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SPEECH | March 1, 2024

SASC Fiscal Year 2025 U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Space Command Posture Hearing

REED:  Good morning.

The Committee meets today to receive testimony from General Anthony Cotton, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, and General Stephen Whiting, Commander of U.S. SPACECOM or Command. U.S. Space Command or SPACECOM. Gentlemen, thank you for your service to the nation, and please extend our thanks to the men and women who serve with you. As in the past, we've asked the commanders of STRATCOM and SPACECOM to testify together.

Until 2019, SPACECOM was a part of Strategic Command. As SPACECOM continues its standup as an independent command, it is important to identify any gaps or seams that have emerged during the transition. On the global stage, Russia continues to behave recklessly with regard to its nuclear weapons strategy. Recent press reports state that Russia is considering violating international space treaties and endangering the global use of space for vital communications and sensing.

Further, Putin has sabotaged the strategic stability and arms control policies that both our nations have respected for decades. Over the past year, Russia has suspended its participation in the New START Treaty and withdrawn its ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Russia continues to develop new third strike nuclear weapons, ranging from multi megaton underwater torpedoes to nuclear powered cruise missiles. At the same time, China is also advancing its missile capabilities. China is quickly expanding its land-based missile silos, building new air and sea nuclear delivery platforms and completing its nuclear command, control, and communications, or NC3.

These developments may have significant impacts on stability in Indo-Pacific and America's extended deterrence commitment to our allies in the region. Simply put, we are now in a trilateral nuclear competitive era. General Cotton, I would ask for your thoughts on how your command is handling this challenge and how you plan to adjust your force structure to deter both Russia and China while minimizing the potential for escalation. The United States is also well underway in its nuclear modernization cycle, a once in a generation effort to renew the aging legs of our nuclear triad.

As part of that effort, I understand the department is encountering such large cost increases in the Sentinel ICBM Replacement Program that there has been a Nunn-McCurdy breach, which means the program must undergo statutory reviews and analysis of reasons for cost overruns. The fiscal year 2024 NDAA required an assessment of the operational impacts of these acquisition delays, and we would ask for an update on the situation.

General Whiting, the threats to the United States and allied space systems continue to increase. As we are seeing in Ukraine, dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum plays a vital role in modern warfare. We have seen large swaths of the battlefield in the Ukraine inoperable due to GPS denial for precision weapons, as well as the disabling of commercial satellite systems that both militaries use. China, for its part, has invested heavily in jamming the electronic and kinetic technologies that could be used to disable our military and civilian satellites.

We are in a race to dominate this field because any future conflict will involve a constant battle to control the spectrum and cripple the adversaries' communications and command and control. General Whiting, I would ask for your perspective on the roles and vulnerabilities of these space systems, as well as lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine. Space Command recently announced that it's reached full operational capability. However, in my view, full operational capability does not necessarily mean full mission readiness.

As a warfighting domain, space requires new battle management capabilities, especially the ability to detect a threat in space and to relay that information to a weapon system. This battle management directly affects our ability to protect troops on the ground, and SPACECOM must continue to integrate fully with the other combatant commanders. General, I hope you will update us on this concept and what the Committee can do to help bring it to fruition.

Finally, I would note that the missile defense mission was recently transferred from STRATCOM to SPACECOM. This mission set has never been more important for our troops around the world, as we have seen threats increasing in the Red Sea, Middle East, and Ukraine. I would like to know how you are integrating missile defense into your command and what capabilities you need to protect our warfighters.

Thank you again to our witnesses for appearing today. I look forward to your testimonies. I would note from my colleagues that there will be a classified briefing immediately following this session in SVC 217 to continue our discussion.

Let me now recognize the Ranking Member, Senator Wicker.

WICKER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to the witnesses for their service. Last year's congressional Strategic Posture Commission issued a report that was disquieting. Its conclusion was that the United States must fundamentally update our nuclear and space programs if we have any hope of countering growing threats from Russia and China. Unfortunately, the current administration has naively maintained the status quo. I am choosing my words carefully in making this statement.

While the United States has stayed complacent, Russia and China have advanced by leaps and bounds in their nuclear and space programs. As we enter the third year of Putin's war against Ukraine, Russia remains a major strategic threat to the United States. Moscow owns the world's largest, most modern nuclear arsenal, giving it a 10 to one advantage over the United States in tactical nuclear weapons. Russia has also developed new weapons unlike anything in the U.S. inventory. It stocks nuclear powered transoceanic autonomous torpedoes and intercontinental cruise missiles. Against such weapons, we are currently defenseless.

As bad as this sounds, China is rapidly becoming an even greater threat. Beijing is modernizing and expanding its nuclear forces at breakneck speed. It will likely outpace the United States in the early 2030s. Already, it successfully deployed an operational strategic triad of nuclear missiles, bombers, and submarines. Over the past three years, China has tripled the size of its nuclear arsenal and built an ICBM network larger than our own. The Chinese have flown a missile that can drop nuclear warheads from orbit anywhere on Earth with virtually no warning.

Both Russia and China are also openly developing and testing counterspace capabilities. Each country has used kinetic weapons to obliterate orbiting satellites. When this is done, the blasts scatter thousands of debris fragments, endanger hundreds of other satellites, and preview a frightening future. Unfortunately, these aggressive actions only scratch the surface of their real capabilities. One would expect these threats to generate a sense of urgency in Washington.

Today's nuclear and space danger should prompt us to reassess our assumptions about the threat environment and realign our resources accordingly. This is the unanimous recommendation of the bipartisan Strategic Posture Commission. The unanimous recommendation of this bipartisan Commission. Instead, we see more of the same. The current administration consistently delays nuclear and space modernization programs. It chooses to dawdle instead of actively confront a pair of dire truths.

The United States nuclear capabilities are falling behind, and the future of war will extend to space. Collaboration with Congress and the White House could replace that inaction with progress. We can start reclaiming lost ground by following the recommendations of the Strategic Posture Commission, the unanimous recommendations of this bipartisan Commission. We must accelerate the National Nuclear Security Administration restoration of our basic industrial capabilities.

The current slow pace is out of touch with reality. Likewise, we must make progress on the Sentinel ICBM and Columbia submarine programs. These programs require stained investment and innovation, but the benefit is worth the price tag and the elbow grease that it will require. The advances made by our adversaries demand both defensive and offensive military solutions.

I would like to hear from our witnesses about how this Committee can help create a sense of urgency when it comes to accelerating the modernization of our strategic arsenal and adapting our forces to the new threat environment.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Wicker. General Cotton, your comments, please.

A. COTTON:  Good morning, Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, and distinguished members of this Committee. It is an honor to be here today alongside General Whiting and a privilege to represent the service members and civilians of United States Strategic Command. This is my second year appearing before you as a STRATCOM commander, and I'd like to thank this Committee and Congress for their support, not only to national defense, but to my portfolio. I have submitted my posture statement for the record.

The most important message I want to deliver today is that the forces under my command are ready to deter our adversaries and respond decisively should deterrence fail. No adversary should ever doubt our capability today. As a global war fighting command, STRATCOM sets conditions across the globe as the ultimate guarantor of national and allied security.

Our forces and capabilities underpin and enable all other joint forces operations. We do this in the face of challenges unlike anything America has ever encountered. We are confronting not one, but two nuclear peers, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. This reality, combined by missile developments in North Korea, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the growing relationships amongst those nations, adds new layers of complexity to our strategic calculus.

It also raises the possibility of simultaneous conflicts with multiple nuclear armed adversaries. The PRC is surpassing the United States and its number of fixed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers. And projections indicate its nuclear arsenal would encompass approximately 1,000 warheads by 2030. As Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine enters its third year, its reliance on nuclear forces increases as its conventional forces attrit.

Beyond Russia's traditional strategic triad, it is expanding and modernizing nuclear options that are not covered by international arms treaties. Last Friday, President Putin stated that 95% of Russia's strategic nuclear forces have been modernized. In short, our competitors are improving their position against the United States and its allies in multiple domains at rates that are far exceeding the pace we've seen just a few years ago.

While our legacy systems continue to hold potential adversaries at risk, it is absolutely critical we continue to speed, at speed with the modernization of our nuclear triad, including land based ICBMs, the B-21, the B-52, the Columbia class submarine, the nuclear sea launched cruise missile, and LRSO, as well as numerous related systems, while also focusing on the NC3 enterprise with its upgrades and cybersecurity.

I urge Congress to continue supporting these critical national security capabilities, their associated infrastructure, and the sustainment of legacy systems during the modernization period. Let me be clear, while modernization will continue to be the priority, STRATCOM forces are ready to fight tonight, and my components will always be ready to fight tonight. So, I thank you, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you, Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, General Cotton. General Whiting, please.

WHITING:  Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify, and I'm pleased to be joined beside my longtime friend, General Tony Cotton. I'm honored to represent the 18,000 joint military and civilian professionals of United States Space Command and our five service components. Indeed, our people are the most valuable asset of national space power.

U.S. Space Command, working with allies and partners, has a moral responsibility to the joint force, the nation, and our allies to provide space capabilities through all levels of conflict. Since Desert Storm, the joint force has become reliant on these systems and force sized according to the assumption of always having access to space capabilities. This is why U.S. Space Command must protect and defend our space systems to ensure they are available in the face of the growing threats arrayed against us. Inherent in this responsibility is our ability to protect the joint force from space enabled attack.

Our principal strategic competitors, the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation, now hold at risk United States and allied space capabilities because they know our joint force relies on space to fight the way we want:  precisely, lethally, effectively, and efficiently. To put it plainly, the PRC's and Russia's actions have transformed space into a contested warfighting domain. Additionally, PRC military operations in particular have become increasingly enabled by space at all levels of warfare.

And the People's Liberation Army is improving their terrestrial forces lethality and effectiveness by leveraging space capabilities. As of January 2024, the PRC's intelligence satellite fleet contained more than 359 systems, more than tripling its on-orbit collection presence since 2018. With their space and counterspace systems, they have dramatically increased their ability to monitor, track, and target U.S. and allied forces both terrestrially and on orbit.

Russia also continues to develop, test, and demonstrate their counterspace capabilities, despite not having achieved their war aims from their invasion of Ukraine. This ongoing ground war has revealed military reliance on space and space enabled capabilities. To be sure, Russia's war in Ukraine has established space as an indelible enabler of terrestrial warfare.

Today, U.S. Space Command seeks to expand competitive advantage over PRC and Russia by leveraging every available asset of the interagency, the rest of the joint force, our allies, and our partners in U.S. commercial industry and academia. The United States remains the best military space power in the world. Yet our current architecture is optimized for operations in a benign space environment.

To ensure success in the contested space environment we now find ourselves in, it is vital that U.S. Space Command is delivered improved capabilities and capacities, fully tested, and would train personnel by 2027. While a conflict in space is not inevitable, it would certainly be devastating and disrupt our use of space for decades, so we must be ready if deterrence fails. Simply put, the PRC is moving breathtakingly fast in space.

America must rapidly increase the timeliness, quality and quantity of our critical national space and missile defense systems to match China's speed and maintain our advantage. With the U.S. Space Force, as well as the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines and other combatant commands and other agencies, U.S. Space Command has determined priority military capabilities required by 2027 to dominate in space.

Specifically, U.S. Space Command's top five priority requirements that are key to delivering on our unified command plan responsibilities are one, resilient and timely operational command and control, two, integrated space fires and protection, three, modernized agile electronic warfare architectures, four, enhanced battlespace awareness for space warfare, and five, cyber defensive space systems.

Absent commitment to long-term investment in these integrated requirements, we risk ceding advantage to our principal strategic competitors in the space domain. With delivery of increased capability and capacity assured, U.S. Space Command will attain the required enduring advantage over any adversary determined to conduct war in outer space, thus ensuring defense of our homeland and protection of the joint force and our allies.

I am grateful for Congress's support to U.S. Space Command and investments to advance America's leadership in space. With your continued backing, United States Space Command will ensure space remains sustainable, safe, stable, and secure for all. Chairman, I have submitted my posture statement for the record, and I look forward to your questions.

REED:  Thank you very much, General Whiting. General Cotton, what force structure changes do you anticipate in order to maintain our deterrence now that we have a trilateral nuclear competition with Russia and China? Can you comment on that, please?

A. COTTON:  Chairman, that's the dilemma that I walked into when I took command of STRATCOM. And as I said in the last posture hearing and even at my confirmation, that was one that I was going to jump on as soon as I took command and took the flag. What we've done is, along with the comments of the Ranking Member and what we're seeing in the strategic posture commission results, we have done work internal to STRATCOM to see what is going to be the requirements in regards to what we need as a fighting force.

The NPR actually gives me the opportunity to do just that. So, I am staying within the confines of the administration. When the NPR says that what we want to have is a triad, I absolutely agree with that notion that we must maintain a triad. I absolutely agree that there's now time for us to look, to see what do we do with the program of record that we currently have, to ensure that I can cover, not only one nuclear adversary, but two.

So, within all legs of the triad, we're having that conversation right now. And there's actually studies that are going on in which my teammates are part of at STRATCOM within the Department of Defense, that goes after looking at the recommendations, that the strategic posture commission, that validates many of the notions that STRATCOM came up with even before the release of the posture commission.

REED:  Thank you. General Whiting, you reached full operational capability in December, which is welcome news. Congratulations. However, the question is adequate readiness foster (ph) to support your operational capabilities. They are two different topics. Are there particularly areas that the Committee should be aware of that readiness must be enhanced?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. Yes, my predecessor, General Jim Dickinson, declared full operational capability, as you noted. And that was really to say that our headquarters now can function as the other combatant commands and execute our primary responsibilities as laid out in Title X and in the unified command plan. But as I noted in the opening statement, our forces today are optimized for a benign space environment. The systems were either built or the requirements were largely laid down during a time when we didn't face the threats we now see.

So, now we really have to focus on making sure we have the systems to protect and defend our existing architectures, even as we make our current architectures more resilient, and that we have the systems to protect the joint force from the space enabling capabilities we now see the PRC developing, for example. And then we have to have the testing capabilities to assure us those new systems will work and the training capabilities, so our personnel have the reps and sets, if you will, to be ready to go. So, that's really where we need to focus is on continuing to deliver capability to allow us to operate in the contested domain we now find ourselves in.

REED:  Thank you. General Cotton, the Sentinel Program is encountering difficulties. The Columbia Program is slowing down rather than speeding up. We have, I think, some good news with the B-21, but the basic mission is to maintain a triad, not something less. Can you comment, particularly with respect to the Sentinel Program, in terms of what we have to do at this juncture? I know they're still evaluating it.

A. COTTON:  Chairman, thank you for the question in regards to Sentinel and where it stands with Nunn-McCurdy. I think I'll answer it this way. There is no change in the requirements that I currently have on the modernization of all three legs of the triad. That absolutely has to be done. And I think what's really important for folks to understand is I think I'm probably the only combatant command that can't have a gap in my capabilities because a gap in my capabilities, credibility, as well as safe, secure and effective weapon systems, is key and foundational to deterrence.

As you talk about all three legs going into potential delays, we must ensure that we never have a gap in the capabilities amongst those three legs of the triad. And that's what I look and study every single day to ensure that we don't create a gap in that mission set amongst whether it's land, sea or the air leg.

REED:  Thank you, General Cotton. Senator Wicker, please.

WICKER:  Well, let's just follow up on that. With regard to the triad, General Cotton, and I appreciate you meeting with us earlier to discuss this. So, we've got the land based and the air based. Let's talk about sea based. And your testimony points out that it involves the Ohio Class SSBN Fleet, right, and the Trident to D-5 strategic weapon system SWS. Are we where we need to be on that?

A. COTTON:  So, all three legs of the triad are past system life. The good news is the men and women that are maintaining those systems are doing an incredible job to do that. The problem we face and the problem that I have to encounter every single day with legacy systems is to ensure that I have the required numbers of SSBNs that are available, as well as the required number of weapons that are available for the SSBN fleet.

As we make the transition to the Columbia class, as I mentioned to the Chairman, what's going to be incredibly important, Senator, is that we ensure that there's no gap between the transition of the Ohio Class weapon system to the Columbia Class weapons system.

WICKER:  Well, yes. And so, at least with regard to this, there's no talk or there's no feeling in your mind that we can divest so we can later invest? That's nonsense when it comes to what you're talking about.

A. COTTON:  That is correct. That's why I make that statement on ensuring that I don't create a gap as we do the transition from legacy to a modernized system. I will always have to be able to cover down a requirement with the legacy systems.

WICKER:  On page 11 of your testimony, despite the fleet's accomplishments and its ability to achieve the mission today, it faces continuing sustainment challenges that could impact its availability until fully replaced by the Columbia class in 2042. Are we asking for enough resources for you to get where you need to get on time?

A. COTTON:  I don't know that resources is necessarily the issue here. I think what I really see is the ability for the industrial base to be able to produce and not drive the gaps. So, as we look-

WICKER:  So, to the extent that we are proposing to appropriate some $3.4 billion extra for submarine industrial base. That will be helpful, will it not?

A. COTTON:  It will be helpful, absolutely, sir, on the modernization. Now, to your point, we also need to ensure that the legacy systems have the sustainability that's available to them, so I can maintain the legacy systems as well until the new systems arrive.

WICKER:  OK. Thank you very much. Serious challenges in your bailiwick, I would say. General Whiting, you talk about a vulnerability window. On page three of your testimony, there's a vulnerability window communicated by our competitors and highlighted as we watch conflict unfold in Ukraine and Israel. What are we learning there, and state for our audience what the vulnerability window is?

WHITING:  Ranking Member, the vulnerability window is the fact that our competitors, PRC and Russia, have invested in counterspace capabilities having studied us for decades, to hold at risk our ability to fight the way we would like. And so, now we have to make our current space capabilities that provide satellite communications, positioning, navigation and timing, missile warning, those kind of functions, we have to make them more resilient against those threats and provide, protect and defend capability to help protect them.

WHITING:  Those investments have been made, but we need to make sure those programs deliver and that we continue to invest to assure that we can support the joint force with those kind of capabilities in the face of these threats.

WICKER:  And until they are delivered, there is a window of vulnerability?

WHITING:  That's correct, Ranking Member.

WICKER:  OK. Are the requesters asking for enough resources to address this vulnerability window?

WHITING:  Senator, I think we've laid out all the requirements that we need, and we know the programs that we need and now we need to make sure those are delivering on time and pulling them as much to the left as we can.

WICKER:  They need to be pulled to the left?

WHITING:  Yes, sir. I'd like to have all the-

WICKER:  And explain to people who aren't accustomed to Washington ease what pulling it to the left means?

WHITING:  Senator, that means to deliver it even earlier than we expect.

WICKER:  And that is a very important need, is it not?

WHITING:  Sir, I'd like to have as much capability as I could right now. Yes, sir.

WICKER:  Thank you.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Wicker. Senator Kaine, please.

KAINE:  Thank you, Mr. Chair. And thank you to our witnesses. General Cotton, in your posture statement you mentioned that continued congressional support is critical to overhauling the sub industrial base to advance the Navy shipbuilding efforts. And you also noted that the execution of the 1+2 (ph) submarine bill plan is a national imperative.

I'm following up on Senator Wicker's questions. I completely agree with this, especially given the additional commitments we've now taken on with AUKUS pillar one. How critical are the submarine industrial base investments, like those that we included in the supplemental, to ensuring that the Columbia class submarines are delivered on time?

A. COTTON:  Thank you for the question, Senator Kaine. And I'd like to say thank you to, I know there was a task (ph) here and even yesterday in regards, and many of the members that are before us today were part of that. So, thank you for the support in addressing the industrial based problem, And using the northeast, it is a wicked problem.

So, the ability, I do not have capacity to lose one leg of the triad, and the SSBN and the SLBN weapons system is critical to the triad and my operational plans and the forces that I must present to the Commander in Chief if warranted. Critical. So, as I would state for the land-based leg as well as the air leg, absolutely critical that we continue to press and ensure, just like my colleague said, if we can get things earlier, that would be incredibly advantageous to us, as a fighting force.

KAINE:  We did have a hearing yesterday on manpower issues generally. And when you were asked a question by Senator Wicker about whether you needed more resources, and you said, it's not a resource problem, my colleague here said, it's a welder problem. There's a manpower problem, and we're experiencing it. Australia is experiencing it, the UK is experiencing it. So, we're going to have to be very creative in addressing this manpower issue if we're going to maintain the pace that you need to keep the triad intact and effective.

You talked, General Cotton, in your testimony here about the four allies, principally Russia and the PRC, but also in the nuclear space, Iran and North Korea. And then you said, and the growing relationships between these four nations. Do you see those relationships growing in ways that really impact the STRATCOM domain, or are there growing activities in concert more in other military domains?

A. COTTON:  Senator, no, I see it in my domain as well because, remember, part of my portfolio is strategic deterrence. That includes nuclear deterrence. But even in the nuclear deterrent space, let's just have a conversation in regards to the relationship that we see that that transactional relationship between Russia and the DPRK has manifested itself in different ways here over the past eight months. So, we're looking at that differently on what that relationship is actually. What does DPRK gain with that new relationship that they have with Russia, as an example?

KAINE:  Thank you. General Whiting, in your written testimony, you highlighted collaboration with allies, interagency partners, and commercial stakeholders as a key asymmetric advantage that we have in space. I was at Wallops Island recently, and I had a great visit with NASA, the NRO, and the Navy, and a private commercial provider, Rocket Lab, to discuss government capabilities in this area. How are you thinking about the importance of collaboration with the commercial space industry?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. I think U.S. commercial space industry is not just an advantage in space. It is an advantage for this nation, period. And it is an advantage that is widening over our competitors. So, we absolutely need to continue to partner with U.S. commercial space industry to leverage the cost curves that they're on, to leverage the speed at which they're operating, to take advantage of as much of that capability as we can. The space command is partnered with the Space Force as they look at new ways of contracting with commercial industry, such as the commercial augmentation space reserve, that they're looking to start next year. And we're very excited about those opportunities.

KAINE:  I'll just offer this question for the record, but if in the course of us working on the NDA this year, there are any policies that you think we should embrace in the NDA that would enhance our ability to collaborate in the ways you described, we would love to hear that from you. And with that, I'll hand it back, Mr. Chair.

REED:  Thank you very much, Senator Kaine. Senator Fischer, please.

FISCHER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Last October, the bipartisan, bicameral congressional commission on the strategic posture of the United States released their final report on America's strategic posture. Its findings were sobering. We face two major nuclear adversaries for the first time in history, and we are woefully under prepared to address this future threat environment. In their report, the commissioners also unanimously endorsed 81 recommendations. If we can act upon most of these, the United States should retain the capability and the capacity to maintain a safe, reliable, effective, and credible nuclear deterrent throughout the next several decades.

Over the coming months, I'm going to be working with my colleagues on this committee to include many of these recommendations in F.Y. 2025 NDAA. General Cotton, I appreciate our earlier conversations about this Strategic Posture Commission's report and your very careful review and consideration of their findings and recommendations. Do you agree with the commissioner's statement that, quote, the nuclear force modernization programs of record is absolutely essential, although not sufficient, to meet the new threats posed by Russia and China, and that the elements of the programs of record should be completed on time, expedited wherever possible, and expanded as needed?

A. COTTON:  I do, Senator.

FISCHER:  And can you please provide the Committee with your views on which of those commissioners' recommendations you think are the most important or that we should be prioritizing?

A. COTTON:  Thank you for the question, Senator Fischer. You know, I was probably one of the first to receive the outbrief from Honorable Creedon and Senator McCaul (ph) when it came to the results of the commission. And it validated many of the things that we were looking in house in strategic command in regards to what do we do with the current arsenal in the stockpile. I have memorized what I would consider pages 48 and 49 of the commission, which has the 81 recommendations.

Of those, I have prioritized what I think should be the things that we get after first. I do believe that we need to take serious consideration in seeing what uploading and reMIRVing the ICBM looks like and what does it take to potentially do that. I do believe that we need to have a conversation in regards to how do we have. Because part of that report also says, the importance of having a credible and effective conventional force.

Part of that is looking at and ensuring that we have the right long-range standoff, conventional weapons as well. That can be placed on a bomber, as an example. And then the look at what does all legs of the triad look like in regards of capacity, and how can you expand capacity and how do you build the modernized force that has modularity and where we can always keep pace, as opposed to the current system that we have that it's really hard to do that.

FISCHER:  You know, Senator Kaine and I often refer to NC3 as the fourth leg of our nuclear triad and the President's ability to command, control and communicate with our nuclear forces. That's essential in maintaining that credible nuclear deterrent that we must have. If NC3 fails, then the deterrent fails. We've previously discussed, General, the importance of moving forward quickly with NC3 modernization and building out that roadmap with a clear and achievable near and long-term goals.

And I appreciate you briefing our subcommittee on that earlier this week about your plan. But in this setting, can you please share with the committee how STRATCOM is working with the services, with the undersecretaries of acquisition and sustainment and research and engineering, to integrate new technologies and new systems into that NC3 architecture?

A. COTTON:  Senator, I'd love to. One of the things that was first on the agenda for us was to ensure that as we articulate the modernization of the NC3 force, that we look at it in different bins. The first thing we must do to your point is ensure that the NC3 system that is currently available to the President of the United States and to decision makers of the United States has the ability to fight through.

So, we want to make sure that we looked at systems today and ensure that we're taking care of systems today. The other piece that we wanted to make sure that we did is look at the midterm. And to your point, we have collaborated. And thank you for hosting us to present that, you and Senator Kaine, for allowing us to present that to the subcommittee and show the relationship that I have with ANS with our acquisition and sustainment, Dr. LaPlante. The increased relationship that I have with R&E Dr. Heidi Shyu, that was actually missing prior, and then the relationship that I have with our CIO, Mr. John Sherman.

Because of that, we're able to coalesce and be able to come up with a plan that's executable. We were able to brief that to the deputy secretary of defense last summer, in which the service components were also in the room. And now they have measured milestones to grade themselves against, where that was missing in the past. So, we still have a lot of work to go, though, Senator. But I'm pleased with the work that we've done so far.

FISCHER:  Thank you.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Fischer. Senator King, please.

KING:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We think about what's going on here in this room. This hearing is undoubtedly being watched in real time in Moscow and Beijing, and General Cotton, the focus of this hearing will naturally be on gaps and work that's under progress and what the problems are. But I want you to restate what you stated in your opening testimony for the benefit of our audience far away. You are ready to fight tonight with an awesome response to anyone who attacks this country. Is that correct?

A. COTTON:  The men and women that represent United States Strategic Command are ready to defend, if strategic deterrence failure happens tonight. We are ready today.

KING:  And the capacity of the triad right now is at an actionable level. I don't want anybody to get the impression that we're somehow crippled in terms of our nuclear deterrent. You have the forces you need to defend the country and also to impose unthinkable costs on a potential adversary. Isn't that correct?

A. COTTON:  I do.

KING:  Thank you. One of the problems on the budget that we have here is that this country that has always surprised me, we don't have a capital budget. Our budget of the United States government is a cash flow budget. And really, the recapitalization of the nuclear triad is a capital investment. We're talking 40- and 50-year assets. And so, one of the problems we're facing in our budget is it all comes out.

It looks like it's in the defense budget, but I call it the pig in the python. There's this bulge of nuclear modernization that really should be considered capital investment. So, I think that's important for people to realize. When you look at the defense budget, there's a piece of it that is really something that probably should have been done over the past 30 years that we're trying to do in a hurry. Is that your reading, General?

A. COTTON:  It is, sir. The way I like to describe it is, I am responsible for maintaining and the components under me are responsible for maintaining national systems on behalf of the President of the United States.

KING:  Thank you. General Whiting, you talked about we have the best space capability and have for many, many years. That's the good news. The bad news is the dependency that we have on space, which makes us asymmetrically vulnerable in terms of the relationship with these potential adversaries. What are we doing to think about alternatives to space?

For example, I understand recently they're now teaching celestial navigation at Annapolis. Again, we need to be thinking about how do we reduce our reliance on space assets given the development of anti-space capabilities of our adversaries. Talk to me about how we mitigate this risk.

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. We've gone to space because of the advantages it brings us. It allows us to operate globally, untethered to terrestrial networks. And that-

KING:  And we were unopposed for years.

WHITING:  Yes, sir. And that gives us a unique advantage. But to your point, and I know all the services are thinking about this. What do we do when our primary capability may not be available now in Space Command, it's our job to make sure that that doesn't happen. But no doubt the services have to train what their secondary plans are. And all of them have those plans in place.

And to your point, are training those to their people. Several of the services, such as the Army, the Navy and the Marines, also have relatively small but dedicated cadres of space personnel to help their commanders understand the benefits and the vulnerabilities of space so they can understand when those times might be that they would have to go to those secondary or tertiary plans.

KING:  Well, now I'm going to talk about those gaps that I mentioned at the beginning, that I don't want to overemphasize. But you have partial responsibility for missile defense. It bothers me that we've been very slow on the issue of directed energy. We're using $2 million or $5 million missiles to knock down two or $300,000 drones. This should be a task for directed energy.

I hope that that's part of missile defense, missile awareness, and that all branches, not you, necessarily, but all the branches should be working on two things:  missile defense and hypersonic defense. Those are strategic game changers that I think we've been slow to develop. Is directed energy going to be part of the future of missile defense?

WHITING:  Sir, just two weeks ago I was in Huntsville meeting with the missile defense agency, and we talked about directed energy. And I know that is something they're looking at. And I agree with you, Senator. I think it needs to be part of our future.

KING:  I want more than looking at. I want development. And soon. I think we should be having a capability in the Red Sea right now, that this is an opportunity to use that capacity. And finally, I just want to associate myself with my co-chair, Senator Fischer, on NC3. That is part of the triad.

I congratulate you on the work that you're doing, but urge you to accelerate and continue because the whole idea, the cornerstone of the defense of this country is deterrence. And to the adversary detect a weakness in our deterrence, and NC3 is the glue that holds it all together. We're vulnerable. And so, I say, I congratulate you, but want to prod you to keep going earnestly and accelerate the progress on that issue. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, Senator King. Senator Cotton, please.

T. COTTON:  General Cotton, General Whiting, welcome. Thank you for your testimony this morning, and I extend my thanks to all the men and women who serve under your commands. General Cotton, since Xi Jinping took power a little over a decade ago, China's nuclear arsenal has increased by more than 100%. By 2035, the department anticipates that China's nuclear arsenal will have increased by 500%. How would you characterize the threat posed to the United States by China's rapidly growing nuclear arsenal?

A. COTTON:  As my predecessor said, and I love using this terminology, because it is the breakout that we saw and the advancements and how quickly the advancements that we're seeing on China to rapidly create a viable triad, is breathtaking.

T. COTTON:  Unprecedented? The pace at which they're expanding.

A. COTTON:  It is.

T. COTTON:  OK. And your statement says that they have a triad today. Is that correct?

A. COTTON:  That is correct, Senator.

T. COTTON:  It may not be the most cutting-edge versions of it. The bombers may require standoff weapons, but they're working on stealth bombers. Is that correct?

A. COTTON:  That is correct.

T. COTTON:  Do you think that a nation that multiplies its nuclear arsenal as rapidly as China does, especially one governed by communists, is doing so with peaceful intent?

A. COTTON:  I think the minimum deterrent strategy that we used to hear that China links themselves with, as far as their strategic policy, I find hard to believe that that can still be a policy with the way that they're building out their arsenal.

T. COTTON:  For years, China had pursued so called minimum deterrence, but they also are well known for a policy called hide and bide. Hide your strength and bide your time. Do you think it's fair to say that China is shedding the hide and bide strategy now?

A. COTTON:  Senator, they're showing us their capability and showing us how fast they can grow.

T. COTTON:  They also have had a long declared, at least formal policy, of no first use. Does it make sense to expand your nuclear program by 500% and retain a no first use policy?

A. COTTON:  I'll go back to using that as the opening for a minimum of tourist strategy. That probably is in alignment, but what we're seeing, probably not so much.

T. COTTON:  It's a pretty big investment of national resources to expand your nuclear weapons by so much if you're planning to keep a no first use policy, wouldn't you say?

A. COTTON:  Even though we haven't heard them say that, you're absolutely correct.

T. COTTON:  It will shock everyone to hear that Chinese communists have a history of lying, not just about their nuclear weapons. The Tibetans would probably have something to say about that. Let's look at what we're doing to counteract this threat. Well, first, actually, let's stay on the threat. How does China's nuclear arsenal compare to ours today?

A. COTTON:  Today, we're still superior in there, but like I said, I think, the reality is we're going to have to continue to modernize our current systems. We are superior to them today.

T. COTTON:  Today, yes. If China continues on the pace on which the department projects by 2035, will they have achieved parity with the United States?

A. COTTON:  In the realm of their land-based systems? Yes.

T. COTTON:  OK. And what if you combined the total forces of China and Russia by 2035, would those two countries combined have nuclear overmatch against the United States on the current pace?

A. COTTON:  Well, the weapons count would be larger than our weapons count.

T. COTTON:  OK. What we're doing. Is the B-21 moving quickly enough to meet your future deterrence requirements?

A. COTTON:  The limited production rate of the B-21 is the only thing that I wish we could do a little quicker. The fact that that is an incredible sixth generation platform, all indications are that that weapon system is moving along at a great pace as far as delivery, the ability for production and the number of production as a war fighter, obviously I would love to have more.

T. COTTON:  It'd be nice to have more than 100?

A. COTTON:  Yes, sir.

T. COTTON:  OK, final topic, let's look at a, I guess you'd call it a first-generation aircraft, the B-52. I think it's 79 years old now.

A. COTTON:  70.

T. COTTON:  70, all right. Almost as old as some Senators. But you know, we often hear -- we often hear criticism, they're like, well we're flying aircraft that are older than General Cotton, we're flying aircraft that started when these pilots' grandparents were flying it. I kind of subscribe to if it ain't broke, don't fix it philosophy. It can't go into denied environment. But once air defenses have been reduced and with extended range standoff weapons, it's highly effective. Why is it critical that the Air Force also reengine the B-52 for your deterrence needs?

A. COTTON:  Sir, and I thank you for that question. SERP (ph) is absolutely an imperative as part of the nuclear modernization. As you mentioned, yes, it gets picked on quite a bit on its age, but as we look at what the capacity and what the capability is of that weapon system, that platform, it's amazing. And what that will be able to do for us, and I said earlier, we need to think about the ability for it to carry LRSO. It is the platform that will carry LRSO. It is the platform that has a lot of mass as far as capability, and I want it to be able to have a long-range strike standoff capability even greater than it has to.

T. COTTON:  Thank you. It is old, but if it's well maintained, modernized, it seems to me that it's still a vital part of our triad.

A. COTTON:  You're absolutely correct, Senator.

T. COTTON:  A lot of your troopers would probably love to drive a Chevy Bel Air or Ford Thunderbird from the 1950s as well.

A. COTTON:  Well, I call it a resto mod, Senator.

T. COTTON:  Thank you.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Cotton. Senator Warren, please.

WARREN:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So, Strategic Command is responsible for strategic deterrence, including our nuclear weapons. We were already planning to spend $2 trillion to modernize and maintain those weapons over the next 30 years. Now, we are learning that the cost for those programs are going to be even higher than we anticipated.

General Cotton, I know that you are not responsible for managing these programs, but we turn to your command for your best military advice on what these programs will mean for our national security. General Cotton, do you agree that decisions about how to build our nuclear posture should be based on the most accurate information we have at the time?

A. COTTON:  Senator, can you rephrase -- I don't quite understand what you're saying in that question.

WARREN:  I know. It sounds so easy. The point is, should we base our decisions based on the most accurate information we've got when we're making the decision?

A. COTTON:  Absolutely.

WARREN:  OK, good, because DOD did not do that for the Sentinel Program, which will replace all land based intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Air Force has already concluded that the basic assumptions for the program's cost estimates, quote, weren't particularly valid. When I requested that DOD contract with a respected group of outside experts in 2021 to determine the technical feasibility of extending the Minutemen III Missile Program instead of buying expensive new weapons, I was told that they didn't have contract authority to do so.

That was not true. They just didn't want an honest assessment of the real risks of Sentinel. And since then, the cost of the program has soared. We initially thought the price for Sentinel would be about $95 billion. Now, the Air Force reports that it will be $132 billion, nearly 40% more. By law, that kind of increase triggers a mandatory review of the program's viability. Now, I'm glad that this review is happening, but we need independent experts, people who will ask hard questions.

We need to ask about the Sentinel Program taking a look as well. General Cotton, would you oppose an outside review of the Sentinel Program if it helps enhance our national security?

A. COTTON:  Senator Warren, you know I agree with the previous assessments that were done with the last three administrations in regards to where we are on a replacement of the Minuteman program. As I said earlier in my opening comments, what I cannot endure as a combatant commander that has to provide COAs (ph) to the Commander in Chief is I cannot endure having a gap or a drop in the reliability of a current platform that we currently have that's part of the triad.

WARREN:  And I appreciate that. What I'm talking about here is I want to make sure that what we're going to be replacing it with has been fully vetted and is the right direction for us to go. You know, even before this latest cost breach, there were bright blinking warnings that this program was not on track. The Air Force's aggressive schedule meant they were relying on immature technology, which the GAO warned at the time created additional risks of cost increases and schedule delays.

Now, best practices for budgeting these types of complex programs is to develop what's called an integrated master schedule, an analysis that's going to break down the project into steps, resources and budget needed to complete it. Sort of budgeting 101. Sentinel did not have that. General Cotton, you've warned that the complexity of the Sentinel Program, I'm quoting you here, will challenge Air Force and industry partners in ways not seen for a generation. So, let me ask, do you think it is important to have basic program management guardrails in place to help us prevent delays and cost overruns?

A. COTTON:  Senator, the rest of that statement was, you're absolutely right because I've said it numerous times that it's going to be a megaproject that we haven't seen since actually the onset of the Minuteman III in placement in the early '60s. I'm a taxpayer as well. I want to ensure that, one, I have a weapon system that can deliver the capabilities that I need to deliver. I also need to make sure that we don't create a larger gap in having assessments that would drive us to now question one leg of the triad in regards of, how I can produce or have forces go to meet the need.

WARREN:  And I appreciate that, General, but we got to have a plan here that is actually going to work. We can't just keep burning money and saying at some point we hope we're going to be able to deliver this thing. I am very concerned that Pentagon officials are already saying, they're already saying, quote, they will make the trades it takes to keep the Sentinel Program funded, analysis be damned. I'll be watching closely to see if the DOD takes this review that is required now by law because of the cost overruns. I will be looking to see if they take this review seriously or if it's just another paperwork exercise to justify throwing more money at more expensive nuclear programs. Thank you, General.

REED:  Thanks, Senator Warren. Senator Rounds, please.

ROUNDS:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, let me just say to both of you, thank you for your service to our country and to your teams as well. Today, we're talking about some of the most strategic weapons systems that our country has. And while our conventional forces are absolutely critical, our conventional forces are only effective because we have the nuclear deterrence and our strategic weapon systems to support them.

General Whiting, China and Russia both understand how vital our space capabilities are to the joint force, and they've been developing capabilities to counter our space assets for years. Are we currently postured to win a conflict that begins in or extends into space? Can we -- when we take a look at this right now. And I really appreciated Senator King's comments with regard to the fact that we're ready to fight tonight, but can we win that battle? And what about five and 10 years from now on the current trajectories?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. Today, I am completely clear in saying we do have the world's best military space capabilities. I will use the same word that General Cotton used. When we look at what China and Russia are doing, particularly building with their counterspace weapons, they are moving breathtakingly fast.

And so, we must ensure that the investments that have been made, and we thank the Congress for those investments, continue to -- those programs continue to execute, and that we continue to invest to make sure that we keep pace with that breathtaking pace.

ROUNDS:  Part of that I suspect you had provided, and you will provide an unfunded priorities list, that will likely be sent to Congress over the next month or so. If we were to fully fund that UPL, that unfunded priorities list, how would that impact your readiness in the near term?

WHITING:  Yes, sir. The priorities that I expect will be on our unfunded priorities list are about improving our posture for the contested domain and to move at the pace and ahead of the pace that Russia and China are moving. So, that will give us the capacity and the capabilities that we believe we need in three, five, and 10 years.

ROUNDS:  Thank you. General Cotton, I understand that by law, the Department of Defense Services cannot invest funds into a program that is going to be retired within five years. This is known as a sunset provision. Do you have any concerns about your legacy systems potentially being divested too early? And the service secretaries can offer a waiver but are not required to. And your replacement programs will not start to come online until the 2030s, if they are on time. If this policy is not changed, how will it impact strategic deterrence?

A. COTTON:  Senator Rounds, thank you for that question. And you're referring to Title 10 U.S. Code 2244 Alpha.

ROUNDS:  Imagine that you were waiting for that one or something.

A. COTTON:  That talks about equipment scheduled for retirement and dispersal. You're absolutely right because we've been talking about it all morning. You always have plans that show overlap between legacy systems and new modernized systems. And as I stated earlier, when it comes to strategic deterrence, credibility is foundational to that. And credibility is ensuring that the transition from legacy system that there's no gap between a transition between a legacy system and a modernized system.

ROUNDS:  But we're talking about modernizing significant parts of the triad right now, and there's going to be a time period in which we're going to have to have both systems, the legacy system and the new system operating. And it may be for more than five years. Correct?

A. COTTON:  And that is correct, sir. So, right now that law would stipulate that you wouldn't modernize components of the legacy system if you're within five years of what you initially saw as a transition to the new system, and that could be troublesome.

ROUNDS:  The Sentinel Program is critical to our deterrent capability, correct?

A. COTTON:  A modernized replacement to the Minuteman III system is actually foundational to the triad.

ROUNDS:  Can we afford to delay the implementation of the Sentinel Program?

A. COTTON:  We are late to need on all three legs of the triad.

ROUNDS:  What do you mean by being late to need?

A. COTTON:  I would much rather, and I think all my colleagues would agree, I would much rather not have to have a transition of legacy system to modernized systems that already passed their service dates.

ROUNDS:  So, I want to just get back in, and I know my time is running out, but I'm going to ask this. I don't think that you necessarily had the opportunity to completely respond to the last comments with regard to the Sentinel Program and the reason why it needs to move forward. Even if the cost goes up and the review is completed, this is not something that we can simply sit back and take our time on. Could you respond, please? If the Chairman would allow that. Thank you.

A. COTTON:  We cannot, Senator Rounds. The analysis and assessments have been done. We need to make the decision on regards to what we want to do as far as the modernization of a very important leg of the triad, and that's the land leg and the ICBM leg of the system.

ROUNDS:  Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Rounds. Senator Hirono, please.

HIRONO:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is for, well, both of you, both of the witnesses. The 2024 NDAA directs the DOD to develop a plan for the missile defense of Hawaii, add to military construction projects that will enable the timely deployment of missile defense capabilities across all locations in INDOPACOM. I believe the President signed the NDAA in December. So, you have some 90 days or so to complete and provide this plan. How is that plan coming along for either one of you?

WHITING:  Senator, I'll take that question. Since last year we took on unified command plan responsibility for transregional missile defense, operation support and planning. Ma'am, at this time, I'm not familiar with where that plan is, and if I could take that question for the record, I could get back to you with specifics on where that is.

HIRONO:  I've been very concerned over time about the missile defense of Hawaii. So, I'd also like you to contemplate whether we need to mitigate any potential risks from our near peer competitors. As you both have discussed before, we have this plan, missile defense plan, in place because, as you know, we had a major mishap in Hawaii, which led to my ongoing concerns about missile defense of Hawaii.

For General Whiting, the 2024 NDA required a study on the consolidation or transfer of the space functions of the National Guard, which must include a cost benefit analysis for each of the potential futures of these units. The options are the creation of a space national guard, keeping the status quo, or transferring these space functions into the Space Force.

General Whiting, what is the current role of the National Guard in space, and how would you transfer the space functions into the Space Force, and what would you need, if that is the finding of the study? And the reason for the study was that there was some decision made as to what would happen to National Guard space. You could call it space units. There were some decisions made without this kind of plan or study or cost benefit analysis that would lead to the three options that I mentioned. So, what is being contemplated for the National Guard Space Force?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. From a Space Command perspective, we very much appreciate the great support we get from a number of states that have their Guard units have space missions, and it's vital to us that however those options are resolved, that we don't have an interruption to those missions. I would have to defer to the United States Space Force for the specifics of what options are being analyzed and where they're headed. But it's vital to us that we not have any interruption to those missions.

HIRONO:  As you are probably aware, we do have a space function in the National Guard in Hawaii. These are very skilled people, and so I think we need to make sure that whatever decisions are made based on an assessment that takes all of these issues in consideration.

For General Whiting, previously, space was only used by the government, but has become the domain for new waves of commercial satellites for broadband communications and remote sensing. General Whiting, are DOD and U.S. Space Command specifically and appropriately leveraging commercial space capabilities?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. I think U.S. commercial space industry is one of our absolute national advantages, and we have leveraged that in the past. I think we can find even better and more innovative ways to leverage it going forward. U.S. commercial space industry is moving incredibly fast. They're widening their lead in commercial space services over other countries, and so we want to make sure that we are partnered with them as tightly as possible.

HIRONO:  And what protections exist for the commercial satellites against physical or cyberattacks?

WHITING:  Yes, ma'am. As part of my unified command plan responsibilities, I do have a responsibility to protect and defend commercial assets as directed. So, as we work with these commercial companies, we already have information sharing agreements with the companies that we are already contracted with for capability.

And they actually sit with us at one of our operations centers in California at the highest levels of intelligence to know what those threats are, and we share that information and then we want to work with them as well to help them harden their cyber infrastructure so that they're not denied through the cyber domain because that would impact our ability to leverage their services.

HIRONO:  I think that aspect of protections and the cyber domain. I have talked with private entities where they need to be sure that they are up on what kind of protections they need to put in place, as they work with you to make sure that we are all on the same page in terms of cybersecurity issues. Thank you.

REED:  Thank you very much, Senator Hirono. Senator Cramer, please.

CRAMER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, generals, for your service. Thank you for being here, and thank you to all the troops under your command. I'm going to get right to it because I need a little more context on a couple of previous points.

I'm going to start with you, General Cotton. In response to sort of a general question from Senator Fischer, you said something the effect of, adequate standoff capability. Could you drill down on that a little bit? In other words, are we short in that capacity, particularly on the conventional weapons? And if so, do you have a solution in mind?

A. COTTON:  Senator Cramer, thank you for the question. So, I can get a little more detailed in what I meant by that. I think as we look at who our adversaries are, I think we would all agree that having standoff fires and long-range strike capability will be beneficial for us against the adversary. And then what I mean by that more specifically, and this is not a parochial statement, it's just a matter of fact, is that I think the utilization of bombers and being able to have a bomber carry a long range strike weapon because range is dependent on size because it's fuel capacity of the weapon, would be very beneficial for us as a nation to be able to have that type of capability for our bomber force.

Not just weapons that could be used for a myriad of weapon systems, but one that could be specifically used in a conventional sense for the bomber that gives it incredible standoff and incredible range. And what that does for us is that actually makes it so it doesn't have to hit a tanker as often as well and actually keep the air crew and the platform out of harm's way.

CRAMER:  Well said. Thank you for that. And then in response to something that Senator King, using his usual great illustrations of a pig and a python, I believe, is what it was referencing the lack of capital budgeting in our system, transparency budgets is something that's always frustrated me on this Committee, particularly as it relates to my favorite service, the Air Force. Thank you.

You referenced the role of your command as a national role, understandably, your united command. Can you flesh that out a little bit for me as well? Because I have long been concerned that we're not adequately, I don't want to say appropriating, but appropriating credit where credit is due and then cost where cost is due.

A. COTTON:  Thank you, Senator Cramer. I think there's a lot of times where there can be confusion even within a service component, that they're advocating for a weapon system or a platform that is utilized in their operational domain. It absolutely is. But when it comes to strategic deterrence weapons and strategic deterrence platforms, I think that those are national systems. And what I mean by that is that we are doing the care (ph) and feed on behalf of the systems that ultimately belong.

And I got it. All weapons systems belong to the president of the United States. But in particular, when we talk about strategic deterrent weapons, that it's much more than the Columbia being part of the United States Navy or the bomber ICBM becoming a part of the United States Air Force. And I think there's probably room for conversation on how do we make that so we can not have these conversations on funding.

CRAMER:  That was therapeutic for me because if members -- silos within the same services are confused, I feel better about my confusion now. But thank you for that clarification. I can't look at both of you without noticing, General Cotton, that there's a lack of space folk in your leadership chart. Can you speak to that a little bit, as I look at the two of you side by side and realizing the history of both commands.

A. COTTON:  Well, I'll start off real quickly. So, as the UCP changed, we lost our space billets, if you will, and the majority of our airmen who are space specific. I will tell you that my colleague here, General Whiting, does have a joint force team that assists us. What I'm missing, though, is a space component officer, like a one star general. That is a component linkage to the space component. My component sees is I have a direct linkage with the air component and Air Force global strike command.

And I have a direct linkage with the Navy component, with the joint force and maritime command. I do not have a direct linkage. We are in works, though. I am in works with General Saltzman, for example, to fill that billet. Because you are also part of the NC3 meeting that we had here recently. And what we really want to do is you saw a lot of that was the space layer. And how can you have, I want to be able to have expert and one that is at a general officer level to be able to articulate the requirements, especially when it comes to NC3, if you will, on the space layer.

CRAMER:  Well, and General Whiting, I talked about the vulnerability of SATCOM, for example, to space warfare. General, I'm over time, but if you could elaborate a little bit to General Cotton's point, if you would.

WHITING:  Senator, yes. It's important that we ensure that strategic command has all the insights they need as they rely on the space layer for early warning and for protected communications. And as General Cotton noted, today U.S. Space Command provides a joint integrated space team in his headquarters. They sit in Omaha to assist with that planning and make sure that he has insight into what we're doing, so that we can best coordinate our plans together.

CRAMER:  Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Cramer. While I recognize Senator Kelly, I want to apologize because I did not realize you were in the room prior to recognizing Senator Hirono. So, Senator Kelly.

KELLY:  It's okay, Mr. Chairman. I was actually about 10 feet away, so I wasn't actually at my seat. I want to follow up on what Senator Cramer was asking about standoff capability, General Cotton. So, two years since Russia's invaded Ukraine, we've been forced to rethink our nuclear posture and how our own deterrence works with growing nuclear capability of our adversaries. And Russia's recently rejected a proposal to reopen bilateral nuclear arms control talks.

Their behavior, their rhetoric, along with Chinese aggression, North Korea's regular testing of ballistic missiles and those kind of capabilities, Iran increasing its supply of enriched uranium. I mean, this underscores the importance of having a strong deterrence ourself. The LRSO, the long-range standoff missile system, it's developed in Tucson, Arizona, at Raytheon. This is going to be a critical feature of our future deterrence. The ability to forward deploy this missile on U.S. bombers is a powerful message to our allies.

So, General, beyond what Senator Cramer was asking just about standoff more broadly, can you expand on the importance of the LRSO to our overall deterrence and give any updates you have on its fielding?

A. COTTON:  Senator Kelly, thanks for the question. You know, when we talk about the air leg of the triad, the air leg of the triad composes of two mission essential tasks that the bomber is supposed to do in regards to what my mission set is. That's gravity bomb deployment and release and the ability to have a long-range standoff strike weapon.

LRSO is absolutely critical for my mission set as a long-range standoff nuclear weapon. It will replace the outcome that we currently carry, from the reports that I'm receiving from the component is that Raytheon is doing a great job in manufacturing that weapon for us. Once again, just like everything else, if I get it sooner than later, Senator, that's good for us. In part of maintaining theaEURO"

KELLY:  Is the IOC of this weapon, is it public or is it something we'd have to talk about downstairs?

A. COTTON:  I would rather have that conversation with you downstairs and then we can talk about that, if it's okay with you, sir.

KELLY:  Beyond LRSO, what else do you think we could be doing to deter our adversaries that we are currently not doing?

A. COTTON:  Well, I think, it was an earlier conversation on what do we look as far as posture and sizing of the current triad, and what does that look like? It's in alignment with the study results of the posture commission. It's also in alignment with the work that, to be frank, the Pentagon is doing in response to the posture commission and it's work that we're doing in STRATCOM. I can elaborate in incredible detail in the secure session to let you know the work that we're doing in that regard.

KELLY:  Thank you. Thank you, General. General Whiting, different subject here. The space priorities framework aims to secure our space industrial base, including improving supply chains for crucial satellite components like traveling wave tubes and traveling wave tube amplifiers. In the United States here, we face some challenges in this area with limited domestic capabilities and also competition from China that's often heavily subsidized. And this situation leads to supply chain risks for essential national security and commercial satellites.

I've got an amendment to the defense bill to support the development of a competitive U.S. source for these components, and I'm going to keep working on that this year. General, do you believe it's important for the Department of Defense to have reliable U.S. source for these critical satellite components to ensure quality, timely delivery and fair pricing? And what other risks do you see from having inadequate domestic supply chains for key satellite components?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. Yes, I do think it's important that we have robust supply chains from trusted sources in the United States. If we don't have that, I think the risk is that this widening lead that our commercial space industry has created for us, that might be stymied, and then that would give our competitors a chance to catch up. So, we want to ensure that doesn't happen.

KELLY:  Yeah, traveling wave tubes and wave tube amplifiers are kind of obscure components. Most folks have not actually heard of them. But they are important to us maintaining our edge in space technology. So, thank you.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Kelly. Senator Scott, please.

SCOTT:  Thank you, Chairman. First, thanks both of you for being here. Thank you for what you do. General Whiting, can you talk about how much dependence our defense capabilities, our offensive capabilities are on our satellite systems?

WHITING:  Yes, Senator, thank you for the question. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, our terrestrial forces, if you will, are sized with the implicit assumption they will have access to space capabilities. And because of that we've been able to reduce the number of forces that we have, and we can now prosecute targets with much fewer assets than we would have decades ago.

If we don't have access to those space capabilities, if those forces do not have access to those space capabilities, we don't have the force structure that we would need to fight without them. So, that's why we have to protect and defend these space capabilities against the threats we now see a raid against us.

SCOTT:  How many different satellite systems are we dependent on?

WHITING:  Senator, I don't have a number, but I can talk to you just quickly about the capabilities. It's our satellite communications, it's our global positioning system, it's our intelligence systems, it's our weather systems, it's our missile warning systems. There's a host of different capabilities we provide from space.

SCOTT:  So, if our adversary was able to demolish, sit (ph) on (ph) them All right, would it create much debris?

WHITING:  Almost certainly, yes, Senator.

SCOTT:  And how much if that debris was floating out there, how much of our satellites would be at risk because of just the debris hitting them?

WHITING:  Senator, that is a concern, and it's why we monitor the 45,000 trackable objects on orbit to watch for potential conjunctions. But we don't want to proliferate debris on orbit, which would increase the risk to our systems.

SCOTT:  So, if you were an adversary, wouldn't that be the cheapest thing to do if you wanted to cripple our ability? Wouldn't be the cheapest thing to do is go blow up 10 or 12 of these large satellites that are out there?

WHITING:  Sir, I don't know the cost of that, but it would certainly be incredibly reckless because it would pollute the very domain, they're probably trying to operate in themselves. Because it's indiscriminate, it impacts potentially our satellites, their satellites, other countries' satellites. And it would be incredibly reckless behavior.

SCOTT:  Let's take Russia's forces. So, if you look our forces as compared to Russia's forces, how dependent are they on the satellite systems as compared to us?

WHITING:  Senator, they are less dependent for the reason that they are a continental power, and they expect to be able to run fiber and to do microwave shots and those kind of things. And they don't have the same global type military that we do. So, they are less dependent.

SCOTT:  How about China?

WHITING:  So, they have replicated in many ways what we have done in space because as they try to push us out from the first island chain and the second island chain in the Pacific, they have gone to space for the advantages it brings. So, in many ways, they are working to replicate the dependency that we have.

SCOTT:  So, if they were able to hamper our ability to use our satellite system, let's take China. And they were only focused on Taiwan or Japan. Well, for sure, Korea. Right? They don't need their satellite system to do anything with regard to Korea. Right?

WHITING:  Senator, I think China, they are getting to the point where all of their forces are becoming space enabled. And so, I think in any conflict, they would be reliant on space capabilities.

SCOTT:  Okay. But if only the power they wanted to project was Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and that's all they cared about. Then they probably wouldn't need their space capabilities as much, would they?

WHITING:  Senator, I think they would need those space capabilities because they're looking beyond those countries and looking at the U.S. and looking at where the U.S. would be flowing forces from. And that has required them to go to space.

SCOTT:  Okay, how about Iran? They don't need it. Right?

WHITING:  Iran is not a space enabled military.

SCOTT:  Right. And do they even have the ability to have any impact on us in space today?

WHITING:  They have not demonstrated that capability. But certainly, we are watching their space program and their ballistic missile program very carefully and can only think about what they might be thinking about in the future.

SCOTT:  And what about North Korea?

WHITING:  North Korea has demonstrated an electromagnetic warfare capability that could have impact against our space systems. And then we're also very carefully watching their space systems. Of course, they should not be launching into space because of the UN resolutions that say they can't use ballistic missile technology for that. And so, again, we're having to keep an eye on what they might be thinking of in the future.

SCOTT:  But our troops in Korea, they need access to space capabilities. In North Korea, they probably don't.

WHITING:  North Korea is not a space enabled military today.

SCOTT:  But our troops in South Korea would need it.

WHITING:  Absolutely, Senator.

SCOTT:  Alright. Thank you.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Scott. Senator Rosen, please.

ROSEN:  Well, thank you, Chairman Reed, and of course Ranking Member Wicker, for holding this hearing, and I'd like to thank General Cotton and General Whiting for testifying today and for your great service to our country. I'm going to continue on this electromagnetic spectrum on the operations we have because, General Cotton, in your nomination hearing, you indicated that electromagnetic spectrum operations are a top priority.

So, your forces have done amazing work at the joint center for Electromagnetic Readiness at Nellis Air Force Base in my home state of Nevada. Very proud of Nellis. But even with the efforts made so far, I am sure that there's probably more work to be done. So, what actions do you need to take to ensure that the United States can deter, if needed, and defeat threats across the electromagnetic spectrum? And how can we help with that?

A. COTTON:  Senator Rosen, thank you for the question, and thanks for acknowledging the incredible work that that team is doing. I'd like to highlight some of that work that that team is doing, and that includes specifically the support to the YUKOM (ph) commander and what we're seeing in the ukrainian efforts, as well as a support to Israel in the fight that we're seeing there. So, that team is coming out of the blocks, doing incredible work. So, thank you for acknowledging them. As you know, on the 26th of July last year is when we stood up the JEK (ph). And that's when I was giving the responsibility on MSO (ph).

And as you've heard throughout the testimony today, electromagnetic spectrum is incredibly important for us. It is a domain that was uncontested for us over the past 30 years. Now that we have a fight, a potential fight with the adversaries, that, one, understand that that's a domain that we rely on, and two, have the capability to do something to counter, having dominance in that domain and spectrum. It's incredibly important, and as the lead component or combatant command, to ensure that we have the proper training, the proper live, virtual, and collaborative training techniques, because as you know, some of what we want to be able to test and train to can't be done in the live environment.

So, we continue to work on how do we, I call them reps and sets to our men and women in the armed forces? How do we give them the reps and sets in a virtual environment that shows all ranges of how they can contest that environment?

ROSEN:  My team's going to follow up with you on that. So, as we work on next year's NDAA, thinking about what we need to do here, incredibly important, what we do at Nellis. And I'm going to move on to reps and sets. And of course, that's modeling simulation. We have that for space, too. Right? So, General Whiting, I'm going to keep on Nellis here for a bit.

As you know, Space Delta 1 trains, weapons officers, again, Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. These weapons officers graduate from the pinnacle of training offered by the Space Force to prepare guardians for what they may need in war. So, building on what you may need, what you have now, the ability to model and simulate, how does this prepare your forces? And what can we continue to do to give you that simulation you need? Because you may not be able to go up there.

WHITING:  Yeah. Thank you, Senator, for the question. I know exactly the great work that happens at Nellis. I was stationed there a decade ago as the vice commander of the Air Force warfare center. Vital capability. Modeling and simulation is absolutely foundational for us in space because, as you allude to, it's expensive for us to get there, and so we can't just launch all sorts of things just to do training, although there's an aspect of that we need to do.

But modeling and simulation allow us to do multiple iterations of various activities and to simulate the threats that we now see arrayed against us, so that these weapons officers have the skills that when they go back to their operational squadrons, they can share that among the crew force. So, that modeling and simulation is absolutely critical to us. And we want to continue to grow that capability for all space forces because that will support Space Command as we move forward.

ROSEN:  Perfect. We'll work with you on that moving forward. But speaking of space, I'm going to continue with you, General Whiting. Considering the reported collaboration between Iran and Russian space activities that could potentially challenge our interest, our U.S. interest in security, can you elaborate a little bit on what's happening in Iran given Iran's progress on their ballistic missiles and space programs, how might additional sharing between the United States and our partners in the Middle East we know there's increasing challenges going on there. The emerging threats, and particularly the Iranian threat. Can you speak to that?

WHITING:  Yes, Senator. Our relationships across the globe with our allies and partners is truly one of our asymmetric advantages. We have signed a number of space situational awareness sharing agreements, as you allude to, with over 30 countries. Three of those are in the Middle East, and we have ongoing discussions to expand that.

But as we partner more closely with those countries in the Middle East, it helps us to have a better understanding of what is going on in space. And so, that when we see potential bad actors acting, we can call out that behavior. And it also builds a set of partnerships to deny those partnerships to countries like Russia and Iran. So, those are very important for us that we continue to grow them, Senator.

ROSEN:  Thank you. I appreciate it.

REED:  Thanks, Senator Rosen. Senator Schmitt, please.

SCHMITT:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So, I believe this is, if not certainly one of the most important committees in the Senate for a variety of reasons. Certainly, our role in advocating for the national defense is important, but I also think going back home and talking to constituents and having those conversations about what are the threats, hearing from them, but also explaining the things that we learn up here.

My two questions are related to that, that would be more sort of conversational about maybe a question I would get from somebody at home that I'd like both of you to address first. And we heard earlier, as far as nuclear modernization, the price tag of $2 trillion potentially over 30 years. A number something like that.

Could both of you sort of address I think the perception is that the United States has right now all the nuclear weapons we need to blow up the world into oblivion a thousand times over. Right? So, if you were trying to explain the importance of this modernization effort, how would each one of you describe that to folks back home? Why it's important, and specifically why it's important?

A. COTTON:  Senator Schmitt, I'll start off. And first of all, I want to say thank you. Because the men and women of Tinker Air Force Base and the work that they're doing in regards to just the bomber campus that's being built out there for one leg of the triad is incredibly important.

Going back to your comment, I think the way we should be able to frame it is, one, it's not a one for one. It's not one of these conversations where we're talking about how you have to have a one for one or overmatch of those type of things. As we already know, the Russians have more weapons than we have today, but we absolutely hold them at risk.

So, the way I would describe it to people is you need to understand it's a proposition in regards to a cost analysis. I want to be able to deter because my adversary understands that the risk of them taking an action would fail upon arrival for them to be able to meet their ultimate needs. So, it's a cost benefit analysis model, if you will. And that's what strategic deterrence truly is. And the way we use that cost benefit analysis tool is three legs of the triad.

SCHMITT:  But as far as the modernization itself, how would you describe why that's important if the perception is that we have everything we need to deter because we can wipe out a country off the face of the Earth?

A. COTTON:  Because we must have the ability to have weapon systems and platforms, a training environment, et cetera, that the adversary, because for deterrence, the adversary always gets a vote, for the adversary to understand that the cost benefit of them taking action won't outweigh and that the modernized systems can hold them at risk.

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. For space, the challenge is that the American people can't look up and see the space systems, and so they don't even realize the way it's enabling the modern way of life. And so, I think it's important we remind the American people of all the great advantages space gives us, that we're never lost anymore because of GPS, that we can synchronize global stock markets and point of sale and precision farming.

And if we lost all of that, really our modern way of life would be at risk. And that's why we have to protect and defend those capabilities and make those investments. So, I think it's incumbent on all of us to help the American people understand how space truly is a part of their life, even if they can't see it.

SCHMITT:  And for each one of you then in your domains here, if you could identify one thing in an unclassified setting, of course here, one thing that really keeps you up at night about China's capabilities. If you wanted to explain that threat to folks back home who maybe don't understand the specifics, what would that be?

A. COTTON:  For me, it is their capacity, capability to build out their weapon systems and their arsenal. It's that simple, sir.

SCHMITT:  The pace at which they're moving.

A. COTTON:  The pace in which -- the pace in which they can or the levers that they drive or do not drive on, whether they go idle or they accelerate. They control that throttle.

WHITING:  And Senator, my answer is very similar. What's most concerning is the way China has clinically studied us and our dependency on space and figured out exactly what they think our architecture looks like and now are rapidly building systems to hold that architecture at risk.

SCHMITT:  Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Schmitt.

WHITING:  Mr. Chairman, I would suggest the simplest answer is we want our adversaries to be scared so they don't try anything.

SCHMITT:  No, I agree with that. I just want to make sure that as we talk about the modernization. Right? Like, how does that fit into that discussion?

WHITING:  We want them to stay scared.


REED:  Senator Shaheen, please.

SHAHEEN:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, General Cotton, General Whiting, to both of you for being here this morning and for your service. Senator Kelly asked what we could be doing to deter our adversaries. What else we could be doing to deter our adversaries. And General Cotton, I appreciated the time we spent yesterday, and one of the things we talked about was just how critical passing the supplemental bill and getting a budget process that's regular, that can be dependent on is to ensuring that you can accomplish your mission. Is that correct?

A. COTTON:  Senator Shaheen, yes. It was great speaking with you yesterday, and you're right. And I think I would even capture CRs, continuing resolutions for us, especially in my platform, where everything that I own is being modernized. I think folks are quick to not realize that there's new start programs that are embedded in these large programs that folks will think are already underway.

I had just mentioned that to Senator Schmitt, for example, they're building a new bomber campus for sustainment not only of the B-52, but the B-21 moving forward. A continuing resolution could actually perturb that. If you perturb anything within a larger program, it actually subsequently can affect the program overall. And then we have the conversations of a program slipping. So, yes, stable budget, on time budgets are incredibly critical for us as we're making this modernization, not only across my portfolio, but across the entire Department of Defense portfolios.

SHAHEEN:  And can you speak to what's in the national security supplemental bill that we passed out of the Senate that's critical to our defense industrial base and why that matters, as you're looking at rebuilding, ensuring that the nuclear triad remains credible?

A. COTTON:  Yes, Senator, as we had the conversation embedded in that, even though the majority of that is not necessarily part of my portfolio, but it does touch on the industrial base, the defense industrial base, which touches all of our portfolios, if you will, in regards of how do we strengthen that? Because I think that's foundational for our nation. It's more than even a Department of Defense issue.

SHAHEEN:  And one of the things that I think you alluded to was the sort of end game that we're at with Russia in terms of bilateral negotiations on any sort of a New START Treaty or an effort to reduce nuclear weapons. But can you talk about Putin's recent rhetoric around using nuclear weapons and how concerned you are about that?

A. COTTON:  Yes. Thank you, Senator. The conversation we're had is, I absolutely am a proponent of treaties, but everyone has to play and you have to follow the rules. So, yes. Would I love to see China step up and want to have a negotiation with us? Would I love to see Russia come back? Absolutely. But I'm also a realist to understand that that may or may not happen.

So, as a combatant commander, my job is to understand how do I build a force that I could present to the President if that doesn't happen. But to your point on what we're seeing in the rhetoric, I think what we're seeing is the President of the Russian Federation sees that he can use that as a coercion tool to threaten, in regards to what he has as far as a nuclear force.

SHAHEEN:  General Whiting, Starlink and other commercial satellite ventures have been a complement to our operations in space. But of course, there have been some issues around how those are being used. And we have to ensure that we have the appropriate mechanisms in place to guarantee access. So, how should we be thinking about that? And what are you doing to mitigate the risk that we might have by relying on a commercial source for some of those services?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. I would point to two aspects, I think, which help mitigate that risk. Number one is, in all of my experience, I have only known that every company we have contracted with for satellite communications and other space services, they have always fulfilled their contractual obligations to us. And I would expect that going forward. And so, we want to make sure we're writing those contracts smartly on what we need and ensure that we're getting that.

And then secondly, Senator, I would point to the fact, for example, in satellite communications, we want a hybrid architecture where there are some constellations. We need purpose built for the government, exclusive use of the government. For example, in our work in support of General Cotton, as we provide nuclear command and control, protected communications to assure the President, the Secretary of Defense and General Cotton always can communicate to their forces.

We want that to be a government owned constellation. But then there's other communication requirements that we absolutely can go to commercial for. So, I think it's understanding what those highest priority, unique military requirements are, and then satisfying those through our own systems, and then using commercial to the max extent we can, that's how we can help mitigate risk.

SHAHEEN:  Good. Well, thank you. I have some other questions, but I'll save those for the closed session.

REED:  Thank you very much. Senator Budd, please.

BUDD:  Thank you, Chairman. Again, thank you both for being here today. General Whiting, your predecessor, General Dickinson, told this committee last March that SPACECOM is creating concepts to further integrate space cyber special operations to generate asymmetrical advantages around the globe.

In a press release from your recent visit to U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, it mentions that Army space professionals are operating across multiple domains, including cyber and space, to support warfighters, especially for deployed special operations forces. Can you briefly talk about the nexus between space, cyber and soft (ph)?

WHITING:  Yes, Senator, thank you for the question. We do see it as a unique opportunity to bring together these three capabilities to help us all three achieve our missions. For example, there's times that using space we can create accesses for cyber forces, who then can support special operation forces, or special operation forces through their unique ability to gain access to certain geographic locations, can help us in our space mission by executing functions that support us.

And so, I have spoken to the commander of Special Operations Command about that, as you noted, have spoken to our Army component about that. And we also leverage the fact that our Navy and Marine Corps components are also cyber components. And so, that gives us a unique pairing there as well.

BUDD:  Thank you for that. So, it sounds like it's a two-way street, right? I mean, just as much as space enables soft and the entire joint force, the physical access that soft provides also enables critical space operations. Is that correct?

WHITING:  Senator, that's absolutely correct.

BUDD:  Given proposed cuts to Army soft, there will be reduced capacity to fill combatant commander requirements. So, I know that the demand for soft is up and we'll likely see increased, that will be increased across geographical combatant command. So, do you anticipate any impacts on your commands operations should those cuts to soft move forward over the next few years?

WHITING:  No, Senator, I don't.

BUDD:  So, it's a two-way street, but you don't see that it'll impact you if there are soft cuts?

WHITING:  Sir, I have not been briefed on any of the work we've been doing with special operations command that will specifically impact us.

BUDD:  Switching gears a bit, but General Whiting, last year I asked your predecessor how he would characterize the current resiliency of our satellite constellations, particularly given that constellations are often deployed with a minimum number of satellites available or necessary. How would you answer that same question today, particularly given recent revealed advanced threats?

WHITING:  Senator, thank you for the question. I would say today our constellations are optimized for a benign environment. And as we see these threats now growing, we have to now protect and defend those constellations until we develop the next generation of resilient constellations. That work is ongoing to deploy those next generation of resilient capabilities. But we are still going to have to protect and defend our current ones for years to come. And so, that's why we have to also focus on those protect and defend capabilities.

BUDD:  Thank you. General Cotton, I think we can all agree that Sentinel's delays greatly emphasize a need to ensure Minuteman's continued operational readiness. As such, how important is it to conduct regular test launches of Minuteman to demonstrate that the United States nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective?

A. COTTON:  Senator, thank you for the question. I think the answer is I want to be able to have an ability to surveil all three legs to include the Minuteman, as well as my bomber forces and my SLBM force as well.

BUDD:  Thank you. General Whiting, again, you've spoken publicly about the need to maximize partnerships with allies, partners, our interagency teammates, commercial industry and even academia. So, why is this partnering so crucial to our national security space capabilities?

WHITING:  Senator, all the things we have to do in space, it's so much that no one department, service, command, even country can do all the things we need to do. And it's an asymmetric advantage of ours to leverage all of these stakeholders to get unity of effort to achieve our goals. And so, that's why we want to partner as widely as we can with like-minded countries and organizations because it maximizes our ability to execute our mission.

BUDD:  Thank you very much.

REED:  Thank you very much, Senator Budd. Senator Peters, please.

PETERS:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Cotton, in your written testimony, you acknowledged the importance of the Air Force's refueling tanker fleet in accomplishing STRATCOM's global strike missions, so we don't have to rely on intermediate basing installations. You also highlight the Air Force's upcoming refueler tanker acquisitions being critical to enable simultaneous global operations, including those involving multiple combatant commands.

So, my question for you, sir, is, how does a robust refueling tanker fleet sustain STRATCOM missions? If you could elaborate on that and also elaborate on how the Air Force's acquisition of the new KC-46 tankers will expand your global reach and expand your current capabilities.

A. COTTON:  Senator Peters, thank you for the question. Something that makes us incredibly unique as a fighting force is, we have the ability to fly the entire globe. Even at its onset, the tanker and the bomber were both complementary acquisitions. It gives us incredible reach. That being said, that's why it is such a unique relationship between the tanker force and our bomber force and my air leg and absolutely critical to my mission set with regards to ensuring that we have sustainable and enough tankers, to be able to make that a requirement that can be enduring.

So, I pay attention to what the availability is of the tanker force. We have a great relationship with U.S. TRANSCOM and Jackie Van Ovost, who's a dear friend as well. To ensure that there's no disconnect in the requirements. But you're right, that can be stretched with the requirements that the tanker force has on non-weapons system movement missions. Missions that don't include bombers, but includes providing forces forward, et cetera, et cetera. So, we always have to make sure that we pay attention and see that those acquisitions, not only the nuclear triad, but those acquisition programs are on time and are healthy as well.

PETERS:  And I suspect the new KC-46 will probably be around a long time. That mission is not going to go anywhere soon. And I've told folks this could be a 50-year mission for this aircraft. And then I always reminded the B-52s are likely to be well in excess of 50 years. Is that an accurate statement in regards to the KC-46?

A. COTTON:  Well, I don't know how long the tanker community plans on having the KC-46, but if we use legacy as a measure, the KC-135 has been around a long time as well.

PETERS:  It is, absolutely. Absolutely. General Cotton, as you likely know, Northern Strike in Michigan is the DOD's largest annual joint reserve component readiness exercise that takes place in the country. Over 7,000 service members from over 25 states and several international partners converge at the national all domain warfighting center, which is also known as NADWC, for critical training focused on future multi domain conflict.

It's one of my top priorities to ensure that Northern Strike continues to receive robust funding to support realistic joint force training with our global allies and partners. And part of this realistic preparation for a future conflict requires training for our armed forces to fight and win in the electromagnetic spectrum. What role do you see state of the art training centers like NADWC will play in preparing for this very unique electromagnetic challenge that will likely get only more significant?

A. COTTON:  Thank you for the question, Senator. I think what's going to be key is ensuring that the participants of those exercises are given the true challenges that they could potentially face. And then they can drive the techniques, tactics and procedures because some of it is as simple as that, to be able to counter that threat.

I think having live, virtual and constructive opportunities on training venues are going to be incredibly important as well. Understanding that probably having a live training venue might not be feasible, but having a virtual one is. So, you know, continued support and having push for that type of training venue would be incredibly important.

PETERS:  Thank you, General. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REED:  Thank you, Senator Peters. Before recognizing Senator Mullin, let me remind everyone that we will convene immediately after this open session in a closed session in SVC 217. And I will, at this time, pass the gavel to Senator Shaheen, who will preside, rather, here and there. Senator Mullin, please.

MULLIN:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you both for being here today. First off, I want to thank Senator Cotton for emphasizing the importance of modernization of the B-52 fleet and keeping it in the air, especially since all that work is being done in Oklahoma. Right at Tinker Air Force Base. Tinker will also be the maintenance center for the new B-21s, and they are rapidly building up the capacities and capabilities today to take on that new mission. We're very proud of that.

General Cotton, a question for you. Oklahoma is very proud to invest the investments we've made to support the bomber modernization and the maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base. Can you speak of the benefit this brings to the leg of the triad?

A. COTTON:  Absolutely, Senator. It's absolutely foundational. Tinker and the teammates that are there at Tinker Air Force Base to support that mission leg on behalf of men and women of Air Force global strike command that provides that leg to me, is absolutely critical. The fact that we're expanding and building a bomber campus, if you will, in preparation of B-21, is going to be extremely important. But even more so, their production of the B-52J as we go through the commercial engine replacement program for that jet.

MULLIN:  Thank you. In addition to the nuclear deterrence, STRATCOM is also tasked with electronic warfare. What is the next technological frontier for protecting our electronic communications and weapons systems?

A. COTTON:  Well, sir, obviously it's protection systems. And my colleague to the left also plays an important role in that. But more so, one of the things that we're finding, and it was noted through both Northern Edge 21 and Northern Edge 23 exercises that it's really having adequate training.

So, the men and women that are put in those situations understand that there are techniques, tactics and procedures that can avoid having being susceptible to the interference that you might see in that spectrum domain. I had mentioned earlier, but the realities of us recognizing that that domain is going to be contestant with the peers that we have, the near peer adversaries that we have now and being able to identify and find ways to ensure that we can fight in that domain at our choosing is going to be incredibly important.

MULLIN:  General Whiting, do you want to speak about that, too?

WHITING:  Yes, thank you, Senator. The electromagnetic spectrum is vital to us. It's the only way to get information back from space. That's our satellite communications, our missile warning, our positioning, navigation and timing. And so, we absolutely have to ensure that we can operate there, free of hindrance, or at least be able to operate through any hindrance that we see.

And we definitely want to look to technologies that can help us reduce that susceptibility to jamming, for example. I think things like laser communications can help with that and like to see those investments continue moving forward.

MULLIN:  Currently, we have a company in our state who's working on a quantum and physics-based communication techniques. Is that a help a big role for you guys?

WHITING:  Senator, I think it could be. I think that's one of those new technologies that would give us a way, perhaps to defeat traditional jamming techniques. And so, I certainly would encourage the research lab and the science and technology community to continue to work on that and for companies to bring mature capabilities forward in that area.

MULLIN:  Is our defense industry capable to make those changes when we're working on a system that they say is three years, four years out, in some cases, most of the time it's seven. Are they able to pivot when new technology comes on? Because obviously, this is a growing space and a growing concern. So, there's new fines, new technology that's coming on constantly. Are we able to pivot? I'll hold that for both of you all in defense to say, yes, we want to start moving this direction.

A. COTTON:  For us as we're looking at our modernization programs across the portfolio, what we're seeing that's different in the way we want to do business, Senator, is through modularity. So, having the opportunity for modularity is going to be critical for us and crucial for us because then we can outpace and stay ahead of the adversary.

WHITING:  And Senator, I would just add that we want to work with the companies that have existed for a long time and help them to see the requirements and make the pivot. But also, we want to make sure we have a relationship with new startup companies that may not be burdened by the way things have happened in the past and can now move right to the future. And we want to make sure they have an opportunity to compete for our requirements, and we can help move them through that valley of death they call it to bring successful programs forward.

MULLIN:  Thank you, guys. We'll see you here in just a minute in the skiff. I'll yield back.

SHAHEEN:  Thank you. Senator King, did you have a second round that you wanted to do? Okay, we're going to adjourn for 15 minutes, so that Senators can vote and go into closed session in the SVC. So, at this point, we will close the open session.