"Strategic Command and Nuclear Deterrence" at the National Defense University Foundation / National Defense Industrial Association

By General Kevin P. Chilton | Washington, D.C. | Sept. 13, 2010

MR. PETER HUESSY: Good afternoon. Hello. I want to thank you all for being here at our lunch as part of our seminar series on homeland security, missile defense and nuclear deterrence.

I want to remind you that tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock we have Pepi DiBiaso, who is going to be talking about cooperative missile defense efforts, particularly with our Pacific and our European allies; and to remind people that John E. Foster is going to be speaking on Thursday at 8 o'clock about the START Treaty and the nuclear deterrent foundation upon which it rests. For those of you who are sponsors I want to remind you to let us know who among you are going to be attending the dinner with Jim Miller on the 30th of September. And for those of you interested who would like to be a sponsor of our dinner in honor of Secretary Gates, the American Patriot Award dinner is on November 5th. And for those of you interested, I've left a note on the table outside, our colleagues at a new organization called the Atlantic Bridge, which is devoted to the British and U.S. relationship, is having a dinner for the Centcom commander on the 22nd here in Washington if you're interested.

I want to also thank our friends from Stratcom who were enormously helpful in putting this seminar together. I want to also thank our friends from the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, and those from the embassies of our friends and allies around the world that have attended this series as we've gone on. I want to thank you.

I also want to thank all our 34 sponsors of this seminar series, which is a record. And I wanted to let you know that this is General Chilton's sixth appearance before our breakfast series. And for the sixth time in the 30 year history of this series, I would like to give a plaque to one of our speakers. General Chilton, would you please come up to the podium?

On behalf of the National Defense Industrial Association and the National Defense University Foundation, we are presenting General Chilton with this plaque which reads as follow: "General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander, United States Strategic Command, Patriot, General, Soldier, Commander, Leader, Friend, American. For a life of service and dedication, thank you and God bless you. NDUF-NDIA breakfast seminar series, September 13, 2010." Thank you, sir, and God bless you.


GENERAL KEVIN P. CHILTON: Well Peter, that was very kind, and unexpected. Thank you so much for that. It's good to be back with you all. I see a lot of familiar faces and some new faces here today, to talk about what I think is a pretty important subject. And I commend, Peter, you and NDU/NDIA for these discussion that we have, and I think they're important to refresh our minds and continue our focus on the subject matter at hand - in this case, nuclear deterrence.

Today is the 13th of September and my historian tells me that it's a pretty interesting day to be addressing you. When we look at some of Stratcom's mission areas, 51 years ago on this date the Soviet Union became the first nation to land - albeit crash - onto the surface of the moon. That was no small feat, to actually put a man-made object onto the surface of the moon. And that even was a string of another Soviet first in that area, and it sparked a renewed urgency in our own nascent space program at the time.

Exactly two years later on this date in 1961, the United States achieved its first orbital test flight of the Mercury program, when John Glenn found his way into orbit - which is pretty dramatic that it happened that quickly. On that very same day, though, from different locations in the Soviet Union, two thermonuclear warheads were launched atop an RL-12 missile, with the target areas on the Barents Sea test site at Novaya Zemlya. The RL-12 was subsequently deployed to Cuba in 1962 sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Now let's get serious, just for a moment, how far we've come and how much has changed in the last 50 years. We have jointly built and continue to man an orbital space station with the Russians and now a growing number of international partners. And I, for one, had the opportunity to travel not to the International Space Station, but to the Russian space station, Mir, during my career. And for a Cold Warrior, I can tell you that was a pretty seminal event, to see how much we had changed just in the course of my time in service.

We are operating in space on a daily basis, managing and maintaining situation awareness today on thousands of satellites and other orbital objects in an increasingly congested, competitive and contested environment, unlike not too long ago when we were just keeping track of a small satellite called Sputnik. We have created an entirely new virtual domain, where we operate daily at previously unimaginable speeds. And as I'm sure you all read Secretary Lynns' Foreign Affairs article a few weeks ago, we have developed this domain and it is one that we must defend actively and continuously.

And during the last 50 years, while the United States and the Soviet Union built massive nuclear arsenals, now the United States and Russia have changed our language from arms control to arms reduction, made serious cuts in our deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons, executed a series of significant and confidence-building treaties, and along with many other nations, ceased testing nuclear weapons. We're pretty certain 50 years ago no one could have envisioned this future that we live in today.

Last year when I spoke to this forum I asked you to envision, or at least to consider, the world 40 years into the future. Since I don't think any of us are that clairvoyant, I cheated a bit and just asked you to assume only one thing, that nuclear weapons would still exist in the year 2050. A safe and prudent assumption, in my view.

My purpose for the mental drill was to pose one question. How do we arrive at a future that provides our children and grandchildren with a deterrent capability that is safe, secure, reliable and effective? For if we are to arrive there, we must be planning and preparing for that day now.

This is my third time at this forum as the Commander of United States Strategic Command, so I'd like to take just a brief look back at previous ideas and describe some of the successes we've had in assuring the deterrent capability for the future. Then, in the context of the wider implications of strategic deterrence in the 21st century, give you some of my thoughts on where I think we must continue to improve to sustain this important momentum.

Last year was a busy year for the U.S. Strategic Command, without a doubt, as we helped develop and provide technical expertise to several key policy documents, like the QDR, the BMDR and the NPR. All of these documents were published earlier this year and each provides policy guidance and direction for managing and maintaining our deterrence capabilities as we plan for the future. We also, I believe in a significant way, supported the negotiation team that developed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may consider in subcommittee even this week.

I should pause here to note that I've had several opportunities to testify before the Senate on new START. And in spite of that, I continue to support its ratification.


As the combatant command responsible for executing strategic deterrence operations, planning for nuclear operations and advocating for nuclear capabilities, we are keenly aware of how force posture and readiness changes can affect deterrence, assurance and overall strategic stability. The new START agreement, in my view, retains the military flexibility necessary to ensure each of these for the period of the treaty.

While working on these documents, we continue to advocate for increased funding to add support for our stockpile management program and our long-neglected nuclear infrastructure. The administration has demonstrated its commitment toward nuclear enterprise funding with the fiscal year 2011 budget, including several increases we hope Congress will choose to provide. As many of you have heard me say before, in order to maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal well into the 21st century, in short to deliver what our president and commander-in-chief has directed us to do, we must have the adequate infrastructure to maintain and sustain the weapons that we will keep and need in the future.

The state of our current infrastructure is decrepit. And those are not my words, those are the words, ladies and gentlemen, of the bipartisan Congressional Committee on the Strategic Posture of the United States, the conclusion that they drew in their published report last year. Fortunately, I believe we've begun to move in the right direction. I consider one of the key successes of this past year to be the commitment from both Congress and the administration to increase funding for our nuclear infrastructure.

President Obama proposed a budget increase of over $600 million from last year's budget for the NNSA to improve the nuclear enterprise infrastructure. And Congress recently approved reprogramming fiscal year 2010 funds for the B-61 phase 6.2A study to extend the life of both the nuclear and non-nuclear components of this weapon that's essential to not only our strategic deterrent but to the extended deterrent we provide our allies.

A portion of the nuclear enterprise infrastructure that gets less attention, unfortunately, is quite possibly its most important. And that is, the people who man the laboratories in this important infrastructure for our weapons stockpile. Now I can do little more than to advocate for recruiting and educating and training the future scientific body of professionals.

But with respect to the professionals who study the theory and practice of strategic deterrence, Stratcom can do more and I believe we have in the past two years. One of the vehicles used in the last two years to advance the body of strategic thinking has been our annual United States Strategic Command's strategic deterrence symposium. At these symposiums we assemble some of the brightest minds from both the Cold War and post-Cold War generations to consider deterrence theory and practice in the multi-polar environment in which we live today.

Examining the role of nuclear deterrence in this context, we've explored topics that addressed whether or not nuclear deterrence is still valid, it is, and the implications of new conventional systems, such as prompt global strike and missile defense, on deterrence. And this year we expanded our discussion to examine the application of deterrence theory and practice in the domains of space and cyberspace. Our deterrence symposia have generated a good deal of dialogue, spurred more than a dozen articles in the past year and established a forum to grow and build relationships with experts and professionals across our country and indeed around the globe.

I look forward to watching this forum mature and grow in the years to come, and think it's vitally important for the revitalization of thought and discussion in the area of strategic deterrence. Some of the most interesting discussions, I think during our last symposium, revolved around the domains of space and cyberspace. That's particularly interesting to us at U.S. Strategic Command, as they are two of the domains which we are involved with in our primary lines of operations every day.

And if you'll allow me to digress just a little bit from the topic, I'd like to brag a little bit about that. We've witnessed significant accomplishments in each of these mission areas. In space this year U.S. Stratcom assumed responsibility for the mission of maintaining situational awareness of the satellites and other orbiting objects around our globe - upwards of over 22,000 pieces of man-made objects and/or debris.

And through our Joint Functional Component Command for Space, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, led by Lieutenant Larry James, we have moved forward in doing collision avoidance analysis for the over 1,000 active satellites that are threatened by these debris in orbit today. That's a tremendous advancement and a tremendous amount of work that has been done by JFCC Space. And the promise for the future is hopeful in that we will avoid future collisions and generation of more debris through this great body of work.

These efforts have improved our ability to understand the environment and develop means also of sharing information with others, not only for our benefit but for the benefit of all who use the space domain. As this domain becomes more congested and contested, the ability to maintain situational awareness in space, whether for the purpose of protecting our own assets or potentially holding others at risk, will become increasingly more important to the United States of America.

Situational awareness is also important in the domain of cyberspace. We continue a concerted effort to improve our capability in this domain as well. We had a wake-up call back in 2008 called the Minot Incident of cyberspace. You all know about it now, and since then we have focused intently on improving three areas in the cyberspace domain: improving our culture, our conduct and the capabilities.

Culturally, we have come to understand that our computers and the networks that connect them are not simply a convenience. They are, in fact, essential to warfighting. Like space, we've grown dependent on the capabilities afforded to us in cyberspace. And with that dependency comes risk, risk to our mission and the people who execute it, in the event we lose that capability in time of conflict.

So we've come to grips with this dependence as an organization, and we have improved the way we conduct ourselves on our computer networks. We have made computer networks the commander's business, improved the security of our systems with capabilities such as host-based security systems. And today, we inspect our networks and hold people accountable who do not behave appropriately on them.

Crowning these accomplishments, of course, is the creation of the United States Cyber Command. We now have a single organization with responsibility for operating and defending our global military networks, and when directed, develop options for attack and execute those attacks as directed by the president. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we've been busy at United States Strategic Command, developing solutions to complex problems across each of our major mission areas.

But it's important to note that these successes are not simply independent or unrelated events across our different mission areas and domains. All of our missions: space, cyber and deterrence, are inherently related. And each, in some form or fashion, impacts or influences our role in strategic deterrence. Each of our successes makes us more aware, better equipped and better capable to execute daily our highest calling at Stratcom, and that is to deter conflict.

I would be remiss, however, to stand up here today and talk to you only of our accomplishments, for there is still plenty of work yet to be done that lays in front of us. For each of our successes I can point to more than one challenge ahead. There are new requirements, more effective capacities and improved technologies across all of our mission areas that we must continue to pursue if we are to be successful in maintaining an effective deterrence capability. So if you will, I'd like to spend the remainder of my time this afternoon describing for you what I believe are the most important requirements that still lay before us in the nuclear deterrence mission area.

First, there remains the issue of maintaining our stockpile. The reprogrammed fiscal year 2010 B-61 fund represented a critical milestone and one that has been a long time in coming. But we must appreciate that this is just one step in a very long journey that demands focused and sustained action throughout the next decade.

We need to leverage the momentum and continue to press our support for the stockpile management program, and secure the funding outlined by the administration to further this program, because frankly, time is not on our side. Since we do not have the infrastructure today to run modernization programs in parallel, we must stay on track with the current program to modernize the W-76-1 for our submarine launched ballistic missile deterrent; and ensure that there exists no lag between these programs as we progress linearly forward to rejuvenate the stockpile for the future. At the same time, expand our industrial base so the generations that follow us in the 2020s will not be faced with the serial nature that we are faced with today, so they will be able to solve parallel problems should they arise in the stockpile in the future.

This year's progress, both in policy and funding, was absolutely significant. But as the administration's 10-year plan shows, recapitalizing our forces and our infrastructure to ensure a safe and secure and effective stockpile for the foreseeable future requires significant and sustained investment. The infrastructure, the physical capacity to maintain the components of the weapons and the delivery systems, remains our greatest long-term challenge.

Besides the clear necessity of the stockpile, there are three other elements of the deterrence equation which we must keep our eye on, in my view. Of course, I think deterrence capability requires four pieces: one, warning and attribution; two, the ability to command and control forces; three, forces that can actually deliver a deterrent weapon; and four, the warhead. I've talked extensively about our needs for the warheads and the infrastructure required to support them. But we cannot take our eye off the other three elements.

We begin with warning and attribution. Our infrared orbital capability that allows us to not only see but attribute the launch of a missile from anywhere on the planet today, is absolutely essential to the nuclear deterrent. Sustaining this capability, making sure there are no gaps in this capability, is fundamental to the deterrent.

As we continue to see slips and issues with the SBIRS program, I have grave concerns about how we move forward in this area. We raised this issue in 2008. We were told not to worry, the first satellite would launch in 2009. I raised the issue in 2009 and was told not to worry, the first satellite will launch in 2010.

This is 2010 and the current schedule says sometime in 2011. It has slipped longer than the number of years in which we have waited for it. We need to keep our eye on this program. It is vitally important to the strategic deterrent.

Command and control. This is a real easy one to take your eye off of. It can insidiously slip away because it has a couple of central elements and capabilities that you must maintain. One, the president's ability to give orders to his nuclear forces must be survivable in the event of a really bad day. And, they must be secure to ensure that they are accurately disseminated.

To get this capability requires investments in both satellite technology, air breathing technologies and land-based technologies to provide the redundant paths and survivable paths that will ensure survivability of the president's ability to command his forces. It also involves investment in cryptography to ensure that it is modern and sustained in a fashion that assures us in the future that the president's orders will be heard loud and clear and correctly. We need to keep our eye on this ball as well, and it is one that we can easily take our eye off. We are okay today, but I'm not just worried about today. It is our responsibility to worry about 10, 20, 30 years from now - future generations.

The third area, of course, is the delivery platforms. There's some good news here. I'll look at first the ICBM platform.

The PRP program, the GRP program, the investments in sustaining the Minuteman III missile itself, have been significant and quite successful. The Congress has asked us to provide this deterrent capability through 2030. The Air Force is taking a hard look at the additional investments required to do just that. And they aren't in the propulsion system or the guidance system, but they are in some of the support and infrastructure required to sustain the capability in the field today. We need to make sure that we continue to support the funding to sustain those capabilities if we want a realistic and viable ICBM land-based deterrent to be continued and supported through 2030.

It's also time now to begin the studies, the preliminary studies, to start asking ourselves the question, what would a follow-on to the Minuteman III look like in the 2030 time period? That sounds like it's an awful early time to start studying that, but we'll have to start fielding it in about the 2025 time period, which means we're 15 years away. And if you look at the normal development cycle, well, it's time to start considering what we might want to go to in the future.

There's some good news in the submarine area as well. The Navy is committed to and is moving forward on their preliminary designs and development to the follow-on to the Trident submarine system. And this is critically important as the most survivable leg of our triad today.

There's some overlap here between both the land-based ICBM and the submarine-based SLBM that I think requires us to keep our attention focused on. And that is the technology and industrial base required to sustain and/or develop a new large solid rocket motor to support both the Trident of the future and a follow-on land-based deterrent should we decide to build one.

One observes the Russian recent failures in their development of a large solid rocket motor for their follow-on submarine. One can understand clearly that this truly is rocket science. In fact, the United States is a leader in the world today in its ability to design, develop, build and fly large solid rocket motors with gimbaling nozzles and multiple segments, that can put tremendously large objects into space, as a clear technological edge that we have today that we will need to preserve and sustain for future elements of the deterrent that require intercontinental ballistic missiles.

And finally, on the delivery platform area, is the bomber. The NPR supported the triad. It validated the need for it, and that includes the bomber. It's a very flexible - and I think people often forget - very survivable leg of the triad should we ever decide to put them back on alert.

It is also an incredibly cost imposing leg of the triad, because to defend against a cruise missile capable bomber is almost nearly impossible when one looks at the costs of what it would take to set up a surveillance system and an intercept system to successfully interdict a large-scale cruise missile attack from a bomber platform. The cruise missile capabilities of our bombers today is an absolutely essential element of our hedging strategy for today, as we hedge against the potential of technical failure in warheads in the land-based deterrent and the sea-based deterrent. The B-52 air-launched cruise missile leg of the triad, and its ability to be quickly uploaded and placed on alert, is essential to that hedging strategy.

It's also essential to a hedging strategy against geopolitical change. And that's something we need to continually reflect upon and study and what-if. We've seen tremendous geopolitical change in the last 50 years. I think it would be foolish to assume there will be none in the next 50. And in that regard, we would be prudent to hedge both for technical and geopolitical change. And the hedging value of the bomber is absolutely important to us today, and we should consider that carefully as we move forward into the future.

Well folks, these are challenging times as U.S. Strategic Command, but they're the good kind of challenging times. We operate in and across a global spectrum of complex and dynamic environments, tasked with a mission set that is diverse and difficult. And the men and women of U.S. Strategic Command, I will tell you, are up to each of the tasks.

They work diligently each day to promote global security for America, and that's why we come to work every day at Offutt. With their hard work and continued support from Congress, we are fulfilling our vision in the command of being leaders of strategic deterrence, and pre-eminent global warfighters in space and in cyberspace. I'm extremely proud of our people and their accomplishments, and I'm confident in our ability to solve the demanding issues that we face in the years to come.

Those of you who know me know that I'm a big baseball fan, and my team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. We won't talk much more about their performance. I had a chance to meet Yogi Bera one time, and I don't know if he said everything he's reported to have said, but having met him I can believe it. So he is supposed to have said at one time, you've got to be careful, if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there. I think that's a wise saying.

I'm confident because we have a sense of direction at U.S. Strategic Command, that we know where we're headed, and we know what it takes to get there. I'm confident that our accomplishments demonstrate not only that we are on the right path, but also display our resolve to delivering global security for America. Let there be no mistake, there is still much work to be done. But we know what we must do and the urgency by which we must carry it out.

We're committed to that. That's why we exist. And we're proud to shoulder these missions for the United States.

Peter, ladies and gentlemen, thanks again very much for having me here today. It's been my privilege to speak with you over the years both in this command and as the commander of Air Force Space Command. And I thank you very much for this opportunity.