Speeches

SPEECH | July 27, 2022

2022 Deterrence Symposium Adm. Richard Media Availability

Admiral Richard: So thank y'all for joining me this afternoon. As you've seen, we're up to a great start. This is the 13th, annual Deterrence Symposium and the first, one in person since 2019. I’m really excited about that. It's pretty big, 600 people and 15 nations here. This is USSTRATCOM’s premiere event promoting advanced thinking on nuclear deterrence matters. We're trying to continue and set in motion an information exchange among Department of Defense, government, industry, academia, and international participants. We're looking at deterrence issues that affect things I’m responsible for. I really want to push ahead on how we are going to think through, and implement integrated deterrence in particular. Try to invigorate the communities that we have a broader number of people that are thinking about this, and I want you to note that we're broad, open, we're taking inputs from anyone that wants to give us things to consider when it comes to deterrence, integrated deterrence, and it gives us an opportunity to provide USSTRATCOM and broader U.S. government views on issues and challenges. And frankly, we want to try to inspire and educate a new generation of experts in and how we do deterrence. And so I’m excited to have an opportunity to speak with y'all and I'd be happy to take a few questions.

Nokiro Yamada, NHK: Admiral Richard, how has the deterrence dynamics changed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine? And what are the challenges that we are facing today in terms of maintaining integrated deterrence from here?

Admiral Richard: There's probably several things I could pick from to highlight, but I think the biggest one I'd offer is the rhetoric coming out of Russia, right? The not so thinly veiled nuclear saber rattling. I along with many others felt that… that that's irresponsible, That is unhelpful. That is unnecessary. And you'll note that my nation and our Allies have refrained from doing similar acts. But I think there's a, what that points back to one, is why we're having this symposium, which is…that's real rhetoric, right? I'm not sure we have ever had rhetoric like that in history. Go through… you might be challenged, I can't remember an event in the Cold War even where you had that level of rhetoric. And I think it points to the reality of the threat that we face and the necessity for us and our Allies, to not only take concrete steps with our deterrence forces, but to think through the theories on how we're going to accomplish it. So that's probably my biggest takeaway in terms of what's changed. What previously in some cases had been thought to be a theoretical or highly improbable event has actually been demonstrated in real life to be much more than that. Thank you.

Steve Liewer, Omaha World-Herald: Sir, this morning there was very interesting, a very interesting seminar on deterring two near peer nuclear powers the same time, and I was wondering your thoughts on one, arms control the future of arms control in that context. And also, do we need to build up actually and add to our nuclear arsenal in order to deter Russia and China at the same time.

Admiral Richard: Steve, USSTRATCOM, and I am just the latest in the line that applauds and encourages arms control. Any effort, any agreement by which all parties got to comply, it has to be verifiable, but anything that limits the threat to us and our Allies is a good thing. And if done correctly it lowers the threat to everybody, it’s good for everyone that's involved. That's the advantage or benefit of joining into that. I leave the specifics, that's what those are political agreements, that's a Department of State responsibility. I was just over there talking to them about it and we have and will provide technical expertise. So we understand the military implications of these political agreements. But we certainly applaud efforts to limit arms.

Now, to your second question about capabilities and capacities, I'll offer one, that was looked at extensively as a part of the Nuclear Posture Review and we have seen what the decisions were in terms of strong support for the recapitalization of our Triad, our strategic forces, Nuclear Command and Control as well as our weapons contracts. And I think we can shortly expect the release of the unclassified Nuclear Posture Review, which will provide some more details that shows why the budget submission looked the way that it did.

Now Steve, I think it's an important point for us to all remember that those decisions were made at a moment in time, in that the threat posed to this nation and our Allies from China is expanding at a breathtaking pace. We don't know where that's going to wind up. Russia's in a similar category and then there's North Korea, potentially others. So I think what's incumbent now, what has changed as opposed to the last, say 10 or 20 years, is that we much more frequently have to ask ourselves what capability, capacity and posture do we have to have to execute what I think is a very good strategy in the Nuclear Posture Review as we see how this threat evolves. And I'm pretty confident that we're going to go down that path inside the Department of Defense.

Joe Gould, Defense News: Thanks so much for taking my call and holding this roundtable. I want to add, what does the accession of Finland and Sweden do from the perspective of your command today, does that in any way alter the, you know, either the threat picture, deterrence picture. And also, since you raised the NPR coming out shortly, there is a decision in there around declaratory policy that you know, has gotten a lot of attention. Would you recommend changing that policy now, particularly in light of Russia’s nuclear rhetoric?

Admiral Richard: Thank you Joe for both of those questions and I offer that one, I think it is of credit to the United States in the way that we do Nuclear Posture Review. We've been doing this for a long time and the way that we encourage debate in our own country, take a broad range of inputs, Allies views were very heavily considered in the formulation of the decisions inside the Nuclear Posture Review, and of course you know what conclusions that we’ll come to in that. I support those and I do not recommend any further changes or discussion or consideration. I think we have fine policies. As to the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO, I think that makes NATO stronger. A stronger NATO provides a better deterrence effect and overall enhances security for both us and our Allies. Does it change anything specifically for my mission sense? No, we are quite prepared to honor our deterrence and assurance commitments to NATO and all of our treaty Allies. It does help ensure that perhaps those commitments are less likely to be tested.

Aaron Sanderford, Nebraska Examiner: Can you talk a little bit about the Reuters story about telecommunications equipment this week near missile silos, and even the discussion recently about farmland purchases in South Dakota and how that may factor into some of the strategic thinking that's going on right now.

Admiral Richard: So first what you're describing has national implications and so there's a national piece to this. I am responsible for operations on Nuclear Command and Controls. I’ll just address that subset to it. First, we're well aware of potential threats to our Nuclear Command and Control. That’s not new, right? The attractiveness of your opponent's Nuclear Command and Control has put it very high aspirationally for decades and we're well aware of that. I do want to offer, our nation’s Nuclear Command and Control has never been in a more resilient reliable, robust alignment than it is today. It's important that the Nuclear Command Control system is not static, and it is operated like a weapon system and we're quite good at it, and it changes over time. There's pieces of it you know about. There's pieces of it you don't know about. That's done intentionally. What I will say though is that NC3, because of the importance of the system, enjoys the highest priority support from the intelligence community. I particularly compliment General Naskasone both in the Cyber Command and NSA hats for making sure that we fully understand the environment that we're operating in. I have great confidence in the system, but I will point out that those threats that you're talking about are not static and we are going to have to continue to modernize our Nuclear Command and Control system to enable it to outpace those.

Sarah Scoles, Wired and Popular Science: Earlier today on one of the panels, someone was talking about the lack of knowledge of deterrence and its importance and strategy among the American public, and I was wondering what you wish the average person knows about deterrence that they do not.

Admiral Richard: Well, I think we are, and the Department of Defense is working pretty hard to address that challenge. It's pretty understandable. We just haven't had stress on strategic deterrence in the last 30 years. That is what we have today and where we're going with it. So it's understandable that we're in the position that we're in. My biggest thing both inside the Department of Defense and outside the Department of Defense and broadly, is this very flawed idea in my mind that somehow nuclear sits in its own box off to the side, it has its own threat, you can decide how credible you want that threat to be, oh they would never do that. And somehow, there is this completely independent dial sitting over here where we can decide how much risk as a nation we wish to take in this area, and that is somehow disconnected from all the other things we do to defend this nation. When, in fact, it's all linked together and the strength of our nuclear deterrent is what underpins, and backstops, every other thing we do inside the Department of Defense to defend the nation. If I could just get that one idea across, I think it'd go a long way to understand why we do the things we do.

Sangmin Lee, Radio Free Asia: Are there any plans to deploy U.S. critical assets on the Korean Peninsula as adjustment to U.S. military posture?

Admiral Richard: I would defer a question in terms of our force postures on the peninsula to either Indo-Pacific Commander or US Forces Korea. Just know that my forces are ready to honor our extended deterrence and insurance commitments to South Korea and all of our other Allies and I'm quite ready to do whatever the President orders us to do in defense of any of our treaty Allies. Thank you.