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SPEECH | May 5, 2022

Pentagon Press Corp Briefing with Gen. VanHerck and Adm. Richard

Venue: Anchorage, Alaska


STAFF: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for this opportunity for U.S. Northern Command and USSTRATCOM to highlight their collaboration and the strategic importance of the Arctic, why it's so vital to our nation's defense, and for the continued need for an integrated deterrence approach.

Today, we're going to cover the strategic importance of the Arctic, the ally and partner Arctic collaboration to ensure the safety and security in the region, and our integrated defense posture.

Briefing today from Alaska are U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck. He is the Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and the United States Northern Command. NORAD conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of the North America. U.S. Northern Command conducts homeland defense, civil support, and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its intercepts - oh, sorry, and its interests. Those of you who are part of the Pentagon press corps may recognize Gen. VanHerck, as he was previously the Director of the Gen. - of the Joint Staff.

And Adm. Charles "Chas" A. Richard, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command. USSTRATCOM is responsible for the global command and control of U.S. strategic forces to meet decisive national security objectives, providing a broad range of strategic capabilities and options for the President and the Secretary of Defense.

I just want to go over a - just a few quick ground rules before I turn it over to our briefers. This is an on the record session. I'd like for you to please state your name and the outlet for whom you're reporting. And then I'm going to alternate between you all here in the room and folks who have called in.

So with that, gentlemen, I'll hand it over to you.

VANHERCK: Well, thank you very much, Todd (ph). It's Gen. VanHerck speaking. And good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us here virtually from Anchorage, Alaska. It's great to be here with my good friend and counterpart, combatant commander Adm. Chas Richard, the Commander of the United States Strategic Command.

Chas and I are here in Alaska participating in a number of events focused on defense and security issues with our Arctic allies and partners and we look forward to discussing these events and important issues of the Arctic with you.

As the Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, the unified campaign plan spells out I am the designated Arctic advocate for Arctic capabilities for the Department of Defense.

I understand and appreciate the strategic importance of Alaska and the entire Arctic region as a whole. And being able to survive and thrive as part of our campaigning in the Arctic is essential to safeguarding our U.S. interests and stability in the Arctic and much beyond and defending North America. It's also part of our integrated deterrence strategy.

Looking to the future, it is crucial that likeminded nations work collaboratively and cooperatively to address shared challenge and maintain what I would say are international rules, laws and norms that have served us well since the end of World War II.

The greatest advantage that we have, that I've said a couple of times up here in the forums that I've talked - and I think it's an asymmetric advantage that we have that Russia and China don't have - is a network of strong alliances, partnerships and likeminded nations that have been built on the foundation of shared values, experience and vision.

We've been operating in Alaska and the broader Arctic with allies and partners for many decades. Throughout that time, collaborative events such as the Arctic Security Forces roundtable and the Arctic Symposium, both events going on this week here in Alaska, have allowed us the opportunity as Arctic nations to realize the value of the Arctic as a cooperative region, where our countries work together to address shared challenges in the region.

The continued and ongoing work we do here will be vital to moving forward to develop cooperative solutions, not only in the military domain but also more broader national security, as well, in a time of what I would say is renewed strategic competition that begins as - have an impact here in the Arctic and around the world.

One of the reasons I'm so pleased to be here with Adm. Richard is that I believe the foundation of homeland defense is the nuclear deterrent. It's going to remain that way in the future. That said, deterrence by punishment is one approach, and it's vitally important, but we also have to balance deterrence by punishment with deterrence by denial options and integrated deterrence, to create options for our national command authority and the Secretary and the President below the nuclear threshold, responsive options that undermine an adversary's confidence in - that an attack on our homeland or in the Arctic or through the Arctic could be successful against the United States or our allies and partners.

Today's strategic environment demands an integrated deterrence approach that employs all elements of national influence, leverages alliances and partnerships, and provides leaders with a wide range of timely deterrence options. Together, through our coordinated actions, we strengthen our collective deterrence capabilities.

To use a sports analogy - I'd like to do that - for operating in the Arctic, we have to be on the field. We still have some work to do there, we all have skin in the game when it comes to countering competitor - competitive - or competitor efforts that challenge long time established international laws, norms and rules in the High North.

So all of the nations represented here in Alaska this week have been doing much to bolster the goal of an Arctic region that is safe, prosperous, secure and stable. NORAD and USNORTHCOM will continue to work with our allies and partners to bolster Arctic security, the stability and maintain an international rules-based order.

Adm. Richard and his team, the U.S. Strategic Command team, are core components of the department's strategy, our integrated deterrence strategy, as well, not only here in the Arctic but abroad and around the globe, and I'm happy to have him where - here with me for this very important discussion. And I look forward to your questions.

And now, I'm going to turn it over to Adm. Richard.

RICHARD: So thank you, Glen. Good afternoon, everyone, and I - I thank you for your time. So Gen. VanHerck and I - Glen and I are speaking to you today because we both see the Arctic as a key strategic region and we know how valuable it is to us and to our Arctic allies.

NORTHCOM - NORAD, NORTHCOM is the DOD's Arctic advocate but I - what I would want you to know is they are not alone. U.S. forces, including my strategic forces, routinely operate in this region, as do our Arctic allies.

This is important. It's important, as Glen was referring to, for us to be on the field because strategic threats emanate from the Arctic and the evolving threats require our continuing attention. You'd need to look no further than Russia strengthening its forces in the Arctic, the PRC's Polar Silk Road, for example, which declared Arctic as a - China as an Arctic state. As an example of the things that we need to address.

Strategic deterrence, my responsibility, is the foundation of our national defense policy and integrated deterrence. It enables every U.S. military operation around the world including in the Arctic. But I want to echo what Gen. VanHerck just said and that that alone is not enough. It's just the foundation.

And Glen than picks up and takes the rest of the responsibility of defending North America as well as our Arctic interest. And I would echo what he had to say about deterrence by denial in additional to having the strategic deterrent foundation.

And I'd offer the fact that we're just sitting here together as an example of integrated deterrence in action. That's why I'm here, that's why our forces operate here and why we will remain here.

The U.S. is an Arctic nation. We're not merely near the Arctic. But it's really not just about the U.S., I want to emphasize the stable rules based international order in the Arctic as well as elsewhere that Glen was just referring because it benefits the United States. It benefits all Arctic community nations. It is what's best for stability security and overall wellbeing.

I also echo Gen. VanHerck's sentiment that our allies and partners are our greatest strategic advantage and we are theirs in the Arctic and this symposium is a great example of that. I'm grateful for the work being done to continually strengthen Arctic security and I too look forward to your questions.

STAFF: To take some questions from the press, those of you in the room. Yes, ma'am.

Q: Thanks. General, Admiral, it's Carla Babb with Voice of America. First I want to kind of talk to you about, since you want to talk about Arctic, how far behind are we in the Arctic? There's been reports about how China and how Russia have been increasing their presence, the vast majority of the icebreakers that they have they far exceed our numbers.

Can you - can you put it into perspective for us? A few years ago missile defense we were told about how far behind we were in modernization on missiles defense. Can you do the same things now with the Arctic? How far behind are we in the Arctic?

And then I have a follow-up.

VANHERCK: Thanks, Carla. I'll take that questions, it's Gen. VanHerck. First, I appreciate that question. So how I would approach that is when you look at it unilaterally and say how far are we behind, well certainly with our two current icebreakers and Russia's 55 plus icebreakers, it appears that we're dramatically behind.

But when you fuse together that network of allies and partners and the capabilities that they bring, we're not that far significantly behind Russia. We do have work to do. Work to do such as additional communication capability above 65 north to give us the ability to command and control. I would point out that those capabilities not only benefit us in the military dimension but they benefit the local indigenous population communities around the globe.

I made the analogy of being on the field. We need persistence to operate in the Arctic and that requires fuel further north than Dutch Harbor, Alaska so that vessels from the Coast Guard and the Navy can continue to operate persistently and we need infrastructure in the Arctic. Russia has developed significant infrastructure. Infrastructure that candidly was dilapidated after the Cold War.

They have invested back into that and we need to do the same. I have working with Canada in my NORAD hat in their budgeting process as well to give us some additional infrastructure. Why that's important is to campaign and be on that field you have to have places to operate from in the air domain, in the sea domain and the undersea domain and those are critical to make that happen.

So I wouldn't say we're significantly behind when you look at it from an allies and partners perspective, if you look at it from an individual unilateral perspective we have work to do.

Q: (Inaudible). And then also, I wanted to ask a question about the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System, APS, the American Physical Society had released a report just a few weeks ago saying that the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System is unreliable, vulnerable to countermeasures, it's effectiveness in battlefield-like situations is likely low.

Concludes that GMD is not expected to provide a robust, reliable defense against more than a very simple attack from an ICBM. And they basically slammed the pace of testing, the amount of interceptor hits is a success - they point out that only 10 hits out of the 19 tests have been successful over the last 20 years. So my question to you is how effective do you think the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System of the United States is right now?

VANHERCK: Thanks, (Inaudible). First, I have confidence in my ability to defend our homeland from a rogue state such as DPRK of North Korea with the current system.

Yesterday - or actually on - yes, it was yesterday. I had the privilege of going up to Clear Alaska to see our early warning radar capabilities and the long-range discriminating radar. And the capabilities that it will bring to us to defend against future capabilities such as decoys and deception tactics that could be incorporated.

What you're talking about is really about capability and also capacity. I would point out to you that I'm not tasked to defend against China and Russia for ballistic missiles and ICBM. My counterpart is sitting right next to me, that is his role and responsibility and we rely on the strategic deterrent to do that.

I am tasked from a Ground-Based Missile Defense perspective to go after that rogue nation and eliminate (ph) attack on our homeland in North America, and I'm comfortable doing that. As we go forward they will continue to develop additional capacity and capability, and that's why it's crucial to field the next generation interceptor on time in '28 or sooner. And to continue with the Service Life Extension Program which gives me additional reliance and resilience in the system.

With regards to your cyber comment, I am comfortable where we are and I have asked the same questions. I have crawled down in the holes at Fort Greely Alaska and asked those kinds of questions. I flew over Fort Greely yesterday to take a look at missile field four.

The questions I ask is about how confident are we in our ability to defend and to understand our cyber vulnerabilities. We go through routine testing and practices to ensure that our systems are currently free of malign activities, so I'm comfortable with that, (Inaudible), and I hope that answers your question.

Q: Yes. Again, I point out only 10 hits of the 19 hits have been successful. What would you say to counter that - has the military been getting better as the hits - as you get more practice? Is it fair to just sum up the missile defense program with 10 successful hits out of 19 hits? Can you talk about that a little bit?

VANHERCK: I will talk about that a little bit, (Inaudible). So I would actually say that shooting down a BB in space coming at you with another BB going into space is a significant challenge. And so, that if you do that 50 percent of the time, that's pretty darn good.

When you combine your shot doctrine, which may involve more than a single missile going after a single threat, we are dramatically able to increase our confidence in bringing down threats to North America and our homeland.

I'm not going to go into details about shot doctrine, it factors in reliance, capability of the missiles, but let's just say I'm very comfortable with our ability to shoot down a limited attack on our homeland from the North Korean, or any other rogue state at this time.

STAFF: Let's to go to the phones real quickly. (Inaudible).

Q: Hi, (Inaudible) with AP. Thanks to both of you for doing this. I wanted to follow-up on U.S. capabilities in the Arctic. You talked about some of the areas, including the icebreakers which have long been a major complaint of the military that the U.S. doesn't have as many icebreakers as it needs.

Can you talk a little bit about looking ahead to the future? What are your priorities, and how soon do you think you will be able to address some of what many consider serious shortfalls such as the icebreakers, the fuel, and the other facilities that are needed in the Arctic? How many years out are you, do you believe, from starting to solve some of these problems? And then I have a second - I have a follow-up.

VANHERCK: Thanks, (Inaudible).

So first I would tell you that I think we can solve many of these challenges that we're faced with today in a near-term, in months to years, OK? Some of those are ensuring we have forces that are dedicated to an Arctic mission that are available to me on a day-to-day basis, or at least episodically to operate in the stressful environment of the Arctic. Those are easy things to do for the services to dedicate, to organize, train and equip specific forces.

What you're talking about for infrastructure and additional capabilities will take a little bit longer. I would say the icebreaker piece will be - begin to be solved in '24 as the Coast Guard fields their first icebreaker and they field six over the next several years. So let's just say two, to five, six year timeframe is what I would expect to see there on the icebreakers.

With regard to infrastructure that's a great question. That infrastructure is not funded. I am encouraged with where we're going, infrastructure to operate from airfields and provide base operating support as forces leave, for example to maybe go to EUCOM [U.S. European Command] or INDOPACOM [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] AOR [area of operations], and we have to identify, train, and equip dedicated forces that roll in and allow me to defend the strategic nature of Alaska and what's here (ph) and across the Arctic.

And so that being not funded, it's hard for me to give you an example. If it is funded I'm confident we'll see Canada step up and fund more this year, and I hope to see more in our budget. I would expect across FIDP we can address many of those issues, so in the next four to five years. But I can't give you a specific date, (Inaudible).

Q: Great, thank you. And again, as just a brief, quick follow-up on a slightly unconnected issue. Can you give us any insight into any DOD contribution for the expected government response when Title 42 is lifted later this month on the border?

VANHERCK: Thank you very much. So I don't have a specific tasking, there's planning on going right now. What I expect my task will be -- to be is to provide contracted support in the form of transportation, in medical. Primarily in facilities the department is looking at facilities in support of Homeland Security and other agencies across the government.

I do not expect a large number of DOD Title 10 forces to increase. We will contract the majority of that force out.

STAFF: Quickly (ph), what we're here to talk about today, which is the strategic importance of the Arctic. The ally and partner Arctic collaboration to ensure the safety and security of the region and integrated deterrence. We're going to try to keep our questions focused on Arctic issues.

We'll go back to the room, yes sir.

Q: Just three question. (Inaudible) from Newsmax. Is the administration budgeting enough in the fiscal year 2023 from what you've seen for Arctic Defense and would there be anything else you need in order to bolster those capabilities?

VANHERCK: Well, it's hard to say we're not getting enough money when you look at a $778 billion budget. But I would tell you, I have capability gaps and shortfalls. It's the infrastructure that we've talked about. It's communications. We're currently undergoing testing with a couple of companies. OneWeb and StarLink as well for some additional communications capabilities in the Arctic at this time.

And so I would say those are some of the gaps that we see. What I'm talking about I don't think requires a dramatic increase in funding. It requires prioritization within some of the funding that we have, and the potential for additional funding applied to the Arctic and to the Homeland Defense equities.

Q: Thank you very much.

VANHERCK: Yes, sir.

Q: Thank you. Jon Harper with FedScoop. Can you discuss in a little bit more detail the testing you're doing with these new communication capabilities with the two companies that you mentioned?

VANHERCK: Sure. Right now, as you know, Starlink and OneWeb have fielded satellite constellations in lower Earth orbit to provide data and voice communications capabilities.

The department's been gracious enough to give us funding to provide terminals. We have some terminals in locations in the Arctic that we're currently evaluating their viability and their capability to provide the command and control that we need from a tactical level in the Arctic for ongoing operations all the way to the strategic level.

I'm going to go visit one of those companies when we're done here today. And take a look at the -- what they offer for us to do and the capabilities and how much they're moving forward. I look forward to continuing to partner with the Department throughout this test to increase our communication capabilities.

Q: And just a quick follow-up, what's kind of the timeframe for this testing and then what would the next step be in terms of pursuing or acquiring those capabilities or services?

VANHERCK: Yes, so I think we'll be done in, you know, certainly with inside the year. The next step is to provide terminals through the services to integrate terminals on capabilities -- platforms and capabilities and also within communication nodes, such as command post and operation centers to allow us to share data and information and also with our allies and partners.

Q: Thank you. And Adm., do you have any similar communication challenges for your forces operating at those northern latitudes in the Arctic and do you have any plans for, you know, any sort of similar initiatives along the lines of what Gen. Vanherck was discussing?

RICHARD: What I'll offer is that my forces do operate in the Arctic and therefore also require command and control domain awareness and -- so I -- my forces are a subset of the -- requirements that you just heard Glen talking about. And so in General it is the same issue in terms of recapitalizing in some cases.

But Glen was hitting on a -- just the ability to go accomplish the mission perhaps in a new and better way is something that we're very alert to. And the idea that we have these commercial capabilities that would enable us to accomplish a mission in a new and better way compared to simply recapitalizing what we've done in the past I think is very exciting and both Glen and I are looking at opportunities to do that.

STAFF: All right, let's go back to the phones. Bill, are you there?

Q: Yes, hi. I have a MRV [multiple reentry vehicles] question, one for each of you. Gen. Vanherck, one of the more visible presence of the Russians in the Arctic have been strategic bomber flights, somewhat provocative running up against the air defense zones.

What are you seeing in terms of Russian bomber flights. We haven't heard anything recently and has there been any change in that since the invasion. And for Adm. Richard, you mentioned the -- China's fractional orbital capability. Is that something that China intends to use for its ambitions in the Arctic?

VANHERCK: Thanks Bill. I'll talk about the bombers first. So what we're seeing is -- within historical norms and we're not seeing any dramatic change based on going activities in the European AOR. We saw a spike back in the 2020/2019 timeframe. But I would characterize what we see today is within the historical norms of activity.

RICHARD: Hey. So Bill, what I would add to your question about the fractional orbit bombardment capability, I would used that as a specific example of -- I think we all need to be conscious that we don't know what the endpoint of China's trajectory is with the expansion of its forces -- strategic forces being a subset of that.

They've not said what their intent there is. And so that is something that I think as we move forward we be alert to how the threat changes and then what are we going to have to have from a capability and posture standpoint to execute what I think are some very good strategies that we've just come out with.

Q: All right, thanks.

STAFF: Bill Gertz from the Washington Times for those of you keeping a transcript. Mr. Capaccio.

Q: Thank you. Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg. For Gen. Vanherck, the Starlink OneWeb experiments, are those a product of Gen. O'Shaughnessy's unfunded priority list from a couple years ago from 2020 when he asked for like $80 million to start that?

VANHERCK: Tony, I would say no. They're not a direct output of that -- that ask candidly.

Q: Was -- I mean was that one of your priorities too?

VANHERCK: It is absolutely one of my priorities and we're able to garner I think it was $50 million. Through one of my unfunded request in the first year of command to enable us to move out with the testing that we're currently doing, the terminals that we fielded right now.

Q: Adm. Richard for both of you, the missile defense question. I know it's not directly Arctic related but they may actually come over the Arctic possible. I want to ask you about North Korea and its capabilities.

Every time there's a test there's been a lot of nervousness throughout the world. I want to ask you though, at this point do they have a capability to make a warhead to their ICBM?

Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, April 14th said that has yet to be proven. I wanted to get your candid assessment of where that program is at this moment, realizing that the JBR program is designed to go after that threat.

STAFF: Tony we can come back...


Q: ... clear, so I mean, he's there right now covering their issues that we're talking about, right, sir?

STAFF: But we'll go ahead and adhere to the ground rules and so if you guys want to come see me afterwards I'm happy to get on this question for you. All right, let's go back to the phones. Alex (ph), are you there?

Q: Yep, I'm here. I have a question for Adm. Richard on the topic of strategic deterrence and feel free to answer this also within kind of a context of the Arctic. But I -- I'd wanted to ask about kind of the topic of SLCM-N and I'm wondering, Adm. Richard, if you're concerned that a public rift in the administration is developing as a result of conflicting views around SLCM-N?

RICHARD: No, I'm not. I think it has all been adequately addressed, and I've made my recommendations and I'm very confident that my department has a process in order to address recommendations and come to a good overall answer.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Sir, go ahead.

Q: (Inaudible) the news. Gen., you were talking about the icebreaker differential of I think 20 -- two versus 55, and you also used the cliche a couple times about being on the field. I'm wondering what field you're talking about where it's an even fight between 55 and two.

And I say that only because I know you all have been pleading for more icebreakers for many, many years. It's been in the budget, it never seems to happen. So my question is, and since the icebreakers do flow into the Arctic, it is an Arctic question.

Why haven't you guys been successful in convincing Congress to fund more icebreakers? And to get them moving?

VANHERCK: Well, I'm not sure it's specific to Congress. I would say it's -- the department, Congress advocacy overall I believe that the successfulness has been based on education about the importance of the Arctic.

That's why we're here in Alaska is to educate folks on the value, what the Arctic brings, what environmental change is doing in the Arctic, giving access to resources that haven't been available and it will create strategic competition, which has the potential for friction to create instability.

I think when you combine that education what we're seeing is people understand the true value of the region. And now we're looking at funding the capabilities to ensure that we can execute an integrated deterrence strategy in the Arctic.

I wish we were ahead of where we are. But the fact is we're moving out with some vigor right now to make that happen.

STAFF: Did you hear the question, sir?

Q: Just a quick follow-up.

STAFF: The question is, do you think you'll get any new icebreakers in the next 10 years?

VANHERCK: We're not going to get new icebreakers in the Department of Defense and I'm not asking for new icebreakers in the Department of Defense. I defer to the comment on the Coast Guard, he has asked for them, he's got six of them funded that we're going to field in the next few years, I believe it's three heavy and three medium.

STAFF: All right, thanks, everyone. Gentlemen, before we sign off have you any final words you'd like to state?

VANHERCK: Todd, thanks for the opportunity to talk. I think it's a crucial time to talk about the Arctic. Activity in the Arctic due to the environmental change is going to increase. That gives us the potential for friction. It's strategic competition that could actually explode into something global.

So I think it's important to execute our integrated deterrence strategy that we talk about these issues. We've developed the capabilities to make sure that we have the persistence. And when I say on the field that we're able to be there to ensure that international rules, laws, and norms, and behaviors are adhered to.

This is not about militarizing the Arctic. This is about ensuring that the Arctic is free, prosperous, that economic development can continue to occur within those norms and laws and rules that have served us well since the end of World War II. Chaz (ph).

RICHARD: What I'll just add is, is that I'm happy on behalf of my command to have an opportunity to endorse what Gen. VanHerck just said. And to show that he is not the only commander who has come to these conclusions and sees the importance of the Arctic. Happy to support over at NORTHCOM.

STAFF: Gen. VanHerck, Adm. Richard, thank you very much, gentlemen for your time. Thank you to the press corps.

Q: Thank you.