Speeches

The Mitchell Institute Triad Conference

By Gen. John Hyten | U.S. Strategic Command | July 17, 2018

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. - (As Delivered, Edited for Clarity) —

Gen. Hyten: Good morning, everybody. Holy cow. 0710 and we’re talking nuclear deterrence. I don’t know who came up with the agenda, but I appreciate kicking it off. I’ll try to get some light into the room early in the morning. I know it will be technical, so if you need coffee, find it. If I fall asleep before you do, please wake me up.

 

First of all, thank you, Peter, for everything that you’ve done. When you started doing this, I was still a second lieutenant. You may have thought you were going to be here today, but I didn’t think I’d be here today. Holy cow. And when I think back to what life was like as a second lieutenant, this is the last place I thought I’d be.

 

There’s an interesting thing about me being a second lieutenant in 1981, ‘83 when you started and the fact that we’re here today. I have a good friend, who’s become a good friend the last couple of years. That’s Vice Admiral Chas [Charles] Richard, who was my deputy for the last two years. He would not like me calling him a friend, but now that he’s going to take command of Submarine Forces, I’ll go ahead and call him a friend. He’s an amazing person. He’s an amazing submariner. He is a nuclear expert, there’s no doubt. He is a technical genius. He doesn’t like it when I say that, but he is. We have amazing discussions.

 

And the other interesting thing about him is he grew up 15 miles from where I did in northern Alabama. We went to rival high schools. He was a year behind me. So we probably played sports against each other. We never knew each other until I became commander and he became my deputy almost at the same time in 2016.

 

We became close friends, sitting around talking about playing football and a number of different things. Talking about growing up in northern Alabama and our life as an ensign or a second lieutenant. He was a submariner and I was an engineer. There was no Space Command when I joined the Air Force. It was just a business that I wanted to get into. So I was going to get out of the Air Force to get into that business. I was an engineer at a program office in Montgomery, Alabama, at a little base called Gunter Air Force Station. Chas started out going through the submarine business.

 

We talked about mandatory formations many times, Friday night at the club. We’d get together Friday night at the club, and it didn’t matter whether you were an engineer in a communications organization, at Gunter, or you were a submariner working in that business. What we talked about was the Soviet Union. What we talked about was how we deter the Soviet Union. Deterrence was just a natural part of our conversation. That’s who we are.

 

When we talk about how we get together and do things, it was amazing. You would sit there at the bar on a Friday night and talk about nuclear capabilities. That was just normal. Somehow this year we lost that. We lost the ability to have that discussion. And there’s a couple of things I want to talk about deterrence as we get in here, because Kings Bay is a pretty good place to talk about that. Kings Bay is a unique place. Sheila, you’ve done a magnificent job of this community right here. The fact that you convinced Bob [Dickman] of all people to become a member of the Navy League is amazing.

 

If you went down and got on board the USS Tennessee yesterday, which many of you got to do, you saw the beginning of what deterrence is in this country. You saw sailors do amazing things. When that ship goes to sea, when that boat goes on operations, there’s 160 Americans that go on board that ship, that do the business every day.

 

So the first thing I want you to remember is deterrence is an active mission. It is not a passive activity. And I think for the last 25 years we’ve been thinking about deterrence as a passive activity. The fact that we have nuclear weapons that exist somehow is going to convince everybody in the world that they’re deterred. That’s just not the way it works.

 

Deterrence, the fundamental piece, that’s hardly changed since Schelling and Kahn in the early 1960’s. The precepts are the same. You have to be able to impose cost on an adversary, deny benefit to the adversary, and maybe more importantly, you have to communicate that affect to your adversary.

 

Well, if you saw what was down on the waterfront here at Kings Bay, you saw the capability. It is real. It is ready. The sailors that work down there make it ready. It has the ability to impose cost on an adversary. We can deny benefit to any adversary. But we have done a very poor job in this country for the last 25 years of communicating that to our adversaries. And what that creates, that creates an opportunity for our adversaries to start thinking about conflict with us and competition with us in a different way. And they have been doing that. They have been doing that consistently. And we have just chosen not to pay attention.

 

But all you have to do is go back and look at what the Chinese wrote in 1995. You can pick it up. If you read the original Mandarin, it’s a little easier, but you can still find it and you can read what they wrote in 1995 because they watched the United States military closely and they watched us in the Gulf War and they watched our people and they figured out how are we going to counter the United States in our region of the world? They wrote down exactly what they were going to do and they’ve been doing that for the last 23 years. Consistently, all the way through - they’ve watched us. They’ve watched us transmit our capabilities.

 

We’ve told everybody exactly how we do business, exactly what we do, and they’ve developed capabilities to counter them. They’re developing significant nuclear weapon capability, significant mobile missile capabilities, new air base ballistic missile capabilities, new capabilities across the board on the submarine side. They’re developing a triad.

 

What have the Russians been doing? They announced it in 1999. Vladimir Putin was elected in the year 2000. In the year 2000 he signed a new doctrine, and the new doctrine described the Russian approach to conflict with the United States clearly, and they said we’re going to go down that path. It involved modernization of the entire nuclear force. Everything in Russia.

 

Now if you think back to 1999 and 2000, Russia was our friend. Russia was our friend, magically, until Crimea happened just a few years ago, and all of a sudden Russia was our adversary again.

 

So what was Russia doing between 2000 and 2014 when they were our friend? They were modernizing their entire nuclear force. In fact Putin said in 2005 we’re going to modernize the entire nuclear force by 2020. [Dmitry] Rogozin said shortly thereafter in 2006, we’re going to get 70 percent done by 2020. In 2014, he said we’re going to get 100 percent done by 2020.

 

Does that sound like a friend to you? Why are they building those nuclear weapons? Are they building those nuclear weapons because they’re worried about the Chechens? -- No. They’re building those nuclear weapons to challenge us.

 

At the same time, what are the Russians and Chinese doing when they look at our space capability?

 

They’re developing capabilities to deny our space capabilities. They’re developing weapons in space, on the ground, to deny our capabilities in space, and they’ve been building those for over a decade and fielding them. And we have been ignoring that.

 

When you ignore that, you run the risk of putting this entire country in jeopardy. We can never let that happen.

 

That’s why we’re here today. We’re here today to talk about the Nuclear Posture Review, talk about our nuclear capabilities. We’re here today to talk about strategic deterrence.

 

But remember, deterrence is more an art than a science. There is science involved, and you saw the science on that magnificent boat, the USS Tennessee. But the art is transmitting that message to your adversaries, so the adversary understands that they never want to take a step across. The art is having the right kind of weapons to deter an adversary from going down that path. That’s what the Nuclear Posture Review starts talking about. It starts talking about what kind of capabilities we have to have to deter our adversaries, to make sure they don’t cross that line.

 

I want to talk about a number of things today. I’m going to talk about my command. I’m going to talk about the Nuclear Posture Review. I’m going to talk about our capabilities. I’m going to talk about going fast enough to stay ahead of our adversaries. Because that’s what we have to do when we’re in a competition. And ladies and gentlemen, we’re in a competition. That’s where we are and we shouldn’t be afraid of that competition. If you’re an American, you should be excited about the competition because when we get into a competition we win. We know how to do that. We don’t have to go slow. We developed bureaucracy that likes to go slow, but we don’t have to go slow.

 

Since I’m in Kings Bay, when I finish I’ll talk about [Hyman G.] Rickover. If I were in an Air Force audience I’d talk about Schriever. But I’ll talk about Rickover. Rickover’s a controversial figure in the Navy. He probably scared some old ensign or lieutenant in this room somewhere, sitting in that little strange chair that’s a naval reactor today, you can still see that chair with the front legs cut off. It’s just amazing when you think about that history. One thing about Admiral Hyman Rickover is he went fast. He didn’t let the bureaucracy get in the way.

 

Let’s talk about USSTRATCOM for just a second. Who are we at USSTRATCOM? First of all, we’re 162,000 Americans. That’s the enterprise that USSTRATCOM is today. 162,000. Part of those STRATCOM folks are here at Kings Bay. But they’re also in the missile fields, five states in the middle of the country based around Minot, around F.E. Warren, around Malmstrom. They’re also the bomber community at Minot, Barksdale, and Whiteman with the B-2. They’re the submarines here, the submarines at Bangor; the space capabilities as far north as Thule, Greenland, 600 miles from the North Pole, and as far south as Ascension and Diego Garcia in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

 

They’re Americans, men and women who go to work every day, that don’t get a lot of credit in the newspapers. They don’t get a lot of press. But they perform the most important mission our country has got and they do it great.

 

You need to spend as much time as you can, that’s one of the great things that Peter’s doing working with Sheila coming here, outside the Beltway, where people actually do the real work of this country. You don’t do the real work inside the Beltway. The real work is done in Kings Bay and in Bangor and in Minot. That’s where the real work gets done, and that’s where people go to work every day.

 

I was talking to a group of missileers at Malmstrom just a couple of months ago and I’ll just say I made a lieutenant cry, and I don’t like to make lieutenants cry. We got to the question and answer part and a lieutenant stood up, a young female second lieutenant. First assignment in the Air Force obviously. Newly qualified missileer. She looked at me and she said, ‘Sir, I know you are out in the country a lot and you’re in Washington a lot and you talk about us. So when you get a question about the millennials in this country and our ability to do this mission, how do you describe us? What do you say?’ What I say is, if you want to see our country, get on my plane and come with me. Come with me to Malmstrom. Come with me to Kings Bay and I’ll introduce you to the millennials that do the job every day. And you’ll find that they’re exactly the same as they were 20 years ago, exactly the same as they were 40 years ago. They love this country, they want to defend this country, they’re doing the work every day, they’re amazing, they’re smarter than we were by far, they get motivated differently so we have to lead them differently but their passion is just the same. And when I said their passion is just the same, that’s when I could see a tear coming down her cheek. Which is pretty awesome, when a missileer, whose job is to sit on top of a nuclear weapon, a Minuteman III, takes her job that serious, that it means that much to her, that just saying thank you means a lot. That’s what our job is.

 

So USSTRATCOM starts with 162,000 people that do that every day. That’s a lot of Americans when you think about it.

 

We have several different missions. It’s not just nukes, but it is nukes, it’s global strike, it’s missile defense, it’s electronic warfare, it’s analysis and targeting, it’s intelligence, reconnaissance, missile defense. We have a variety of missions but they all sum up into three priorities. The three priorities are priority number one, above all else we will provide a strategic deterrent. Priority number two, if that deterrence fails, we will provide a decisive response and decisive in every way that word can be defined. And priority three, we’ll do it with a combat ready force that’s resilient, trained, and equipped to do the job that we ask them to do. And if you’re a member of industry, if you’re a leader in the Department of Defense, your job is to make sure they have the best equipment that they can go to work with every day to do that mission. No American should ever go to war with second class equipment. Ever. And that’s what we have to do.

 

So when I say those three priorities, everybody jumps right to the nuclear mission, and that’s a good place to start but it applies to all our missions. Missile defense is a critical part of deterrence. And the space mission. We don’t want conflict extending into space. There’s no such thing as war in space. There’s just war. And we have to be ready for war to extend into space. It will extend into space just like every other domain and we have to be able to deal with it. And the first thing we want to do is to deter war from going into space. That’s part of our job. And then if war does go into space, we’ll provide a decisive response, just like we do in every other domain. That’s just the way it works. And we’ll do it with a combat ready force. It applies to everything that we do in this command.

 

So all of this is part of 21st century deterrence. That’s what we provide in the world. 21st century deterrence. That’s what we provide our nation. But deterrence in the 21st century is wholly different than it was in the 20th century. In the 20th century, it was about one adversary. Now we have to worry about many adversaries. In the 20th century, it was just about nukes. Now we have catastrophic capability that can be brought against the United States in space and cyber. We have to figure out how to deal with those at the same time.

 

When we bring capabilities to bear, we have to look at the multi-polar world, the multi-domain world, and we have to look at all our capabilities and bring those to bear. So my vision for the command is one USSTRATCOM team that integrates all those capabilities together and provides them seamlessly to whatever situation we get into. And you can read my mission, my vision, my intent, my priorities in my own Commander’s Vision and Intent that you can pull up off the USSTRATCOM website on-line, because it’s unclassified. You can read it for yourself. Which means the Russians can read it for themselves. And the Chinese can read it for themselves. And that’s fine. They need to know who we are and what we do and what we believe in. And we’re going to be there, whether they like it or not. And we’re going to be ready, if they want to cross that line.

 

So that’s who we are at USSTRATCOM. A pretty amazing command. It is also the most powerful command in the world, and my fellow combatant commanders get a little annoyed when I say that. There all good friends of mine. But it’s just a fact. Like Chief [Patrick F.] McMahon says all the time, it’s just a fact. There’s no other command in the world that integrates all these things together.

 

The Chinese are starting to pull the pieces together. The Russians are starting to pull the pieces together, but they don’t have anything like what we are. They’re looking at us, but culturally that’s just going to be a big challenge for them to bring all those pieces together. They keep them separate. We bring them together.

 

Let’s talk a little bit about the NPR, the Nuclear Posture Review. It was released about six months ago now. One of the amazing things about that document is through ten Presidents, multiple Nuclear Posture Reviews, the basic precepts of our nuclear deterrent remain unchanged and they’re reinforced with the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The need for the triad is emphasized again.

 

There are a couple of things that are different in the 2018 NPR. Probably the first thing that you need to think about that’s different in the NPR, and I very much appreciate it, is that the NPR is a threat-based document. Now if you’re a civilian in the audience, you’re probably looking at me and saying well what the heck else would it be? How could it be anything but a threat-based document?

 

Well, you’ve got to realize for about 25 years the Department of Defense did not do threat-based strategies. In fact after the Wall came down, after Russia and China became our friends, we went to a concept called capability-based planning. And capability-based planning was based on the fact that there was no threat that we had to worry about, and since there was no threat, we just needed to worry about what our capabilities were and if we developed the best capabilities in the world we would always be able to stay ahead of any adversary.

 

There are two problems with that. Problem number one is there was a threat and I described it a little while ago. Putin said what he’s going to do to the United States in 2000. China said what they’re going to do in 1995. They’ve been building those for the entire time they’ve been there. Those are threats. If you don’t consider them threats, you have a significant problem.

 

 

The other problem about capabilities-based planning is that you document what your capabilities are and you tell the entire world. So you tell the world, this is how we fight, and you’ll let them figure out how to counter what you have. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

 

So the Nuclear Posture Review has a new National Defense Strategy, really for the first time in a long time. It starts from the threat. And policy is evolved from the threat. And then capabilities come from the policy. That’s just the logical way to do business, but the Nuclear Posture Review does that and that’s extremely important because when you start from the threat then that all of a sudden becomes a driving force. Threat, policy, posture. Not posture first. Not capabilities first.

Capability last.

 

So we started out doing threat. That means that we have to affirm that we need a triad, and it’s interesting as I was thinking back, as I was going through Savannah River yesterday and Oak Ridge and Y12 the day before. Those are the nuclear weapons labs on this side of the country. Since I was coming down here, I wanted to go to the nuclear weapons labs. I thought back to my confirmation process in 2016.

 

So summer of 2016, always a great time to be in Washington, in the summer time. I’m going through the confirmation process, and the Joint Staff does a brilliant job of preparing us to go through the confirmation process, to go through the hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee. They have two murder boards that actually sit just like the committee does, and they ask you really hard questions. They ask you the hard questions that, if you have some emotional response to those questions, you want to get that emotional response out in front of the murder board and not in front of the Congress, not in front of the Senate. They do that really well, and they do the whole nine yards.

 

I was thinking back to my preparation and my preparation on the nuclear side was all about the big four. The big four was, is, the Columbia, the new submarine; the B-21, the new bomber; the LRSO, Long Range Standoff weapon, which is the new cruise missile; and the new ICBM, the GBSD, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. The big four. That was what it was all about.

 

I got up to speed on those four major program initiatives, understanding where the budget was, where the program was, where we were, how we were going to go, and as I spread all the things out on the table, one thing jumps right out at me, and it jumped out at me as I was going through the confirmation. Everything on that paper, everything in those programs was delivered just in time to replace the old stuff that’s going out. Boy, having spent a significant amount of my life in the acquisition business, that means we have a broken program, we just don’t know where it is right now. Which means we have risk to our deterrent, and we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that risk doesn’t happen.

 

But since then I’ve realized that the big four was insufficient in describing where we’re going. Those four platforms, as amazing as they are, as amazing as the Columbia’s going to be, as amazing as the B-21 is going to be, as amazing as the GBSD is going to be, they’re nothing without a weapon on top. The weapon is what strikes fear into our adversaries. The weapon is the reason we build those platforms.

 

I talked about Rickover a little while ago. Remember that. The weapon is the reason we build the platforms. Without the weapons we’ve got big problems. And I looked at the weapon modernization strategy and I was told by probably the smartest person I know in this business, and that’s General Larry Welch, I was told the strategy was 3+2. Three interoperable warheads on the missile side and two on the airborne side. I said that makes a lot of sense to me. I looked into it and it makes a lot of sense.

 

So I immediately started talking about it in Washington, and unless I was in the nuclear family nobody understood what I was talking about. Then I looked at the budget and I realized that’s not even funded. So it’s a strategy, but it’s not a program. It’s not a plan. It’s not funded.

 

In the Nuclear Posture Review, you will see a mandate, and in the implementation plan which we’re talking about today, you’ll see guidance. And by the end of this year we have to have a plan for the modernization of our nuclear weapons to go on each of these platforms because our nuclear weapons labs and our nuclear weapons production facility, they have to lay in a strategy that goes over 20, 30, 40 years in order to be effective in what they do. If they don’t do that, they can’t get there from here because you can’t just magically expect new weapons to show up overnight. They take literally decades to build. The nuclear weapons business in this country is one of our greatest advantages, but it is old, as well.  

 

The infrastructure in the labs dates back to the Manhattan Project. When you go there, they show that with pride. And they should show it with pride because it’s an amazing part of our history. But as the Commander of USSTRATCOM it scares the heck out of me. Why do we have some of our most brilliant physicists working in buildings that were built in the ‘40s and ‘50s? Isn’t it time to modernize our weapons labs? Isn’t it time to make sure we have a strategy that goes forward, and then fund that strategy to make sure it’s not just the four platforms. You have to have the weapons on top.

 

The other piece of the puzzle is you have to have an effective command and control capability in order to deal with that.

 

When I looked at the command and control capability, let’s just say I was not overly impressed. The good news for everybody in this room is you should sleep well at night because it is the most cyber secure capability that we’ll ever have in this country again. That’s because you couldn’t build the cyber threat environment in the 1950s. So we have hundreds of miles of copper wire buried across five states in the middle of the country. We have ways to communicate with our submarines that was brilliant in terms of its design and the capabilities. We have ways to communicate with our bomber force and they’re very, very secure.

 

But when we build the new B-21, the new Columbia, the new GBSD, we’re going to plug into a new command and control system. I don’t know what that new command and control system is, but each one of these companies that are here today, that are building those, are designing for the future command and control system. They have to.

 

GBSD has a TMRR, Tech Maturation Risk Reduction phase, they’re going through right now. And the big question in that is what’s the command and control piece look like? Well, guess what? We have to define the end game for them to be effective and we haven’t done that.

 

So Secretary Mattis, when he came out to visit us, he came out to visit us in September of last year. The big item on his mind was NC3 -- Nuclear Command, Control, and Communication. And he was amazed at our situational awareness, amazed at our capabilities, and concerned about the future. So he said who’s in charge? I said well, there’s a lot of people in charge. We have a committee. If you don’t tell that to Secretary Mattis–I knew him as General Mattis, so I slip every once in a while—but if you know Secretary Mattis very well, when you say committee, he doesn’t react well. And he did not react well. He said I want somebody in charge. I want the commander in charge.

 

Well, if you want a commander in charge of NC3, I wonder who that’s going to be? But I didn’t raise my hand that day because I did not have the resources to do that job. But we started through a process and about six weeks ago now, Secretary Mattis signed a piece of paper that said Commander of STRATCOM will be the sole individual responsible for NC3 operations, NC3 requirements, and NC3 system engineering and integration. He gave me 90 days to come up with an implementation plan. That implementation plan will be delivered to the Pentagon for staffing on the 20th of July and the Secretary wants to sign it by the 20th of August. Then we’ll get to work. And we have a lot of work to do in that area. And the Secretary has told me multiple times, besides your day-to-day operational responsibilities, that will be your next highest priority, is to make sure we get nuclear command and control right.

 

So it’s not the big four, it’s the big six. That’s what we have to do.

 

And then as we go through this development of the big six—bombers, ICBMs, cruise missiles, submarines, weapons, nuclear command and control—we’ve got to do it at a pace that meets our adversary and beats our adversary, which means we have to figure out how to go fast again.

 

So I’ve talked many times about, I don’t know when, but somehow our country’s lost the ability to go fast. But it’s coming back. We have a Secretary of Defense, a Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary of the Navy, CNO, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, are all committed to going fast. They’re pushing things back out to the field. They’re pushing things back out to program managers.

 

I told them, my metric for success will be when you can pull up a program director’s calendar and you’ll find the program director spending more days in the contractor factory than they do in the Pentagon or the Capitol, because the program directors for the last 10-20 years, the way our bureaucracy is, spend all their time getting their programs through the Pentagon and they don’t spend time building the capability.

 

So the Air Force, the Navy, are pushing back out to the field which is an awesome thing. We have to go fast. We can’t be afraid to fail.

 

We put too much pressure on SSB, I mean the SET tests here recently, four for four successful. That’s awesome. But the most important thing for me is we launched four. Because when you launch, that’s when you learn. And somehow we came to a point where every failure is a disaster. We had two hypersonic tests a few years ago that failed, and so we stopped the program. We had one missile defense failure, and oh my gosh, it’s on the front page of every newspaper. That’s ridiculous. One of my favorite Rickover quotes is, “Success teaches us nothing. Failure teaches everything.” We have to be able to accept failure again.

 

So let’s talk about Rickover to finish up and then I’ll open it up for questions and answers.

 

Captain Hyman Rickover, 1946, figures out that the future of the Navy is going to be in the nuclear business. It’s going to be a nuclear Navy. He’s a captain. He’s an O-6 at the time. In the next few years he went around his leadership, got to the CNO, I think it was Arleigh Burke. Got to the CNO and convinced him that we need to build a nuclear ship. That ship would be the Nautilus. And it was approved in 1949. 1949 he gets the go-ahead to build the Nautilus.

 

In 1949 a nuclear reactor was the size of a city block, and he had to figure out how to fit it onto a 28-foot submarine. I don’t know why he started with a submarine instead of a surface ship, but he did. Maybe because Nimitz was part of it. Nimitz was a submariner. I don’t know what the story was, but he started with a submarine and he said I’ve got to figure out how to fit a nuclear reactor that’s a city block down to a 28-foot submarine. And he got authorization and funding. Not a lot of funding when you look at the overall scheme of things. A few billion, but not tons and tons of money that we think about in our $700 billion a year budget. And in 1953 he had a full prototype in the middle of Idaho of how the nuclear reactor would fit in a 28-foot submarine and he fired it up and it worked fine. And in 1954 he put that on the Nautilus. In 1954, that submarine was underway.

 

Five years from start to deployment of a submarine. Five years. And he had to invent the physics, invent the engineering, invent the science, come up with the sailors, come up with the entire -- everything had to be invented from scratch and he did it from ’49 to ’54.

 

Then he looked at it and said, you know, the submarine isn’t much good without a weapon, so we need a weapon, and that weapon was going to be Polaris. And he started that. And the first five launches of Polaris were failures. Five in a row. Similar to the space program in the Air Force with General Schriever. Twelve failures in a row before he succeeded. Five failures in a row.

 

If you look at the stats for Polaris, 17 tests. Five were successful, 11 were labeled partially successful. Today’s definition of partially successful would be failure. And one complete failure. That’s, again, defined by Rickover.

 

Seventeen launches. Five successes, 11 partial successes, one failure, and we’re ready to go, and we put the missile on the submarine and we started the deterrent patrol. That’s where the JSTPS, Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, came into SAC at the time. We integrated the Navy for the first time. That ended up turning into the Joint U.S. Strategic Command in 1992 when we finally got around to building a unified command for all the nuclear capabilities. It all was right there. But, you know, submerged for the first time in July 1960, the first combat patrol. September 1960. That was going fast.

 

Another one of my favorite Rickover quotes is, “My job was not to work within the system. My job was getting things done to ensure, to make this country strong.” Not to defend the country, to make the country strong. If you make the country strong we’ll defend ourselves.

 

So that’s Rickover. So the Nuclear Posture Review, we went through a threat-based approach, and because of that we looked at the world as it is, not the world we wish it would be. And we say, we need a triad, we need all those capabilities, and we need some supplemental capabilities. Because of the Russian doctrine to escalate, to win a conflict on the battlefield, we think we need some more responsive options on the low-yield nuclear weapon side. We suggested the development of low yield nuclear weapons on our ballistic missile submarines again. We said we need sea-launched cruise missiles again. We got away from those about ten years ago. We need those. I requested we extend the B-83 for a very specific reason, until we get the B-61-12 which is the gravity bomb that comes off our bombers.

 

But that’s really just a threat-based approach to the world that we live in, that we have to. And we can do those things quickly. We can do those things fairly easily, without spending an enormous amount of money. And that will improve the security of our nation. That’s all the Nuclear Posture Review is doing. Our job is to make this country strong. That’s what Rickover said, and it applies to this day.

 

So thank you for your attention this morning, at 7 o’clock in the morning, talking about nuclear capabilities. I very much appreciate it. I appreciate the time. I wish I could spend all day with you. I can’t. I have a full day of work back in Omaha. That’s just the nature of the beast. But I’d be willing to take any questions on any subject. Thank you very much.

 

 

Q: Good morning, General. Sydney Freedberg, Breaking Defense.

I’m the media for the day.

 

I wanted to talk about NC3 and that joint context because we hear a lot about it’s in the NPR about integration of nuclear versus with non-nuclear. We hear about this multi-domain concept all the services are going for which is let’s not have things in their stovepipes, you know, let’s actually converge them all to a common purpose. But again, that’s challenging enough. But then you hear people on the arms control side saying wait a minute, there should be a stovepipe for nukes. It should be isolated and firewalled, so we’d never even think of using it as part of a conventional operation.

 

How do you resolve those two challenges? One, just the military art and technology of doing this? And two, making sure that nukes stay in that sort of sacrosanct, last resort status?

 

Gen. Hyten: It’s kind of an interesting, I don’t want to get too detailed in terms of how we conduct our business, but we really started looking at it differently in the last administration and we continued it in this administration at a different level. What we were tasked to do with the last administration is build integrated nuclear plans. That’s what we were asked to do.

 

So it used to be we had kind of a -- what was called the Single Individual Operational Plan. That was the SIOP. That was our response to the nuclear piece. But the leadership of our country I think rightly decided that we should be able to integrate our nuclear plans with the conventional plans that we have. Why? It’s real simple. Because the way the conflict actually happens is that if it’s going really, really bad, that’s when it gets to nuclear. You don’t want it to get really bad, so you want to apply every conventional aspect that you have to that.

 

USSTRATCOM has a lot of conventional capabilities. We have space capabilities. We have missile defense capabilities. We have a lot of capabilities we can apply to a problem that we need to be able to provide to the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, as options to get us off the escalation ladder that’s driving us into the nuclear business. We want to avoid that.

 

So we played a big exercise just this last February, and the exercise, let’s just say that you do a Global Thunder exercise in U.S. Strategic Command. I just want you to ask in your own head, how do you think it ends? It ends the same way every time. It does. It ends bad. And the bad meaning it ends with global nuclear war. And guess what? We have to actually practice that every day. And we do. We practice it every day because we have to be good at it. We want our adversaries to know we’re good at it. We want our friends to know we’re good at it. So we practice it every day.

 

But when we did that exercise in February we had the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the entire Joint Staff on the NAOC, which is the National Airborne Operations Center, the big airborne command and control base, so he could see what was happening from the air. And as soon as the NAOC landed after the exercise was over, he called me, like within seconds. And I’ll just say General Dunford wasn’t happy with the way the exercise went. He said we should provide the President more options, not fewer options. And the way the process was driving down, we were providing very few options. And we were providing options that would -- so the goal is to provide more options to the President to give him options to de-escalate a conflict, not just escalate a conflict. To get us off that escalation ladder. And the challenge I’ve given to our staff and Admiral Jablon lived through this for the last couple of years, I don’t know how many times I’ve said I don’t want on the escalation ladder, I want off the escalation ladder. That’s the point. And for whatever reason, the whole structure of the command was about the escalation ladder.

 

That’s not the way you really want to fight. So it’s adding reality to the situation that we’re in, because the best way to avoid using nuclear weapons is to make sure they’re always ready, always reliable, always there, that you have other options for the President to get out of that conflict.

 

I probably haven’t used it in this audience, I use it quite a bit. But people ask me, can you imagine a world without nuclear weapons? It’s actually easy. Everybody in this room can. It’s the world before August of 1945. The world before August of 1945 and six years prior, the world killed somewhere between 60 and 80 million people. Do the math. That’s a little over 30,000 people a day died in World War II.

 

Our country’s horrible experience in Vietnam where we lost some of our nation’s greatest treasure, our sons and daughters, the over decade-long experience in Vietnam, we lost 58,000. Tragic losses. Our sons and daughters, 58,000. That’s less than two days in World War II. Two days of conflict in World War II.

 

So the goal is to keep major power conflict down. To keep that major violence down. You can’t eliminate conflict. Conflict will exist as long as humans exist. But the goal is to keep that down. So we want to give the President and the Secretary of Defense more options.

 

So Sydney, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re building more options in. That creates some challenges not just for the USSTRATCOM commander, but it creates challenges for the geographic combatant commanders, too. Because now we have to work together. Because when the President gets on the line, the first thing he’s going to, if it’s in the Pacific he’d say Commander, PACOM, what’s your assessment? Commander, USSTRATCOM, what’s your assessment? And we have to be together. We have to be together in understanding what that is because he’s going to go to the Chairman and he’s going to go to the SecDef. We all have to be together.

 

So the SecDef has adjusted our processes to allow us time to make sure we have an integrated plan when we’re talking to the president.

 

It actually happened quite fast on the overall scheme of things. But it should have happened a long time ago, and we were just kind of on auto pilot for a long time. The world has changed now from underneath us. And we’re changing from autopilot to hands on the stick.

 

Other questions?

 

Q: General, Jack [inaudible] with Naval Academy of Sciences, ’63. I want to thank you for your kind words about the boss.

 

But in February 1963, I was a first-class midshipman sitting in the docks -- all the stories are true. [Laughter]. In January of 1965, crews, officers and men, we moved SUBLANT 16 to Rota, Spain. And I think there were two boats in port. But Lafayette was going to be forward deployed in Rota. On the way over, the boss wanted to see what actually would happen if we went to a combat launch. So in February of 1965 Lafayette south of the Azores, we launched four Polaris towards the Ascension, and we had an error of 2000 yards to ground zero. That was ’65. So that wasn’t that many years after ’49. I just wanted to thank you for recognizing the nuclear Navy.

 

Gen. Hyten: Thanks very much.

 

There’s an interesting story embedded in that about Admiral Rickover. And I knew some bad stories about Admiral Rickover, it’s not all sunshine and roses.

 

Q: -- the ghost

 

Gen. Hyten: There is a ghost. There’s a ghost of Curtis LeMay that lives in my house.

 

But the interesting thing is that when Rickover looked at the requirements for Polaris, he really wanted a 1500 nautical mile missile. He felt like if it was a 1500 nautical mile missile and the mobility of the submarines he could be able to deal with Moscow. That was kind of his goal.

 

But the technology at the time really only allowed him to get to like 900 or 1000 miles. Which means he had to adjust the CONOPS for the submarine, which he did. Why is that revolutionary? The civilians in the audience would probably go yeah, that makes perfect sense. For whatever reason, military folks today, we write down a requirement and the requirement is sacrosanct. If we write down a range requirement, that’s the way it is, and we tell industry, meet that. And if industry comes back and tells us you know, I really can’t quite get there but I can get almost there, we say no, that’s the requirement.

 

We spend an enormous amount of money chasing that requirement, and Rickover got to that point and he said screw it, I’ll just use the submarine.

 

We can do that across the entire board, and we work with industry. If you work with industry, industry comes up and tells us, we have an issue there. We can make adjustments on the fly. I’m the combatant commander now. I’m responsible for requirements for NC3, but I’m also responsible for the operational requirements and nuclear capabilities. And if somebody comes to me, a service comes to me, the Air Force comes to me and says, you know, I can’t quite get there. Can you give up a little of this requirement? If I can come up with an operational work-around and make schedule, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.

                                                                             

It’s just like it was in the 1960s. Schedule is the most important thing right now. When everything delivers just in time, you have to deliver and it has to work. So for the industry partners in here, if you come up with an issue where you want a little freedom to adjust requirements, just talk to me. We’ll have that conversation.

 

Thank you.

 

Other questions?

 

Q: General, James [Meadow] from the Government Accountability Office.

 

To your point on going fast and understanding the imperative of a delivery schedule, how are you going to balance that with the bureaucratic policies to ensure that we actually have a program to deliver the [inaudible]? What’s the balance there?

 

Gen. Hyten: That’s a really good question coming from the GAO.

 

Here’s what we’ve done over the last, well, actually most of my career. It wasn’t this way when I first came in, but for the last 27, 28 years it’s been this way. I date it back to when we had $600 hammers and $1000 toilet seats and really stupid stuff.

 

What was the reaction by the Congress every time we had one of those incidents? They would pass a law, create an organization, and make sure that never happened again. And then the Department of Defense learned from that and got ahead of the Congress, so every time one of those things happened, we created our own office of protection to make sure that never happened again.

 

And what that does is it takes the authority away from the program director in the field and moves it to an office in the Pentagon. And that office in the Pentagon is now the only person that can say yes or no.

 

What we should have done is we should have found the idiot that spent a thousand dollars for a toilet seat, put him on the front page of the Washington Post and said this person is an idiot. Never do this again. Go find another person to go buy a toilet seat for [$28] and move on from that rather than creating an organization around that.

 

If you do that a couple of times, people stop. Then what you have to do is you hold people accountable. I’ve had some fascinating discussions with Senator McCain, and I hope everybody in here says a prayer for Senator McCain because he’s going through a tough fight. But the interesting thing, I can’t tell you how many times, especially when I was doing acquisition for the Air Force, I’d walk into Senator McCain’s office and if I walked in I usually have bad news, because nobody ever gave me good news. It was always bad news. In fact, when I started that job I realized it was all bad news all the time, and so I got a roll of quarters. A roll of quarters, $10 worth of quarters. And I told people, all right, if you come into my office with good news I will give you a quarter. When I left that job two and a half years later, I had $9.50 left. [Laughter]. But I tell you, every time I walked into Senator McCain’s office with bad news, and he would lighten it up, and if it’s bad news, I’ll take it because we deserve it. He would say, who is accountable? And I could never give him a good answer.

 

So one of the things I like about SSP, and I see Jonathan down here, and I like about Navy reactors, is there is no doubt in the United States Navy who’s responsible for anything in the SSP report or anything in the Naval reactors report. It’s Admiral Caldwell, that’s it. That’s who’s responsible. And you know, I think he liked it. I know Admiral Caldwell likes it. I know Admiral Richardson liked it. Everybody I known loves that, and you’re in that job for a long time. And if you have to go explain something bad, there’s no doubt where the buck stops.

 

But in the enterprise as a whole, that’s not the way it works. In the enterprise as a whole, it’s the program director wasn’t responsible because so on, so on, so on, so on, so on, so on.

 

What I want to get back to is know who is responsible and hold them accountable. And the story I tell, when I was a young officer, and I was an engineer. It would have been a dream to grow up to a job like, I never expected to be a combatant commander for God’s sakes. But I didn’t want to be the admiral, I didn’t want to be the general. I wanted to be the colonel program director. Why did I want to be the colonel program director? They had all the authority and responsibility when I was a lieutenant. They were given the money and authority and responsibility.

 

Then I remember a horrible fire when a program failed. That colonel was fired and run out of town on a rail and it was not good, and I remember ten colonels all lining up fighting for that job. Put me in. I want the authority and responsibility.

 

That’s the right structure. That’s when you actually do things right.

 

So it’s not, not having authority and responsibility, it’s having it in the right place at the right time and then holding people accountable. That’s what we have to do.

 

All right, thank you very much.