House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Holds Hearing on the Proposed Fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization as it Relates to Atomic Energy Defense Activities and Nuclear Forces Programs

By General C. Robert Kehler | Washington, D.C. | April 17, 2012

General Kehler: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Sanchez, distinguished members of the subcommittee. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to present my views today on United States Strategic Command's missions and priorities, especially our nuclear responsibilities.

I'm pleased to be here with Assistant Secretary Creedon, a great colleague and someone with tremendous insight into U.S. strategic policy and programs. I'm also glad that you're going to hear from NNSA Administrator Tom D'Agostino and the other expert panelists in a little while.

Without question, Mr. Chairman, we continue to face a very challenging global security environment marked by constant change, enormous complexity, and profound uncertainty. Indeed, change and surprise have characterized the time that has passed since my last appearance before this committee.

Over that time, the men and women of STRATCOM have participated in many, many activities, to include the support of operations in Libya and Japan, and others ranging through the preparation of the new defense strategic guidance. Through this extraordinary period of challenge and change, STRATCOM's focus has remained constant: to partner with the other combatant commands to deter, detect and prevent strategic attacks on the United States, our allies and partners; and to be prepared to employ force as needed in support of our national security objectives.

Our priorities are clear: first, to deter attack with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force; second, to partner with the other commands to support ongoing operations today; third, to respond to the new challenges in space; fourth, to build cyberspace capability and capacity; and finally, to prepare for uncertainty.

Transcending all these is the threat of nuclear materials or weapons in the hands of violent extremists. We don't have a crystal ball at STRATCOM, but we believe events of the last year can help us glimpse the type of future conflict that we must prepare for. Conflicts will likely be increasingly hybrid in nature, encompassing air, sea, land, space and cyberspsace. It will likely cross traditional geographic boundaries, involve multiple participants, and be waged by actors wielding combinations of capabilities, strategies and tactics.

I think it's important to note that the same space and cyberspace tools that connect us together to enable global commerce, navigation and communication also prevent -- or present tremendous opportunities for disruption and perhaps destruction.

In January, the Department of Defense released new strategic guidance to address these challenges. This new guidance describes the way ahead for the entire department, but I believe many portions are especially relevant to STRATCOM and our assigned responsibilities. For example, global presence, succeeding in current conflicts, deterring and defeating aggression, countering weapons of mass destruction, effectively operating in cyberspace, space and across all other domains, and maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent are all important areas in the new strategy where STRATCOM's global reach and strategic focus play a vital role.

No question, these are important responsibilities. There are real risks involved in the scenarios we find ourselves in today. It's my job to be prepared for those scenarios and to advocate for the sustainment and modernization efforts we need to meet the challenges. And in that regard, the F.Y. '13 budget request is pivotal for our future.

We're working hard to improve our planning and better integrate our efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction. We need to proceed with planned modernization of our nuclear delivery and command and control systems. We need to proceed with life extension programs for our nuclear weapons and modernize the highly specialized industrial complex that cares for them.

We need to improve the resilience of our space capabilities and enhance our situational awareness of the increasingly congested, competitive, and contested domain. We need to improve the protection and resilience of our cyber networks, enhance our situational awareness, increase our capability and capacity, and work with the entire interagency to increase the protection of our critical infrastructure.

There are other needs as well, but in short, the new national security reality calls for a new strategic approach that promotes agile, decentralized action from fully integrated -- I would say fully interdependent and resilient joint forces.

These are tough challenges, but the men and women of STRATCOM view our challenges as opportunities, the chance to partner with the other commands to forge better, smarter and a faster joint force. We remain committed to work with this subcommittee, the services, other agencies and our international partners to provide the flexible, agile and reliable strategic deterrence and mission assurance capabilities that our nation and our friends need in an increasingly uncertain world.

Mr. Chairman, it's my honor and privilege to lead America's finest men and women. They are our greatest advantage. I'm enormously proud of their bravery and sacrifice and I pledge to stand with them and for them to ensure we retain the best force the world has ever seen.

I join with the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior leaders in thank you and the committee for the support you have provided them in the past, present and on to the future.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Sanchez, and I look forward to your questions.