General John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Good morning, everybody. It’s good to be home. It’s always good to come back home. I got to spend some time with my parents this week. Thanks for all of you in the audience that asked about my dad last night. He’s struggling a bit, but it’s good to spend a couple of days with my mom and dad and my brother. It’s a neat community.
Let me just clarify a couple of things. The Army has more airplanes than the United States Air Force only because we let you. Think about it for a second. It’s actually true. Because if we don’t create the place you can fly, you don’t get to fly. That’s what air power’s all about.
Anyway, I’m not --
I’m going to talk today just about a couple of topics. I’m going to talk about perspectives and imperatives.
As I came home, and I’m tooling around Huntsville and I’m moving furniture and I’m doing manual labor for the first time in I don’t know how long, you know, it actually feels good to do real work every once in a while. You just get something done and you look down and it’s good.
My son has said a million times, you know, he’s watched me ever since I made general. He knows one thing, I don’t do any real work anymore. And it’s true, because I have people that do all the real work.
In my command there’s 162,000 people that do the work. I don’t do any of it. And they’re remarkable.
But as I was thinking about perspectives, and I’ve stood up on this stage and other stages in Huntsville and told the amazing stories about growing up here. Grissom High School, Class of ’77. Amazing teachers. Getting to meet [Werner] Von Braun, [German aerospace engineer and space architect] in the 5th grade. I’ve told all those stories about Huntsville, but I think the one person I haven’t told stories about is my grandmother, so I thought I’d start today with a story about perspectives and start with my grandmother.
So my grandmother, Noreen C. Hyten. She lived out in a mobile home. The address was Hubert & Noreen Hyten, RR1, Grant, Alabama. That was the only address there was. And somehow the postman always found my grandmother when you needed to mail something to her. She lived out on a little hill above Lake Guntersville. She was just an amazing, one of the toughest women I’ve ever met in my life. The best shot I’ve ever seen. She had a .22 by the door. We had to go there for Sunday dinner every Sunday night, and whatever she shot that week, that’s what we’d be eating. I had no idea half the time what we were eating, but it was always good. The .22 was always sitting there by the door. And I never saw her take more than one shot. It didn’t matter what she was shooting at. Never saw more than one shot.
But she was about five feet tall, weighed 90 pounds, and her son, my father, was 6’7”, roughly 350. So if you watched this little five-foot, 90-pound woman take care of a 6’7” 350-pound person, and dominate him, that tells you everything I want you to know.
So you’ve heard in my bio that I was lucky enough to get accepted and go to Harvard University and the Air Force paid my whole way. So when I went up to Harvard, the two people that took me up to Harvard were my mom and my grandmother. They drove me up, moved me in, and dropped me off. They were in this giant Buick. You can imagine a 1970s Buick, driving around Boston. That was pretty much an adventure. Talk about perspective. That changed my mom’s perspective about life. She was called names that she hadn’t ever heard before. It was pretty interesting, just driving about Boston.
But we move in, and Harvard at the time was a coeducational institution. Men and women all together. Radcliffe had been included in Harvard long before, so the room across from the room I was moving into with my three roommates was four women. And they were moving in across the hall.
My grandmother looks up at me without blinking and goes, John, isn’t it nice. Those girls are helping their brothers move into Harvard. I learned a long time ago, don’t argue with my grandmother, so I just said yes ma’am, that’s really nice.
So she’s all proud. I’m going to Harvard University. She’s just so proud.
So she goes home and she starts putting together the care package of all care packages to send me. So she’s making me wild plum jam, and bread and butter pickles, and all the cookies that I liked. Everything that I loved she’s putting in this giant care package to send me to school.
She didn’t drive at that time, so she calls my dad and says, Sherwin [Hyten], get over here. I’ve got to go to the post office, I’ve got to mail a package.
Now the closest post office to where she lived was in Grant, and Grant in the 1970s had about 500 people. That was the big town. I looked it up last night. Grant now has 900 people, so it’s booming. But Grant had about 500 people.
There was one post office and there was a postmaster, and that’s all that was really there. So my dad loved this story. He goes and gets my grandmother. They have a big package. They walk into the post office. My dad takes the packages, walks in. She’s all dressed up to go to the post office. She walks in. The postmaster comes out. Ms. Hyten, how are you? What are you doing up in town today? I’m here to mail a package off to my [grand]son, he’s in college. And the postmaster goes that’s awesome. Where’s he going?
Now my grandmother on the package had written Harvard University in as big a letters as you can get, so she turns the package around and says he’s up at Harvard University. The postmaster says Harvard University. Where’s that? And my grandmother goes, it’s up in Massachusetts. Massachusetts, really? He couldn’t get into Alabama or Auburn? That’s perspective. That’s perspective.
When you think about perspective you have to think about where you sit and where you stand. Perspective is walking into Massachusetts for the first time, seeing a new world. Perspective is walking into a post office in Grant, Alabama in 1977 and dealing with the perspective that that person has. Perspectives come from where you sit and where you stand and what you believe, what you see and what you do.
My perspective comes as the commander of United States Strategic Command. A job that I’d never aspired to, I never imagined that I would ever be in that job. But it is an amazing job and amazing command. It is the most powerful command on the face of the planet. My chief, Chief [Patrick] McMahon, he points out that that’s not braggadocio. That’s not, you know, any kind of -- that’s just a fact. The United States Strategic Command is the most powerful command on the planet. 162,000 people that come to work every day, doing work by themselves, work with our allies, work with our friends, work with our partners, doing all the things they have to do. That’s the perspective I have. And I can tell you the most important thing about the command today is that we are ready. We are ready, equipped, trained for any threat, anybody in the world can bring at us. From the most significant nuclear threat to a minor nuclear threat to, if there is such a thing, to a space threat, to a missile threat, to anything that you can imagine in my portfolio, the command is ready.
I have no concerns. I sleep well at night when I go to bed. And you should sleep well at night as well, because the 162,000 people under my command are doing their job every day so that we can sleep well at night.
That is so important to understand, and a lot of things you see talk about challenges. And we have challenges. Dr. [Mike] Griffin, [Under Secretary for Research and Engineering] is up front, and we were actually we looked at each other a while ago and said welcome home. It was kind of interesting. I said welcome home, Mike, and he said welcome home. It’s good to be in Huntsville.
But we’ve got challenges. But the challenges I’m not worried about today. And as the commander of STRATCOM, I have everything that I need to do my job. But what I worry about is will we have the capabilities to deal with the threats of the future and the threats that are coming? And oh by the way, those threats have been moving for a long time.
So as I talk about imperatives, the imperatives are going to talk about the future. But here’s the number one imperative, and it comes from my perspective that I was just talking about.
The number one imperative is that the men and women that work in U.S. Strategic Command below the ground, below the sea, in the air, operating in space, operating in cyber space, missile defense, electronic warfare, analysis and targeting. Wherever they are, they should always have the best capability that the nation can provide. They should always be able to dominate a battlefield. I never want to have a fair fight. I never want an adversary to look at us and say yeah, it’s about even. If they ever look at us and say it’s about even, there is a risk for this country going to war. I never want that to happen. And I can stand here and tell you, because of the work of many people in this room and the work of the last 20, 30, 40 years, we are the dominant military power on the planet in every domain and everybody understands that.
So don’t worry about today. But you need to worry about the future.
Cause here’s the threat, and the interesting thing about the threat is when you look at the threat today and you look at our strategic document that have come out, whether that’s the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review, the National Space Strategy. Each of those documents come out, have a lot of continuity to previous strategic documents from multiple administrations, both Democrat and Republican. It’s really interesting the continuity that’s there.
But there is a big difference. The big difference is each of those documents now for the first time in almost 20 years, talk about the threat. Because somehow they were writing strategic documents and describing what we need to do and we never talked about the threat. In fact, we had document after document in all administrations that told us that we actually didn’t have a threat anymore. And in the year 2000, which is an interesting year if you look back in history. The year 2000 in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the United States made the statement that said we no longer have an identifiable threat that we have to worry about, and because we don’t, we’re going to move from a threat-based approach to our strategy to a capability-based approach to our strategy. A capability-based approach means that all I have to do is develop the capabilities I think will be able to dominate the battlefield, and I will be able to dominate the battlefield.
That has two fundamental flaws. Flaw number one is when you do that, you basically tell everybody the capabilities that you’re going to build. And if, God forbid, you do have a threat, they know exactly what you’re going to do and they will start building capabilities to respond to that threat.
The second issue is that there were threats that were still out there. So the year 2000, Quadrennial Defense Review, no more threats. Vladimir Putin is elected President of Russia in March of that year. In April of that year he stands up and he announces a new doctrine for the country of Russia. A new military doctrine. And the military doctrine is, this is before 9/11, but based on watching the United States in the years from the Gulf War to the end of the decade through allied force, et cetera, and he saw the most powerful conventional army, conventional air force, conventional navy ever built on the planet. And so he said, for the security of my country, Russia, we will have a doctrine that we will use nuclear weapons on the battlefield if we ever get into a conflict with an adversary and it’s not going well, we’ll use nuclear weapons on the battlefield to change the game. It was called, in the popular press, escalate or deescalate. The actual translation, when I look at it says escalate to win, escalate to end. That’s the structure. He made that speech in April of 2000, and he announced a 50 percent increase in the nuclear budget for Russia.
In 2016, now he’s going to modernize the entire capability and have it done by 2020, and they’ve been on that path ever since.
China. China announced their strategy recently. The year was 1995. They watched us in the Gulf War. They watched exactly what we did. In 1995 they wrote down exactly what they were going to do. I wrote a paper in 1998 and I was at the University of Illinois at the time, and the university wanted me to write on what China was doing. I didn’t really want to write on what China was doing, but they kind of made me. So the first half of the paper was what China was going to do in space. The second half of the paper was what the United States could do in response to space. And later, David Martin of CBS came up to me after having read that paper and preparing for an interview he was doing with me, and he looked at me and said how are you so clairvoyant? How did you know exactly what the Chinese were going to do? I wasn’t clairvoyant. I didn’t want to write that paper. I just had Chinese students that were working with me to help me translate what the Chinese said and I just copied it down. They said exactly what they were going to do and they’ve been doing that for the last 23 years. On that path, adjusting if they have to and moving forward.
Think about that. So the Russians announced their strategy in 2000 -- build nuclear weapons, space weapons, missile capabilities. The Chinese announced the same thing -- nuclear weapons, space weapons, missile capability. They’re building all these things, aggressively building all these things. But we looked at it and said they’re not a threat.
Well, I look back in history and say if they’re not a threat who are they building those weapons for? Who are they spending all that money for? Because they were worried about the Chechen rebels? That’s why they needed an entire nuclear arsenal? They were worried about what was going on, they needed a new one? No. They built that capability because they were focused on the United States.
You know what? They don’t have to be adversaries they do not. We have the ability to create a world that they’re friends, but you can’t call them our friends if they’re building weapons that can destroy the United States of America. Therefore we have to develop a capability to respond to that. We have to build the ability to respond in the nuclear side, on the space side, on the missile defense side, all the way through.
And I’m going to talk today about the nuclear, space, missile defense capabilities that we need, that we have to have in order to move forward in the future and respond to any threats that are coming forward. That is what our job is in U.S. Strategic Command.
It is not to create the conditions of war. It’s to create the conditions for peace. The old Strategic Air Command motto was brought back, and you’ll see it everywhere in my command it is, “Peace is our profession.” That is what we want, that’s the world we want to live in, that’s the world we need. In order to do that we have to be dominant in any situation.
There’s one change that is made to that motto that you’ll y see if you look carefully as you go around the command. The key is actually on that chart. Go all the way to the bottom, below my name. You see “Peace is our profession”, right? But if you notice the little thing at the end, because the legend has it that Gen. Curtis LeMay back in the 1950s when he heard that motto said I really like that motto. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. But you know what? You need a dot, dot, dot at the end. The dot, dot, dot at the end says peace is our profession, however, if you want to cross the line, we’re coming. And we’re coming in the most unbelievable, powerful way and we will change the game, and you never want to cross that line.
It’s a strange business. But it’s so important that we do it all together.
So let’s talk about the nuclear side.
President Putin in 2000 says escalate to win. We’re going to build low yield nuclear weapons, and he’s been building low yield nuclear weapons by large numbers. So we have low yield nuclear weapons in our inventory. They’re on the air launched side of our triad. We have bombers and fighters that carry low yield nuclear weapons. We used to have some low yield nuclear weapons in other places, and we looked at the structure and we decided that, you know, in the Nuclear Posture Review, we looked at the threat that was out there in Russia and we said we need a couple of small low yield nuclear weapons to deploy on our submarine force to make sure that we always can give the President immediate response options and our adversaries know that. That will deter our adversaries from ever walking over that line. Because we can respond not only in 24 hours, but we can respond within minutes. And if they know that, they will not walk down that line.
We also said we need to look at sea-launched cruise missiles again. We used to have sea-launched cruise missiles. Why? Because there is a threat out there that demands that capability. Everything that you see in the Nuclear Posture Review is just a simple statement of here’s the threat, here’s the response. Here’s the response we need in order to deter our adversaries. Here’s the response we need in order to respond to our adversaries should deterrence fail. And if you want to know where my command thinks, you can pick it up on the web. You can go to the STRATCOM web site and you can find my commander’s vision and intent on that web site. You’ll see it. Read it.
You should know that 162,000 people in the U.S. Strategic Command read that and they understand it. It’s a mission, vision. It gives left and right limits. It allows people to understand where they ought to go and move as fast as they want to inside those left and right limits. If they want to get out of those left and right limits, come see me.
But in that document there are three priorities. And the three priorities. Priority one, above all else, this command will provide a strategic deterrent for the United States. Priority two, if deterrence fails, we will provide a decisive response. And priority three, we’ll do it with a combat ready force, resilient, trained and equipped to do the job.
When people hear that, they jump right to the nuclear mission in their mind, and that’s okay. I’m sure 90 percent of the people in this audience did too. But that applies to missile defense, it applies to space, it applies to nukes, it applies to everything at STRATCOM. We have to be ready. We have to be combat ready. And our adversaries have to know that. That’s part of deterrence.
So you look at the Nuclear Posture Review. What is the Nuclear Posture Review? Unbelievably consistent through ten administrations about the need for a triad. Unbelievably consistent. The only thing that really changed is because we have a threat that’s out there we need a couple of supplemental capabilities in order to respond to that threat. It’s actually very simple, and in the National Defense Authorization Act that was just passed by the Congress, not the law of the land yet, Congress supported that from a bipartisan perspective, and I appreciate that. What that tells me is that when it comes to the security of the country that it is a bipartisan issue, as it should be.
When you think about space, we have some significant challenges in space. Huge challenge in space. We have two big adversaries -- Russia and China -- that are building capabilities to challenge us in space. And have been for a long time. And building and testing those capabilities.
The most visible was the Chinese test in 2000, but that’s only one of many things that are going on. They have non-kinetic capabilities and kinetic capabilities that they’re building. Russia is doing the same thing. Russia is testing kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities. And not because of anything internal problems, but because of the threat that the United States is bringing to bear. Because we have created a space enterprise that has changed warfare, that brings precision to the battlefield, that allows us to communicate anywhere, anytime, anyplace we need to. Nobody has to wonder where help is coming from, cause help is coming in a hurry. Just make the phone call. And you can make a phone call on any system.
Our adversaries see that and say how can we deny that? They develop capabilities to take away comms [communications], to take away navigation, take away intelligence, to take away all those things. They’re developing those capabilities.
So what do we have to do to respond to that? Well, we have to basically build capabilities to defend ourselves. Build capabilities to bring the fight to the adversary. It’s the same as any other problem in the military. And for some reason, we had a tough time wrapping our arms around the fact that it’s just a warfighting domain.
I’ll tell you a quick story about the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and how it’s just a warfighting domain. So the Air Force and the Joint Force, the Army has been moving fast in building capabilities to respond to this. Just on July 18th, last month, we stood up a [Combined] Space Operation Center [CSpOC] in California to make sure that coalition partners, our close allies in the space business, all have a place to come do warfare.
A couple of years ago we stood up the National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs to have a place to plan for when war extends into space, how do we deal with it? Because there is no such thing as war in space, but war will extend into space, and how do we deal with it? How do we deter it? How do we provide decisive response to that area if we have to? That’s what we’re having to walk into when we’re looking at space.
So, when we built this National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs, we called it this funky name, JICSpOC, Joint Interagency Combined Space Operation Center. It basically had every buzzword in the Department of Defense, all linked together in an acronym.
We changed it a year ago. We said what is it? Space defense. What is it nationally? Oh, let’s call it the National Space Defense Center. So we did. That’s all it does. But when we built this, everybody wanted to come. Oh my gosh, everybody wanted to come and see what that really looked like.
So you had the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But the Chairman, Gen. Dunford, he came out and at his core, I mean he is the best leader in the Department of Defense. That’s why he’s the Chairman. But he walks into that place and at his core, he’s really a Marine. When you really think about Gen. Dunford, he’s a Marine.
So he walks in and there’s 70 people in this room and the room is about a sixth of the size of this room, and there’s 70 people in there, and he looks around and he sees two Marine captains standing against the wall. So what does a Marine general do? Beeline right to the two captains. He took those two captains up against the wall and he says, okay, tell me how it’s going. What’s going on? He’s sitting there, talking to them, and I’m listening because I’ve been in there multiple times, and the Marines are doing a great job explaining what’s going on. A really good job. Excellent.
Finally Gen. Dunford realizes oops, I am the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Maybe I should talk to somebody else. He moves on, and he starts talking to other people. I walked up to the two Marine captains, and I go, so, no BS now. You tell me how’s it really going? They look at me and they say well, sir, there’s 70 people in this room and when it comes to space, 68 of them are smarter than we are. Sorry about that. But, I said, you know that’s true. Sixty-eight people in this room when it comes to space are smarter than you. But let me ask you a question. Why do you maneuver? They looked at me and said well, we maneuver to evade, or we maneuver to gain a position of advantage. I said that’s exactly right. That’s how a warfighter answers that question. Go ask any of these other 68 people why you maneuver and they’ll say to maintain my orbital parameters. Maintain my position. Maintain -- they will answer it every possible way you can get to it without getting to the fundamental reason why you maneuver.
So if you just treat every problem as a warfighting problem that comes in here, just every problem, you’ll be the two most valuable people in this room because the other 68 are going to look at it as a space problem, and all it is a warfighting problem.
So when you look at the issues and you’ve seen in the press through this year some amazing things. You’ve seen the Congress of the United States pass a law that says we have to go look at developing a Space Corps inside the United States Air Force to figure out how to do that. And we have reports to Congress that are due back this month, talking about that. You see Congress talking about standing up a sub-unified command for space now. You see the President of the United States calling for a Space Force, and we’re working that issue right now. We’re working all those issues.
But the interesting thing is if you look at the President’s Space Force, the Congress’ Space Corps, the Congress’ sub-unified command, and you take one step back and look at all the things leading up to that, they all say the following. We have a threat in space. Space is a warfighting domain. We have to treat it like a warfighting domain. That’s it. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
So as we do all this, we’re going to be in a much better position as a nation.
The Air Force is moving fast. The Air Force has stood up a CSpOC pretty much ahead of the scheduled deal. The National Space Defense Center has become operational. The Space Rapid Capabilities Office has stood up. The report to Congress will come out soon, and our nation will even step up to speed a little bit more. Because that’s what it’s about. It’s about speed. About dealing with the adversary. It’s about assessing the threat and responding to the threat. That’s what we’re doing. All of us. From the President on down. We see a threat. How do we respond to the threat? It’s actually quite simple and that’s what we’re doing.
On the missile defense side, we’ve developed capabilities, many of you here in Missile Defense Agency and SMDC ARSTRAT [U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command / Army Forces Strategic Command], we have 300 soldiers defending 300 million people up in Alaska right now. We have soldiers at Vandenberg [Air Force Base] in California sitting on missile defense interceptors. We changed the deterrent equation in North Korea.
North Korea, when they look at the United States, they look at offense and defense. It’s not just the offense of STRATCOM but it’s the missile defense capabilities they have to worry about as well. And that package creates a powerful deterrent message. A powerful deterrent message. It’s all together, the offense and defense combined. And it’s remarkable how fast we’ve gone building those capabilities.
But as you look across the world you see the world responding. And the world responding different. Hypersonic capabilities, cruise missile capabilities. Different technologies.
This is no different than looking at history over the last half century. Modern history. What we have to do.
So what do we have to do in the United States? We have to look at it and assess the threat. What is the threat? Then we have to make sure, the most important thing to deal with the threat is if there’s a threat out there you have to be able to see it. So I have a lot of things I want to get done in the missile defense business, and I know Dr. Griffin does as well. I know [Lt.] Gen. Dickinson does as well. Many of you in here.
But the most important thing to do in missile defense is make sure you can see and characterize the threat. If you can’t see and characterize the threat, I don’t care what kind of shooter you have, there’s nothing you can do about it. So the most important thing as you look at all the new threats that are coming together -- hypersonics, et cetera -- is that we have to be able to see that threat.
And if you think about a global threat, there’s not enough islands in the world to build radars on to see all the threats to be able to characterize the threats. You just can’t get there from here.
So the only place to go to do that is the place where the United States is actually strongest, and the technology is there to do it. That’s in space. So we have to move into space to be able to characterize the threat that’s coming off the earth and characterize the threat that will be coming through space in the mid-course, and the technology on the commercial side is becoming available now that we can do that in an affordable way, and that will be a challenge. That’s one of the reasons I think Dr. Griffin came back into government, God bless you, sir, for coming back in, is to figure out how we can that, how we can do it affordably. But that’s where we have to go in the future.
We have to be able to see that threat.
Then we want to be able to drive the enemy as far as we can to the left side of the kill chain. So if you can see it early, you can kill it early. That means boost phase intercept now becomes a possibility. That means prior to launch becomes a possibility. All of those things come together. So we want to drive that equation to the left. Driving that equation to the left has huge operational advantages because actually if you shoot down a missile that somebody launched and it comes back down on their heads, do you think they’re going to shoot another one? I don’t think so. They’re not going to shoot another one because it’s just going to come right back down on their head so they stop shooting. Isn’t that the whole point? That’s what we have to get to, but we have to be able to characterize it.
Then if you can drive it all the way to the left, the other thing that does for the United States, it starts imposing costs on the adversary. Right now if you just have the catcher’s mitt at the end, it’s a very expensive proposition for the United States. The farther you move that to the left, the more cost imposing it is on the adversary. That’s the change we want to make. And we have to walk down that.
So as you look at what we see in missile defense, we need robust capabilities. But I always put it in three categories. Sensors first; shooters second; capacity third. And we need all three, don’t get me wrong. But if we don’t have the sensors then the other two really don’t matter.
So missile defense is going that way.
So back up a second and just look at what we’ve been talking about for the last little while. We’ve been talking about our nuclear capabilities. Why are we building a modernized nuclear capability? Why have we said we need a small number of low yield nuclear weapons and we need to build some sea-launched cruise missiles again. Why are we doing that? Because we have a threat that demands it.
Why are we building space capabilities that are more resilient, robust, defendable, and hopefully in the not too distant future we have the ability to actually talk about some of them in public too, because we need to actually downgrade the classification on a lot of those so we can actually have a more public conversation on what we’re doing in space.
Why are we doing that? Because there’s a threat. And the United States has to respond to that threat.
On the missile defense side, why am I standing up over and over again? Because [Lt] Gen. Sam Greaves, [director of Missile Defense Agency], Dr. Mike Griffin, and saying we need a space sensor layer to deal with that. It’s not because I’m a space guy and think it’s cool, it’s because we have a threat, and we have to respond to the threat.
So these are the imperatives that we’re creating. Now the Army is doing some pretty neat stuff. The Army is addressing some fundamental organizational issues. The Army’s standing up an [Army] Futures Command. I don’t think the first commander’s been publicly noted yet, but it’s going to be a four-star command, looking at the fight in the future, and their goals are continuous experimentation and prototyping, getting inputs from soldiers to inform requirements, and turning allied interoperability, acquisition reform, and improved training. What a radical construct.
But it’s brilliant, because we stopped doing it. We have to put it back in. So Gen. [Mark] Milley, [U.S. Army Chief of Staff], looked out and said we have to have a command with a four-star on top of it looking at the future in order to get after that. At the same time they put together a cross-functional team for missile defense, looking at all of air missile defense led by Brig. Gen. [Randy] McIntire. Looking across the missile defense problem all the way. Why? To drive a faster moving pipeline for integration, experimentation, and demonstration. Do you see a common theme? Faster.
Because as I talked about last year, my big concern is that somewhere along the line our country has lost the ability to go fast. We have to regain that. And that’s why every time I stand up, somewhere in my remarks I hammer that point forward because this country, in this place, in this town, a bunch from Alabama where we built the rocket that went to the moon from John Kennedy’s speech by the end of the decade. We actually built two rockets, and they’re both standing here -- the Saturn IB that failed in January of ’67; and the Saturn V that went to the moon in July of 1969 -- two and a half years later.
We can go fast. We just have to have an imperative. We just have to have the perspective that speed is needed. That means we have to take the risk in order to walk down that path. And ladies and gentlemen, that is what we’re doing.
I watched the Army stand up an [Army] Futures Command and do just that. I’m watching the Air force restructure and do just that. I’m watching the Air force and the Army and the Navy push down acquisition authorities back out to the field and get them going fast. I watched them bring people like Ellen Lord, [Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment] and Mike Griffin into the Pentagon to allow us to go fast. We’re stepping up.
And now I look out at the industry partners in this room and say you have to step up too. We all have to step up and be part of this, which means we have to take risk. We can’t get caught in bureaucratic mumbo jumbo -- that’s a technical term -- where we’re just wasting time. We have an imperative now and the imperative comes back to the 162,000 men and women of U.S. Strategic Command who will be sitting alert in the year 2030. And the question you have to ask yourselves, will they be as dominant as we are today? And the answer has to be yes, which means we all have to step forward and do that.
So that’s where we are in U.S. Strategic Command, and that’s where we’re going. And I ask you to join us. I ask you to get on the train. Ride this train. Build the capabilities that we need. Because in the overall scheme of things, was anything I said actually very complicated?
We have a threat. We love our country. Build capabilities to allow the men and women to defend this country, and to make sure we can do that all the time. Do it on the nuclear side, do it in space, do it in missile defense, do it everywhere. And if we do that, we’ll be able to sleep peacefully at night. Put our head down and be happy as Americans that we don’t have to worry about the world coming apart. So thank you very much.
Moderator: Sir, we do have a few questions for you. One of them is from Hyten Meadows from NGA.
With the continued accelerating pace of commercial space launches, DoD T&E [Department of Defense Test and Evaluation] customers are finding it increasingly challenging to secure range time and maintaining launching support and resources. How do you think we can best balance growing and competing commercial launch needs with the continued requirements and national priorities to support DoD T&E?
Gen. Hyten: I love that question, but it’s actually not a question for me anymore because it’s not in my purview. I’m a combatant commander. I fight. But I’m going to answer that question because I love it.
Here’s the deal. We have 20th century ranges and we’ve got 21st century industry that is coming up with things. The new industry is coming up with things, coming on with new capabilities, coming on with GPS metric tracking, coming on with autonomous flight determination systems. But we’re still structured in this old range construct that says okay, you have to be on the range for so long, you have to go down range, you have to tighten range. It’s a long range.
We have to move into a 21st century range. That 21st century range has to be structured so that these new capabilities can come on.
And the Air force is wanting to do that. The Army’s wanting to do that. All the services are wanting to do that. But I tell you, here’s the challenge. The challenge is we have certain old systems, the Trident missile from the nuclear missile that comes off the submarine. It has to do a test every year. So those are old systems. Old systems that weren’t built with GPS metric tracking. Old systems that don’t have an autonomous flight determination package attached to it. So it becomes very difficult.
So you have to maintain this giant range infrastructure that’s hugely expensive and it’s also making it difficult for other people to get on it.
So we as a nation, we as a nation have to step back and say what is the range we want and what is it going to look like in 2030, 2040, 2050, and start building that. Not just step back and say, well we have these old things that are going be around for a long time. You can build strap-on autonomous flight determination systems. We did that for the Minuteman when I was the 595th [Space] Group, [Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado] commander in 2004. We put that strap-on capability. GPS metric tracking with a simulated autonomous flight determination system. We know how to do this stuff. But we have to think about the range that we want to operate in the 21st century and that’s got to be the Eastern Test Range, the Western Test Range, the White Sands Missile Range, everything has to move forward into the 21st century, and we still have a propensity to take a step back and say well, if we built that in 1972 and it’s still around, we’ll maintain this multi-billion-dollar infrastructure in order to do that. At some point we’ve got to say no we won’t. We’re going to spend $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, or $50 million to move that capability into the modern range so we can free it up for the commercial sector and everything that’s going to come on.
And here’s the reason we have to do it. Because if we don’t do that, the commercial sector will have to find their own ranges, which means they’ll be launching satellites out of their own ranges. And if you want to know what the expensive thing of launching a rocket is, look at the satellite processing facilities at Vandenberg and Patrick [Air Force Base, Florida]. That’s where the big money is. And we don’t want to build new ones of those.
So we have to look at the ranges holistically. Any test range we have, all the way from the Reagan Test Range all the way to the Eastern Test Range that goes up to the Horn of Africa. Every test range has got to be moved into the 21st century.
But again, that’s not STRATCOM.
Moderator: A question from of a commander in the Royal Netherlands Navy, Maritime Integrated Air and Missile Defense.
The question is, last year you expressed the importance of international cooperation and your ambition to reduce the limitations that prevent this. For example, unnecessary high classification documentation and information. Can you elaborate on the progress that’s been made in this area?
Gen. Hyten: I can certainly elaborate. This is going to take some time. That’s the frustrating thing for me. It’s going to take time because it changes our policy. But we talked about it last year, about it being improved. We stood up a [Combined] Space Operations Center at Vandenberg. We’ve knocked down the walls. We’re building networks where we can collaborate and work together on. But my vision comes from my experience in the air operation centers of the Air force, not in the space operation center.
I remember when I was deployed in 2006, I spent a lot of time in the air operation center in the Middle East. My boss was Air Commodore Swan from the British Air Force. Somehow Air Commodore Swan had the ability to walk into my vault and talk about whatever the operation was we were doing whenever he needed to. And somehow he had the ability to look at the special capabilities that we had in order to integrate those effectively into operations. And I looked at the other allies that were there and we figured it out. And there were rules, different rules for every ally, but we figured it out.
Then I go to Vandenberg just a year and a half, two years ago. I walk in to the ops center and we have allies there and they can’t even look at our secret computers. I said something is wrong.
So when I became the STRATCOM commander I did what all commanders do. I told somebody else to go fix it. I told Gen. [John] Raymond, [Commander, Air Force Space Command, and the Joint Force Space Component Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado] to go fix it. I said by the end of 2018 I want a [Combined] Space Operation Center where the coalition partners can work seamlessly in that environment. And we got it done on July 18th of this year.
Then I looked across the broad perspective and I said, you know, we have over classified our space capabilities in so many different ways. So we’re putting together an approach. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has asked me to do that, an approach of what it would look like differently. And I’ve gone through that thought process myself, but this requires a whole of government involvement and this is going to take a little time to walk through, and we’re going to take that time and get it right. We’re not going to jump too fast. But, I guess the bottom line, if you’re going to deter somebody, they need to know what the heck you can do. And you need to be able to tell them about it. And many cases in space we can’t do that. We’re going to fix it.
Moderator: This question is from Amanda Macias, CNBC, Washington, DC.
As Russia and China spent to develop hypersonic weapons can you affirm that the U.S. won’t be eclipsed by these new breed of weapons? What do we need to defend against these threats?
Gen. Hyten: That’s not an excellent question for me. I assume Mike’s going to talk some time. He wouldn’t be down in DC if he wasn’t going to talk, so it’s a great question for Dr. Griffin. The Secretary of Defense has actually put his finger on Mike’s chest, and if you ever had Secretary Mattis put his finger on your chest, it gets your attention. Even if you’re somebody like Dr. Griffin.
But Dr. Griffin’s the guy that’s got to do that. But here’s my perspective. Again, my perspective comes from where I sit. Guess what? All those new capabilities that Russia talked about, what Putin talked about in I think it was his March press conference, right before the election in Russia. All those nuclear, hypersonics, the nuclear torpedoes, nuclear cruise missiles, all that kind of stuff, guess what? He still can’t find our submarines. He still can’t take out 400 missile fields across the country. He still can’t do anything about those, and so our deterrent capability is still unquestioned, unchallenged, and can dominate and respond to any attack, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. That’s our first defense is the deterrent capabilities of our nation. We continue to forget about that.
But as you think about those deterrent capabilities, we have to do a better job in moving forward in hypersonics. Secretary Mattis understands that completely. He turned to Dr. Griffin and said I do not want to trail Russia and China in hypersonics. Mike, fix it. Make sure we’re leading in hypersonics. Make sure we’re leading in hypersonic defense. And if you watch what he’s been saying in the press, and I watch closely, he is making sure we’re moving fast.
I think the last time I counted there’s 11 different programs going on right now looking at hypersonics and the various capabilities. We’re not going to just sit around and wait. We will make sure that we understand the technology. We have centers to deal with the technology that will respond. But don’t forget, the back stop of all that stuff is our deterrent capability that the Russians and Chinese can’t do anything about right now unless they want to destroy their entire nation. That’s what they’d have to do to come after the deterrence capabilities we have. They’re not going to walk down that path.
But we need to step it up when it comes to hypersonic defenses. We need to step it up when it comes to hypersonic technology. And we are. And we’re moving fast.
I’m pretty excited about where things are going. I always wish, and this is just my personality to do things. I always wish we’d started five years ago or ten years ago, because then we wouldn’t be worried about making sure we can stay ahead. We’d be so far ahead we wouldn’t have to worry about it.
But we didn’t, so we’ve got to step up now, and we are. And many industry partners in this room are working hard on that challenge. We’re going to get there.
But as you think about those threats, the one thing I emphasize for NBC or anybody else in here listening, always remember that the reason the nuclear capabilities of this country are the most important mission is because that’s the back stop of everything that we do, because that creates the environment that allows us to operate in everything else.
So when you ask that question, you have to take a step back and say well, our deterrent capabilities can still deter all of that, because nobody wants to cross that line.
Moderator: Thank you, Gen. Hyten.
Last question, what keeps you up at night, sir?
Gen. Hyten: Nothing. I sleep fine. I sleep fine when I go to bed at night. I sleep fine because of the 162,000 people that are working every minute of every day to make sure that we can all sleep fine.
I put my head down and I sleep great.
I know that if something happens the phone will ring and I will jump up and get on the phone and it will be fine. When I get on that phone, and it happens -- it happened a lot more in 2017 then in 2018. When I get on that phone, most times there’s a commander on the other end that’s already telling me what he’s done or she’s done. Because they’ve already dealt with the issue, the problem, whatever it is, and they’re just letting their boss know.
I get to work with the best people in the world. Every day. It’s the best part of my job. It’s not that I don’t like coming home and I actually don’t like standing up in front of people and talking. But the best part of my job is inside my command. When I go to the missile bases up north or the submarine bases on the coast or the space bases around the world, or I go to a missile defense place, and I’ll be going to Alaska here the end of the year, in December. I’ll see the soldiers up there. When I see them and I talk to them, golly, it is, it just makes you so proud to be a commander, a leader, a general, an American. It just, they’re amazing people.
I got a question from a 2nd lieutenant at Malmstrom Air Force Base, [Montana]. I was up there with the chief late spring. And this lieutenant stands up and she looks at me and she goes, sir, you know, my generation, we kind of get beat up in the media a lot. They say we don’t care, we’re hard to lead, we don’t have consistency, we jump from job to job. What do you say when you get asked about us? How do you describe how we do this job? She’s a missile ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] launch officer.
I looked at her and said what I tell them is just get on a plane and come with me and I will show you the best and brightest of America. And they’re on submarines in the Atlantic and the Pacific. And they’re in missile holes in five states in the middle of the country. And they’re sitting missile defense alert right now in Alaska and California. They’re sitting space alert at Schriever, at Buckley [Air Force Base, Colorado], at Vandenberg. They’re defending this nation and they love it. Absolutely love it. When they get up every day and come to work, they love what they do and we don’t pay them nearly enough for what they --
But you know what? You ask any one of them, it’s not about the money. It’s never about the money. It’s always about the mission and the people they get to work with and the job they get to do and the fact that they defend this nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
That’s our job and I love doing it.
So thanks very much for everything. It was great being here.