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SPEECH | Aug. 13, 2018

USSTRATCOM at DoDIIS Worldwide Conference

Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Good morning, everybody. Welcome to Omaha. It is a neat place.


I was interested, [U.S. Army] Gen. [Raymond] Thomas [commander of U.S. Special Operations Command], to see the reaction that went from everybody getting excited about going to Tampa, Florida in August. Has anybody here ever been to Tampa, Florida in August? I was, oh, my gosh. Tampa in August, that’ll just be a fun place.

But I tell you, Omaha is a special place and it’s our privilege to live here, so welcome to Omaha. We hope you have a great week. Thank you for everybody taking time to bring this conference to Omaha. Especially Jack Gumtow the CIO [Deputy Chief Information Officer for Defense Intelligence Agency], and [U.S. Army Lt.] Gen. [Robert] Ashley [Defense Intelligence Agency director]. Thanks very much. It’s neat Congressman [Donald] Bacon [2nd District of Nebraska] took some time to record a message. I saw him yesterday at the air show at Offutt. He was really sad that he couldn’t be here, but he was excited about being at Fort Drum, [New York], to have the President sign the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act]. That’s something he worked hard at, so he’s proud of that and he wishes he could be here, so he wanted me to pass that along.

And, I’m sorry I can’t spend more time with you today and this week as well. Life is busy. My good friend Tony Thomas over here, I shook his hand, and that’s probably all I’m going to be able to do with you. We’re in the same time zone for a change, and I won’t be able to spend any time with him.

But, I do have some things I want to share with you this morning as we get started.

When you think about the speakers that you have this morning, it’s a pretty neat lineup this morning. Two [combatant commands] and the CIO of the Department of Defense. That should tell you the importance that we all place on the DoDIIS [Department of Defense Intelligence Information System], the capabilities we have with intel, the capability we have from information technologies, how we get information to each other. I tell you, one thing about our CIO who’s going to speak later this morning if he’s awake, because Dana Deasy, he didn’t get in here this morning until after 3 in the morning. He had to fly out of Reagan to Des Moines, [Iowa], and drive in from Des Moines. So if the CIO from the Department of Defense takes time to fight his way across the country to get here to Omaha that tells you how important it is. But if somebody sees him fall asleep just kick him, he’ll be fine. If he falls asleep as he’s speaking up here, somebody in the front row should have a little softball. Just throw it at him. He’ll wake up and start talking again. But sir, thanks very much for taking the time to come out here. I know it was hard work. 

General Thomas will follow me. And if you think at the top level about Special Operations Command and U.S. Strategic Command you kind of think wow, you can’t get two more diverse commands, two more different commands. But in reality, we actually are similar in a lot of ways. A lot of very critical ways. Critical ways that are important to what you’re going to talk about at this conference.

First of all, like Cyber Command, like U.S. Transportation Command, we are not functional combatant commands. We’re listed on the Unified Command Plan as functional combatant commands, but that’s not the way I talk about my command and that’s not the way General Thomas talks about his command. We are global warfighting commands. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. We have global capabilities that deliver lethal capabilities around this planet and that’s who we are and that’s how we think about ourselves and that’s how we talk to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines about what they do.

The other thing that we have in common is that we are critically dependent on intelligence and information. If we don’t have intelligence and information all the capability that Gen. Thomas has, all the capability that I have is pretty much useless.

And when you talk about my capabilities, especially the nuclear capability, the space capabilities. When you think about that, if you don’t have the right information in the right place at the right time, that’s when potential adversaries could take a misstep and we could miss that step. And when you talk about nuclear missteps, that’s when a really bad day happens. Our job is to always avoid that bad day.

So, General Thomas will come up here and he’ll talk about his perspectives from Special Operations Command. I’m going to talk about my perspective from STRATCOM. But as you take a step back, realize how much in common we have, even though the means we employ are so different.

Why is this conference so important? It’s important because today’s environment is changing so fast. That accelerating pace of technology, the capabilities our adversaries are fielding mean that our approach to deterrence here at STRATCOM, our approach to deterrence as a nation, our approach to warfighting, has to adapt to all these changes.

And what is essential in everything is that the information we have has to be precise, has to be correct the way – [Brig.] Gen. [Donald] Bacon, you know he was the wing commander at Offutt. That’s where he served in the United States Air Force. But Congressman Bacon talked about the importance of information, the importance of data. But to me, data is just tools. It takes people to look at that data and provide information, and that information then has to get to the right place at the right time. And when you look at our history over the last 30 years, the one thing that we have done is we have dominated the information battlespace. We have dominated that information battlespace for the last 30 years.

If you’ve heard me talk in the past, I talk a lot about how space has changed warfare forever over the last 30 years. Space allows us to navigate with precision, communicate with accuracy, understand the adversary. All of that comes from space. But in reality, all of that that I’m talking about is information.

When you look at cyberspace what you see is information. You see information being applied across the board. The good news is that we’ve been able to dominate that, and because of that we’ve been able to dominate the battlefields around the world. The bad news is we have potential adversaries that have been watching that for the last 30 years and they have been reacting accordingly.

So, I’m going to come back to that in a minute, but before I go too far let me thank everybody again. To the CIO, to [Lt.] Gen. Ashley, thank you very much for putting this conference on, for coming to Omaha, for treating this subject with the importance that it requires. Thank you very much for doing that.

I also want to thank the people in my command. A lot of people in my command don’t often get the credit in the world that is deserved, so let me just talk about them for a second.

One hundred and sixty-two thousand Americans, not counting our allies that are partners with us around the world, but just 162,000 Americans that go to work every day. Below the ground, below the sea, in the air, operating in space, operating in cyberspace, missile defense capabilities, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance capabilities. Critical capabilities for this nation. And, they do it with pride and professionalism and they create a deterrent capability that is bar none.

But if you think about where we’re going in the future, I have a vision for STRATCOM. Because our mission is to basically deter our enemies and employ forces when required. That’s what we do every day. But I have a vision for this command. That vision is published in my vision and intent. You can pull it up and read it. It’s unclassified, it’s on the website. I put it out there for everybody to read. I’d like everybody in the military to read that because you need to understand what STRATCOM means, what STRATCOM is. But I also put it out there because I want our adversaries to read it. I want our adversaries to understand exactly who we are and what we do and that we’re ready.

But the vision I have for this command is one innovative STRATCOM warfighting team, deterring conflict, delivering decisive capabilities from, in and through all domains wherever, whenever needed. That sums up what I want it to be.

The reason that is a vision and not a mission is because the way we’re structured, is we’re structured in stovepipes. We’re structured in stovepipes and have been for a long time. We have nuclear pieces. And in the nuclear piece each triad, each element of the triad is its own separate stovepipe. And then you look across the board and you look at the space piece. Space is its own piece. The global strike mission, the conventional global strike mission is its own stovepipe. The missile defense piece is its own stovepipe.

As you look across the entire command, we’ve been structured in these stovepipes and success in the future is going to be when we apply capabilities through whatever domain we have to, through whatever means we have to. We don’t care where it comes from, where it goes to, as long as it dominates the adversary. That’s when we’ll be successful, and that will be the next step of greatness for the next great military in the world, and I believe that will be the United States of America.

But in order for that to happen we have to achieve that vision. Because we have adversaries that have stated similar things. We have the Chinese that announced they’ve built a Strategic Support Force. What is in the Strategic Support Force? The Strategic Support Force consists of space, counter-space, cyber, offensive cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, all in a single command. Why did they do that? Because they understand the need to integrate information.

We have a U.S. Cyber Command, another combatant command now. We have U.S. Strategic Command. We have Special Operations Command. We have Transportation Command. Soon, if the NDAA is signed today, we’ll have a sub-unified command for space. The President last week said we want a unified command for space, building to a Space Force. We’re going to have a separate Space Command, a separate Cyber Command, a separate Strategic Command, a separate Special Operations Command. All of that is separate commands. 

So our challenge is, how do we integrate that effectively so that we seamlessly share information real time across the board. And, oh by the way, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have those separate commands focused on those areas. But the key is how do we integrate them? General Thomas and I sat down in a warfighter talk last month down in lovely Tampa, Florida, and we walked through this. One of the things we realized is oh my gosh, we actually do a lot of the same things. In many cases, he needs access and can provide access to networks. Guess what I can do? I need access and provide access to networks. Guess what Gen. [Paul] Nakasone, [Cyber Command commander] does in Cyber Command? He needs access and can provide access to networks. How do we do that all effectively together? We can do that with integrated command relations where we sit down and we actually fight effectively together and we set up the proper command relationships and we do that all the way through.

So I can tell you, that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re working as partners. We’re working as teammates. And in my command, integrating all that information is going to be the critical piece. And I can tell you unequivocally, without information we would fail at our missions. Just flat out fail.

When we look at it, if we don’t have situation awareness, exquisite situation awareness, we risk a readiness and capability gap. And Secretary Mattis, the last time he was here in Omaha, he came down to STRATCOM. It was last fall. It was an interesting day. Bring the Secretary of Defense in. We’re going to walk through a nuclear exercise. Sit him in the chair and he’ll watch how I conduct a nuclear exercise, all the way up to the very bitter end, which is just a horrible thing to experience. We do that all the time. We practice that every day because we want to make sure if it ever happens we’re really good at it, and that’s who we are and what we do.

So the Secretary of Defense watched us execute it, and we’re really good at it, and he looked at me and he said I hope to God we never have to execute that. I said Mr. Secretary, I hope to God we never do either. But in order to make sure that never happens we’re going to be ready each and every day, and everybody that’s been doing this mission’s going to be ready each and every day.

So then, we were going to have a nice dinner over at the house. It’s [Gen. Curits] LeMay’s house. It was built in 1896. Beautiful house. The Secretary of Defense is going to come over. It’s all going to be fun. The house was all decorated, beautiful, and then Kim Jung-un decided that he would launch a long-range missile across the island of Japan out into the Pacific. So instead of going home to the house we went to the battle deck. The Secretary looked at me and said where do you want me to go? I said, sir, just sit next to me and just watch. Sir, you’ve heard this from your end multiple times. Just sit next to me and watch.

So he watched. As he watched he saw what I see. And what I see is perfect situational awareness. I knew exactly where that missile took off from, I knew exactly where it was going, I knew exactly how high it was. I knew everything about that missile and I saw it on the screens. And the guy that sits behind me is kind of the magician of the screens. He’s called the whisper mic. He just sits behind me and listens to what I say, and without me having to ask, he says, just put this picture up on screen 12. Put this picture up on screen 10. And the Secretary just thought that was amazing, how everybody knew exactly what was going on. When I had to key into the mic to talk to the Chairman or talk to whoever, I could key in and explain exactly what was going on.

When we were done he looked at me and he said, oh my gosh, you have perfect situational awareness here. I said yes, sir. We do. He looked at his staff and said, how come everybody doesn’t have perfect situational awareness? How come I don’t have perfect situation awareness if I’m in an airplane, if I’m in a different place? How come we can’t share this perfect situation situational awareness with everybody that needs that information?

That’s the vision of what we’re going to. Where it’s not just that the STRATCOM Global Operation Center [GOC] has perfect situational awareness, but we can transmit that perfect situational awareness, all that real-time intelligence to people that need it right away.

So we need information and intel. That goes without saying. Information is our strategic advantage. Just as important, though, the intel has to be in the hands of everybody that needs it to do the mission. Intel that sits as one’s and zero’s, intel that’s data only is useless. It only becomes valuable when it’s available to the right people at the right time in the right form.

So the good news is from a nuclear command and control perspective, is that STRATCOM will always have perfect situational awareness in today’s day and age. Always being the way the structure is today. The question is, will that be the same case 20-30 years from now? Will that be the same case 15 years from now? We have to make sure that it does.

Because when you look at our nuclear command and control structure, and all the feeds that come into the STRATCOM GOC, it’s remarkable but it also dates all the way back to the 1960s. The good news is that means cyber secure. The bad news is that means it’s not very sustainable for much longer.

I think we can sustain it another 10-15 years, maybe even 20 years, but at a certain point in time all that copper cable that we laid across the middle of the country will just eventually fall apart and not be supportable. The fact that we have thousands and thousands of miles of cooper cable buried in the middle of the country that we can seamlessly drop in on and the adversary doesn’t know where it is, and even if they did they couldn’t take -- that’s a great thing, but eventually that will fail.

So, what are we going to do? Lay thousands and thousands of more miles of copper cable across the country? Maybe. I don’t know what the answer is. But that’s what we have to define. And we have to define this information architecture in the future that will be the nuclear command and control architecture.

So, the Secretary of Defense has given me that job, to find that future. I have that responsibility now. I’m going to be responsible for all nuclear command and control, operations, requirements, and system engineering in the future. I will not be responsible for the budget and acquisition piece of that. This is a combatant command, not an acquisition organization, not a service. Those pieces will be handled in the Pentagon by the Under Secretary for Acquisition Sustainment, Ellen Lord, but we will be responsible for setting the tone. And if you think about it, who else would be responsible for nuclear command and control operations requirements and system engineering? Nobody will care about it more than the commander of STRATCOM. Nobody will care about it more than my command. It’s what we do.

So today, we’re safe. We’re safe because we have a networks applications database and collaboration capabilities we need to seamlessly integrate intelligence into our planning and operations. And all the tools we need are available when we need them, they’re trusted and they’re secure. I’m certain about that for today. I just need to be certain about that for tomorrow, and that’s what we’re going to work on. 

So, I need to thank a lot of people in this room for the recent improvements you’ve made in support of STRATCOM. For the work on our first purpose-built command and control facility ever. Because the headquarters I work in now is actually five buildings, mostly underground, built over the years. First built by Curtis LeMay back in the ‘50s, and it’s just not built for command and control.        

If I want to get to my intel director, the J2 [USSTRATCOM intelligence], if I hustle I can get there in about ten minutes, all underground. That’s a ten-minute walk or jog to get to my intel director. That is unsat.

So, we have this new building going in. Some people call it the new headquarters. That’s wrong. It’s a command and control facility, built to do command and control, and it’s going to be amazing. I’ll talk about that more in a little while.

So, I want to talk about the practitioners of deterrence. That’s who we are. My deputy commander, my former deputy commander [Vice Adm. Charles] Chas Richard, now the commander of Submarine Forces, when I’d go to the Pentagon, and I go to the Pentagon way too much. Any day in Omaha is better than a day in Washington. I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is. But I have an office in the Pentagon, I have vehicles in the Pentagon, I have secure vehicles. And you should know that the vehicle that I have in D.C. has about five times as many miles on it as the vehicle I have in Omaha. But I have an office there. When I come into the office in the morning often I’ll hook in and I’ll listen to the ops intel brief in the morning. And Admiral Richard was my deputy. He’d be taking that ops intel brief, and I got a kick out of it because at the end of every time he took that brief he’d say all right, good job today, go deter somebody and he’d close the meeting.

So when you think about deterrence, you think about STRATCOM. When you think about deterrence it goes right to the nuclear business. But you have to realize that 21st century deterrence is wholly different than it was in the 20th century. [Twenty-first] century deterrence was about multiple atmospheres, multiple threats. Staying ahead of our adversaries. That’s what we have to do when we’re in a competition, and we’re in a competition today. And if you’re an American you should be excited about being in the competition because when we get into a competition we’ve always won. Our industry and our military’s ingenuity and strength is unmatched. We know how to win. That’s what we like to do.

But guess what? Over the last 20 or 30 years, we’ve dominated the battlefield. We’ve also built the bureaucracy that really likes to go slow. But we don’t have to accept that. It’s not always been that way.

Let me talk about STRATCOM for a second.

Like I said, it’s a global warfighting command. We’re the ultimate guarantor of our national and allied security. Our forces and capabilities underpin and enable all joint force operations. STRATCOM forces are disbursed across and above the globe, from the depths of the ocean, on land, air and space. That’s why I view the functional commands, all of us, as global commands. So that’s who we are. The strength comes from the 162,000.

I’ve already talked about my vision, but let me talk about my priorities. I only have three priorities. I’ve adjusted my vision a little bit, adjusted the mission a little bit as Cyber Command’s moved out. I’ve adjusted a few things, but my priorities will not change. My priorities will not change as long as I’m in command.

My priorities are as follows: Priority one, above all else, we will provide a strategic deterrent for this nation. Priority two, if deterrence fails, we’ll be prepared to deliver a decisive response, decisive in every way that word can be defined. And priority three, we’ll ensure that we do that with combat ready forces. Resilient, trained and equipped to do the job each and every day. And when I say those priorities, most minds in this room go right to the nuclear business, and that’s okay. That’s who we are. But it is so much more than nuclear.

Nuclear is the back stop. It is the benchmark. It is what we focus on. But those priorities apply to space, to missile defense, to our analysis function, to electronic warfare. It applies to every element of this command. No American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine should ever go to war with second class anything. You heard Congressman Bacon talk about third in electronic warfare. That’s unsat. I don’t believe it’s true today. I believe we’re still number one, but we don’t practice it enough. We don’t get out and do what we have to do.

If you want to be good at anything, you better practice it each and every day, and we practice the nuclear war every day. We have to do that with electronic warfare. We have to do that with space warfare. We have to do that with everything that we have, and we have to have the right kind of tools. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. So do we have what we need?

I’ll tell you, one of the best information tools we have is JWICS [Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System]. JWICS is actually funded by the IC [intelligence community] just for analysis and IC production. A lot of people forget that, but that’s what it was built for. But it’s found a way into every element of our operations, and in my command it’s a critical tool because it’s the conduit for intel assessments and reports that come to every decision and command. If you want to know where I live, I live on JWICS and SIPRNet. That’s where I live. If you send me unclassified email I may not get to it for a week, because that’s just kind of interesting, but what’s really important is what goes on in JWICS and SIPRNet.

A lot of our command and control functions go through JWICS. DoDIIS supports STRATCOM by providing the SCI [sensitive compartmental information] network applications, database, everything we need for about 2,000 users, and given that our missions are intelligence intensive, those capabilities provide not just intelligence production of the J2, but seamless integration across everything. The J3 [USSTRATCOM global operations], the J5 [USSTRATCOM plans and policy], the J8 [USSTRATCOM capability and resource integration]. It allows all our senior leadership and planners and operators to interact with all of the entities around the world, in other combatant commands, in the IC, on long-term and emergency intelligence requirements. Time-sensitive reporting comes in. When I get time-sensitive reporting it comes through JWICS. It allows me to look at different IC estimates, adversary capabilities and intentions. It allows me to collaborate with OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense], Joint Staff, combatant command, services, government agency counterparts. It’s the primary system my battle staff uses in time of crisis. Wow.

That’s not what JWICS was built for. We’ve got to make sure that we have a system that can do that forever, because not everybody in the total force has access to JWICS. I understand that’s why, that’s not what it was built for, but at some point we have to take a look at our approach of how we’re doing this and say is this the right network, and how are we going to work that? Does it have to advance? Does it have to change? Does it have to adjust? Or do we need something new?

And if you want to see how we leverage all the capabilities real time, just come and visit the GOC. Some of you are going to come visit the Global Operation Center this week. There’s some great scenes where we’ve had media come in. Local media as well as CNN come in. You can look it up on-line and look at it. When you look at those capabilities, you’ll see impressive use of information. If you have clearances you’ll see, even though you’ll see unclassified screens, you’ll see in the pictures everything coming together and it really is pretty impressive. But when we move into this new command and control facility it’s going to step up even more.

But in the GOC, in my 24/7 command post, we monitor everything. It’s fused, it’s available, it allows me to develop immediate course of action, recommendations, possibly for the SecDef, possibly for the President. Additionally, when warranted, the GOC issues orders to the forces of our command.

What’s important for you to understand is the importance of intelligence in all of this. It’s impossible for me to formulate any of that without the intelligence that comes in, and it’s got to be time sensitive and time critical. Hence, my appeal to you is to continue to find ways to make the systems even more timely and more survivable and more resilient as we go forward.

And let me be clear, the deterrence mission is no-fail. And warfighting decisions and deterrence decisions require current intelligence. So do everything you can to be there for STRATCOM when we need you the most, and let me be your advocate when it comes time to make difficult resources decisions inside the Department of Defense. Let me know where the issues are, and I will go to bat for it. And I know General Thomas will do the same thing.

All of this is part of our 21st century deterrence. That’s what we provide the world, 21st century deterrence. That’s what we provide the nation. And when we bring capabilities to bear, we have to look at it in this multi-polar world. We have to look at it in this multi-domain world. We have to look at all our capabilities. Our capabilities have to be integrated and that integration has to be seamless, no matter the situation. So, that’s who we are in STRATCOM. An amazing command. And I know some of my friends, General Thomas being one, get annoyed when I say you know, STRATCOM is the most powerful command in the world. It is. And that’s not bragging. That’s just a fact. And when you have the most powerful command in the world, you better make sure you have all the right information, the right place at the right time, because you can’t screw it up.

But for the past 25 years our adversaries have been watching us. They watched us in the Gulf War, they watch us in space and cyberspace. They watch us take space and cyber and use it in ways nobody figured out. The Chinese are starting to pull all the pieces together. The Russians are starting to pull the pieces together. But they don’t have the advantage we do right now, but we have to keep that advantage.

So, let’s talk a little bit about threat-based planning. As a senior military officer and a combatant commander, I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the world the way I wish it was. I have to deal with the world the way it is. My priorities are not distinct, they’re unified. They’re one and the same. We keep major powers from taking giant steps in the wrong direction. We don’t eliminate conflict, but we eliminate major power conflict. We eliminate the huge disasters of the world’s wars of the previous century.

But after the Cold War, you heard Congressman Bacon talk about it. We changed the way we thought about the world. And through the ‘90s we got away from a threat-based approach because we didn’t have a threat anymore.

In fact in 2001 in the QDR, the Quadrennial Defense Review in 2001, we actually stated that the United States didn’t have any threats any more. It’s interesting, because Vladimir Putin in 2000 said, “I have new doctrine, to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield if in a conflict with the United States. We’re going to increase our funding for nuclear capabilities by 50 percent.” In 2006 he said, “yep, I’m going to have everything modernized in the nuclear capabilities by 2020 and we’re going to build new nuclear weapons” and -- but somehow they weren’t a threat, they were our friend.

China was the same way. China from 1995 said exactly what they’re going to do and they’ve been on that path ever since. Building capabilities to challenge the United States.

So, we have to think about how do we respond to that? We have to understand that we have threats and the new Nuclear Posture Review, the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy, they all talk about a threat-based approach to it.

There’s a lot of continuity with the previous administrations, dating all the way back, 10 administrations, continuity of nuclear posture. But what is different again is we’re back to a threat-based approach. We’re keeping up with the change that’s happening in the world. Staying ahead of not just Russia and China but all the adversaries that we face.

But it’s a different world. The supply chain is much more complex and integrated than it was before. Information technology is just wild in how it’s moving fast. We’re in the midst of a comprehensive modernization of legacy cyber analog systems and replacing them with digital systems, and we talk about nuclear command and control. That is a huge challenge. But we can’t go back to the old way. We have to accept the facts, we have to accept the threats we face, and move faster than our adversaries.

So, let me talk about moving fast. In order to have the right capability mix we’ve got to do it at a pace that meets our adversaries and beats any and all potential adversaries in the future which means we have to figure out how to go fast again. We have a bureaucracy that likes slow. We have to go fast. And it’s really challenging the information technology environment.

The threats are evolving in that environment faster than we can react sometimes. So, I’ve talked about this many times. Many of you have heard me talk about it. I don’t know when, but sometime in the last 20 years our country lost the ability to go fast. We have to regain that. And it’s coming back. We have a Secretary of Defense, we have service secretaries, commercial partners who are all committed to going fast again, and that’s great, but now we have to get moving. We have to better engage with commercial partners.

I just visited a company in Alabama using new and innovative approaches to building and launching rockets. We can take a lot of lessons from our industry partners. We need to take a hard look at ourselves, too. For too long we’ve over-specified requirements. In IT [information technology], we try to specify what IT is going to be a year from now, even 10 years from now in our requirements documents. That’s foolish. What we need is open solutions at commercial off-the-shelf speed and prices, and I think that’s where our industry partners can best support us. I hope you can help us find ways to get there.

So, as I talk about this I like to use a couple of analogies. I’m going to use another analogy, one that you probably haven’t heard about. It’s Operation Blue Jay. Anybody in here know what Operation Blue Jay is? Not a one. Perfect. We had to dig deep for this one.

The two stories I like to tell are stories about Gen. Bernard Schriever in the United States Air Force who had to take a design from the back of an envelope in 1957 for a three-stage solid rocket ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missiles], develop the technology, build it, build the nuclear command and control with it, and in five years he built 800 nuclear weapons-capable ICBMs and deployed them in five states in the middle of America on five bases, all in five years.

If I’m in front of a Navy crowd I use the Rickover story. Rickover taking a nuclear reactor that was the size of half this room and put it on a nuclear submarine and go around the world in five years.

But I’m going to talk about Operation Blue Jay today. So, if you look at your agenda you’ll see that we are in the Peter Kiewit Grand Ballroom. And today the Kiewit Corporation is an employee-owned, fortune 500 contractor based right here in Omaha. It’s one of the largest companies in the world. Peter Kiewit was not the founder of Kiewit Corporation, but the son that took Kiewit from a local masonry firm here in Omaha to a major national contractor of the 20th century.

Mr. Kiewit never backed down from a challenge. As the Cold War heated up, this nation needed more production against a possible attack over the North Pole, and in 1951 Kiewit was selected to construct an airbase in the high Arctic and Thule Air Base in Greenland, 600 miles from the North Pole. It was code named Operation Blue Jay. This then top secret project required Kiewit to hire and train 5,000 workers, procure and transport countless shiploads of equipment and material through iceberg laden seas that are only open for a few months of the year.

Now, if you’ve ever been to Thule, it’s an amazing place. It’s a little cold for an Alabama guy, but a critical piece of our space and missile defense mission today. And during the Cold War it played an important role in our nuclear mission.

So, when he got there the site was equipped with a temporary air strip. But 90 days later there was a 2,400-person city, a 10,000-foot runway, and two hangars in full operation. We were in a competition we were going to win. Ninety days, basically at the North Pole.

So, Kiewit and the joint venture partners remained at Thule for 15 years. Along with that base they conducted a ballistic missile early warning system. The radar screens were as big as football fields in the eastern end of the distant early warning line, the DEW Line, and they build radar domes right on top of the Greenland ice cap, when in many places we didn’t even know how to build capabilities on top of the ice cap. They hadn’t figured that out.

He helped strengthen our capabilities. And why we’re no longer using the missile fields in Ellsworth, [Air Force Base, South Dakota], we have missiles on alert in Minot [Air Force Base, North Dakota] because Kiewit built two of the Minuteman bases that we have in the Dakotas.

That’s the mindset we have to be in. How do we go fast?

If you want to come full circle, in the 1990s Kiewit Corporation began laying fiber optic cable across the United States, and that entity later became L3 Communications which was later bought by Century Link, and here we are in the Century Link Center in the Peter Kiewit Auditorium.

That’s the history of this place, the history of our country, and what is really there is the ability to go fast.

So, today, Kiewit is one of the prime contractors building the first command and control facility here at the Strategic Command. The first one in over 60 years. While some of them drive by and look at the brick and mortar on the outside, it’s actually the command and control on the inside that’s the amazing thing. And the design of that new C2F is indicative of the importance of intelligence to the STRATCOM mission. The need for seamless integration of all our capabilities and the decision to SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility] the vast majority of the whole building is what we’re going to do.

So it’s currently scheduled to open next year. The vast majority of the facility will be outfitted for SCIF capabilities. Roughly 3,500 desks in those spaces will have multi-level security with access all the way up to SCI. That’s an amazing building.

The shared responsibility for designing, fielding, and accrediting that is driving closer relationships between DIA and STRATCOM. Closer relations between our CIOs. And for several years STRATCOM and DIA and our industry partners have collaborated on the virtual desktop environment, cross-domain solutions for voice, concepts for employing the cloud technology, and it’s going to be available not only in C2F but across the STRATCOM enterprise.

So, the payoff for us, the payoff for our operators, planners, decision-makers, is we’re going to have the most amazing command and control facility in the world, which is what we should be. Because when you think about it, if we’re the most powerful command in the world, we should have the best command and control in the world. We should have the best intelligence in the world, the best information in the world. We should be able to reach out seamlessly to all our partner combatant commands and make sure that we provide the right information, the right place, the right time so they can do what they need to do. That’s what we do.

The Global Operation Center. If you look up the pictures that I told you about on local media or on CNN, you’ll be impressed by what you’ll see and the C2F will just blow you away.

So, I ask all of us to continue to move this forward. We have to get the right information to the people that need it at the right time in order to make the best decisions. It’s bigger than big data and tech. And I’ll tell you one thing, I love the title of this conference. I love the fact that we talk about data is a weapon system because at least we’re talking about data in the right place. But I do have a little problem with it, because I don’t think data is a weapon system. I think it’s a weapon, and we have to employ it like a weapon.

I get concerned a little bit about calling it a weapon system because when I was in a previous job I called cyber a weapon system and it got people all upset, but it was necessary to make it a program of record so we could move forward in the cyberspace domain. But then it wrapped this bureaucracy around it and it just drove us crazy.

So, I get a little bit concerned about calling it a weapon system because that can make it a program of record, and all of a sudden the bureaucracy grabs hold of it. It’s so much more than a weapon system. Data is a weapon. It’s a tool. And we have to use it in ways each and every day in order to make us the most dominant information nation in the world, and that’s where we need to be. It has to be there so we can reach out seamlessly to our allies and provide them the kind of information they need in the right classification they need it. We have to be able to work all those things, all at the same time.

So, it is a weapon. One of the most powerful weapons that we have. And the nations that can dominate data and dominate translation of data into the information space will be the most powerful nations in the world for the next century. That’s the challenge that we have today.

So, this is going to be a great conference. It’s going to be an exciting time to be in this business. The one thing about General Ashley, one thing about General Thomas, one thing about me that we all have in common, actually two things. Two things. Number one, we’re all circling the drain, which means we’re about done. We’re about finished. And number two, we all wish we were you so we could go back and do it all again. Holy cow, this is an exciting time, an exciting place. And we get to work together on the most important missions of our country. And we get to defend our nation and defend our citizens, and we get to allow our citizens to sleep well at night because we know exactly what’s going on with our adversaries and we share that with everybody that needs to know.

So, good luck in the conference. Enjoy it. I wish I could spend more time with you, but I’ve got to run. Thank you a lot.