first thing I’m going to do, one of the first things I’m going to do is sit down with [Lt.] Gen. Nakasone and have a discussion about the normal command relationships we need. The supported/supporting command relationships I need in order to defend nuclear command and control, space, missile defense, all the mission areas and come up with that direct support relationship with Cyber Command and STRATCOM to do that. Because when they’re a sub-unified command, everybody just thought that it would happen magically. It was actually a challenge. So, now as we separate we’re going to elevate and that’s going to be a good thing for the country. But we have to get that right, and we have to get that right quickly.
Media: Courtney Albon with, Inside the Air Force.
I wonder if you could, I guess give any examples of specific efforts that have arisen with, as a result of the National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy within STRATCOM, particularly as it relates to defining resilience and what that looks like in different mission areas.
I also wonder at the same time, where do you think there needs to be more work done to really define what resilience is?.
General Hyten: I can go 100 different ways there. Let me just start with a quote that Gen. Raymond used from the National Defense Strategy this morning. It was on his chart, so you can pull it up and get it exact if you want. But it basically in the National Defense Strategy it says a very important change, and it’s a change that not many people picked up on. He went over it pretty quickly so I’m not sure anybody really picked up on it this morning. But it says, and basically if the United States is attacked or threatened in space, we reserve the right to respond in a time and a place and a domain of our choosing. The “and a domain of our choosing” is a huge change in our overall strategy.
Because what that focuses on is something that we’ve been talking about in STRATCOM for a while, that people have asked me in the past in this room, how are you going to fight and win a war that goes into space? My answer is, the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to call the geographic combatant commander that’s actually fighting whoever the opponent is on the earth and find out what the heck is going on in that world. And oh by the way, the response that we work out to recommend if warfare does extend into space may not be in space. It may be in cyberspace, it may be in the air, it may be some other place.
What I don’t want, is I don’t want war to effectively go kinetic and big in space because that is where the United States loses. So the adding of “and a domain of our choosing” has done a number of things.
Number one, when we train and exercise, instead of just going okay, now you have a space problem. STRATCOM, what are you going to do? It’s what domain are you going to respond to? And we have to now develop broad-based plans, broad-based structures, then we have to figure out how to exercise those broad-based plans across multiple combatant commands. That’s going to drive inter multi-command exercises that we really have to do. You talk about space, it’s always a global problem. That means all the commands in the world have to -- that means if we’re doing something in the Pacific, European Command actually has to play, because everything we do impacts the entire world.
So that has been a huge driving force, just that one little addition of “and a domain of our choosing.” So those kind of pieces, you think that would be a little thing, but it’s hugely important.
When you look about the way it talks about space as a warfighting domain. If you look at our policy documents in the past, that’s never been said before. Space is now referred to as a warfighting domain just like land, sea and air, and you heard the Vice President say it yesterday. What that allows us to do is start normalized planning, which means when we sit down with Adm. Harris in the Pacific or I sit down with [U.S. Army] Gen. [Curtis] Scaparrotti [commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe] in Europe, or in NATO and we start planning, you start looking at space just like you do land, sea and air. And if you want to know how that improves the capabilities, that means that our planners start thinking about how you deal with that in line with the other activities we’re going on.
I could go for years and years and years on how the importance of those changes are, but I think those are the big ones that jump out.
Media: [Tom Roeder, Colorado Springs Gazette] A follow-up to what you were just discussing. General, when you talk about this planning for the potential war reaching into space, are these kinds of ConOps [concept of operations] something you have run through National Space Defense Center (NSDC) when you talk about we don’t have to respond in space to an action in space?
General Hyten: Yep, we do. And that means we have to reach out to the other commands. And a lot of other commands step up and figure out interesting responses. Then we say, well, that’s not going to work. Then we have to integrate timing and tempo. Timing and tempo is unbelievably important.
The other thing that happens and I don’t want this to sound ineffective, but when you actually come up with a concept of operations and you actually exercise and deploy it for the first time, sometimes it doesn’t work the way you think it’s going to work. Stunning, I know, but not everything works right the first time. So, if you don’t integrate and exercise, you actually don’t know that. Then when something bad happens and you try to do it, all of a sudden, it doesn’t work and now you’re in a conflict and now you’re in trouble.
So actually, exercising and planning for this.
And the other thing I’ll say about that, Tom, is that the first and most important job of my command, because my command, we only have three priorities, and I’ll just repeat them.
Priority one, above all else, we will provide the nation a strategic deterrent.
Priority two, if deterrence fails, we’ll provide a decisive response. And decisive in every way that word means.
And priority three, we’ll do it with a combat-ready force. Trained, equipped and ready.
So when I say that, everybody in the world just jumps right to the nuclear capabilities. You’ve got to remember, that applies to space too. So deterrence is the number one mission.
Media: Why does the United States lose if kinetic war goes big in space?
General Hyten: Because the kinetic effects that you create in space last a long time and therefore, the nation that has more capability in space has more to lose. And the biggest advantage that we have in space right now is the sheer mass and unbelievable capability that we have built, and oh by the way, most of it was built by the United States Air Force. Built over the last 20-30 years. That mass is something that allows me to sleep well at night against the threats that our adversaries are building.
But that mass will someday be challenged. But when you have that huge advantage and you have all that capability there, as the debris starts forming around the planet, you have higher risks of fratricide of your own stuff, and you want to be able to avoid that.
Media: [Ahmad Khan, Astropolitics] Sir, you were talking about space deterrent. Do you see assured deterrence in space?
General Hyten: Deterrence, all the principles apply. So the principles of deterrence haven’t changed. The means have changed. The principles are to be able to impose cost on an adversary; to deny a benefit to the adversary; and to make sure the capability is credible and communicated effectively. The last piece is one of the reasons I’m sitting here today.
But the first two, imposing cost and denying benefit, those are the capabilities we have to develop and deploy and show. And when we do that, we want to make sure that we create an environment where an adversary realizes first, that if they do decide to cross that line they will lose. That’s denying benefit. It means their action will fail. The imposing cost is if they go down that line, we’ll respond in a big way, and the pain on them, and that’s why the other domain is an important piece of that puzzle. That’s why that’s an important statement.
Media: [Colin Clark] Given that space has been regarded for so long as a domain sort of unto itself, how important is it to you, and obviously using this to in part, how important is it to you to signal to adversaries that we are actually considering, if you do something in space we will take out your ground stations. Or something similar.
General Hyten: I’m never going to say what we’re going to do, but what’s important to me is we will say we will respond as part of the broader conflict. It’s not space for space’s sake. There’s no such thing as war in space, there’s just war. You’ve heard me say that a dozen times at least. And what that means is you have to look at war from the perspective of the adversary and you, not from domain to domain. That’s why it’s important that that be in there, because the response, they need to know that the response can be significant, and it will be something that would hurt them. That’s why they should not ever want to go down that path.
Media: A quick question about the NSDC. That’s now fully operational?
General Hyten: Initial operational. It’s still a significant amount of time away from being fully operational.
Media: I guess I’m wondering, initially a big benefit of that when it was I guess the JICSpOC [Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center] was an experimental function. Where do you go for that as you transition into more operational status with NSDC, do you need another hub for that?
General Hyten: No. What’s going on is it’s just transitioning from experimentation into exercises. It’s kind of the same thing. But now instead of just theoretical, we’re actually integrating real plans and real structure and playing those things out. So, it’s really the same kind of work that was being done with the same people. But now instead of theoretical and a lot of things made up, for lack of a better term. Now we’re playing what’s real. When you turn from experimental to operational, that’s the big change. The experiments stop, but the exercises now spin up, and you actually become more busy. Because now you have to reach out to all of the other geographical combatant commands and make sure that you can respond to their requirements and make sure that space is always there for them, and that means you have to figure out how to work the real-time interface between the JSpOC [Joint Space Operations Center] soon to be the CSpOC [Combined Space Operations Center], and the NSDC and the air operations centers in the Pacific and in Europe and in Central Command. That, so if you think it was busy before, you should see busy now.
Thank you for all coming. This is a pretty amazing symposium. I don’t know how this place squeezes 14,000 people in and makes it look reasonable. But somehow they do. But the great part is that everybody’s here, and a big piece of that everybody is the media. We probably don’t talk about that enough, because you get beat up more than we do. But in reality, you’re the only one that tells the story that we have to tell, which is why Secretary Mattis is looking at his combatant commanders and saying part of your job is to tell our story. So I just want to say thank you.