Deterrence Symposium Closing Remarks

By Admiral Cecil D. Haney | La Vista, Neb. | Aug. 14, 2014

Good afternoon and thank you. We've had such rich discussion, both formally up here on the podium as well as informally amongst each other. And that to me is very, very impressive. Yesterday, I said at the start of this, that we will really stimulate this forum if we have good questions, and I can say that I was not disappointed. I really appreciate the questions and how they stimulated intellectual thought. You did not disappoint me. And today, I am confident we perhaps have a deeper understanding of deterrence, though I am equally confident that many of us will walk away from here, as discussed by Elaine Bunn, with more questions than we came through the front door with through this dialogue we've had. Or at least I hope, we have a desire to work even harder for a better understanding, as we have clearly defined the complexity and challenges of having effective deterrence in this 21st century.

So, thanks again for the heavy lifting that was done here, particularly by the U.S. Strategic Command team led by Michael Powell; also by the company called Planet Omaha, who managed the website and the registration; and of course the La Vista Conference Center staff. I can't thank you enough. Even with all the intellectual thought that has occurred here, we could not have functioned without our master of ceremonies Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Gray. Well done in keeping us on track, or my other favorite Molly Borgmann. You probably ask, "Who is she?" She was the young lady with the chimes that really kept us on schedule. I think we have a group of them in the back, including Jonathan up front. So how about a round of applause for each of them. (Applause)

This symposium would not have been possible, however, if it were not for the panelists and key note speakers. You were the catalysts for the deep, critical thinking and rich discussions. It was the goal for this symposium to "Explore Deterrence Foundations". You sparked debate amongst us in many areas, including... can deterrence work in a world involving multiple vectors or domains, the utility of mutually assured destruction versus mutually assured stability-- that debate was also very interesting, and how NATO factors in today's deterrence strategy, just to name a few. Obviously that list could go on. Numerous panelists discussed the need to better understand those we are striving to deter and the need to establish the institutional capabilities necessary to do more in that particular area, especially as we consider the psychological profiles of some of the leaders out there I appreciate the great discussion on applying deterrence theory to cyberspace and, of course, outer space. As a country, we depend on space, as do other nations around the world, and I applaud the fantastic work already done in terms, as was mentioned, of the code of conduct. But, as discussed, we must continue to build space resiliency, particularly in light of recent antisatellite tests and demonstrations.

As succinctly put by Ambassador [Gregory] Schulte, "Deterrence is not a substitute for resiliency." This is a very difficult and complex problem where we must place more emphasis on our analysis and efforts. Along those same lines, we must continue to work to establish adequate norms and international agreements for 21st century deterrence.

Last night, Dr. [Zuhdi] Jasser presented methodologies to address crises in the Middle East. While he emphasized long term deterrence solutions, not just short term ones, I fundamentally believe what he said is applicable across the globe when it comes to deterrence. We have to take the long view. And I truly enjoyed the rich discussions surrounding deterrence models for non-state actors.

And finally, as Dr. Frank Klotz adeptly mentioned, the challenges of an aging infrastructure, of the brick and mortar issues, are just as foundational as the strategy and intellectual thoughts on deterrence, and we clearly have plenty to do in this area.

I can't thank you enough, Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, for joining us here and really bringing that intellectual discussion associated with things in the treaty, in the arms control agreement arena.

But on the lighter side, I also want to highlight the fact that [Maj.] Gen. [Garrett] Harencak gets the award for finding those extra tidbits of intelligence and facts on our panel members. He came here armed with exquisite details I noticed. And also if I had an award, I would give it to Professor [Shai] Feldman for the best joke associated with CNN and in one or two words. It seems to me that our English language has been truncated into what I like to call 'bumper stickers,' and as he pointed out, it might shrink even further to just one or two words. I would say...Not good!

As stated frequently over the past couple of days, a coherent deterrence strategy-- that is a whole of government approach and that is working with our allies and partners on this-- remains as important today as it has been since the beginning of time. And it will require our thinking to not only keep pace but to get ahead of the rapidly shifting dynamics of our security environment.

Some of the 20th century deterrence thinkers, such as Albert Wohlstetter, Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn and Thom Schelling, were dealing with a geopolitical landscape that was vastly different. They contributed cutting edge ideas and continued to evolve them in response to changes in policy and the threat environment- mutual assured deterrence, flexible response, crisis stability, etc.

Today, deterrence is just as dynamic but is far more complex. As discussed, we are dealing with a multi-dimensional strategic environment where the players on the global stage include state and non-state actors with increasing capabilities across all domains: air, sea, land, space, as well as cyberspace.

While 21st Century deterrence models are more than just nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons are today, and will remain, foundational to deterring attacks on the United States and our allies and should remain central to our thinking and decision calculation. Sometimes people think about the statement that was made by the President on his goal, which I truly appreciate, to have a world free of nuclear weapons. But they forget about the other part, that he also said, "We will maintain a credible safe, secure, and effective capability." That has to be in our calculus going forward while we work on that ultimate goal. And, as stated in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, we must be successful in countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and reducing the likelihood of those threats.

The importance of deterrence and having strategic deterrence capabilities will not wane for our country or for our allies and partners. As we move forward and continue to reinvigorate our deterrence thinking, I say again, we must recapitalize our strategic capabilities and invest in the intellectual energy to deepen our understanding of deterrence. I was elated with the numbers of young folks I met here. Now young can be a relative term of course. Younger than me is always good, but I was really humbled by their enthusiasm and professionalism, whether they were in uniform or not. The future of this business of understanding and working the deterrence arena depends upon you. So if you're 35 years or younger, please stand up. Thank you. (Applause)

So to my team, thank you for getting those young folks here. You will be counted upon, this younger generation, to carry on the heavy cranial thinking of the deterrence greats who have gone before you, and you are the Brodies, the Khans, and the Schellings of the future. You will also be counted on for your ability to think strategically, holistically, and innovatively; for your problem-solving and decision making skills; and for leading change and, of course, taking action. Let us all continue to grow into a more comprehensive understanding of deterrence, especially the foundations of successful deterrence.

In closing, I want to thank all of you for your participation. I hope this deterrence symposium was valuable to each of you. It was great to have our international partners and experts here, and I appreciate your partnership, perspectives and for participating in frank conversations with us. Because many of you came from significant different distances to get here.

The challenge for us today, however, is to keep this dialogue alive, keep the interaction going well beyond this forum. And that you will mark your calendars for next one of these, tentatively scheduled for the 29th and the 30th of July. So I put that out here early so you can think about it because I'm sure we'll have much more to talk about, and as I said on day one, moving it [to those dates] won't interfere with the football schedule.

Most of you will recognize this symposium falls on the heels of a loss of a great leader and a passionate thinker. A man well respected for his brilliant mind and vision. I think it's fitting to leave you with a few words from Dr. Schlesinger from his 2008 Review to then Secretary Gates on the DoD nuclear mission.

He said, quote "...deterrence itself is as old as human conflict. Deterrence is not uniquely nuclear – though, due to the prominence of nuclear weapons in the Cold War, it became so identified in the minds of many. nuclear weapons remain unique in their destructive power – and thus in their physical, military, and political effects. Moreover, they are unique in that the goal of our nuclear deterrent is to persuade others not to employ weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its interests...Leadership on deterrence must come from the higher levels of the Department of Defense and from the White House... [it] is a larger national and international mission; it cannot be viewed solely in terms of 'military cost-effectiveness.'" End quote.

I leave you with that. He was a great man. God bless each and every one of you. Please travel safely as you make your way back, and I hope to see you again next year if not before. Well done Major General Thompson.

This was a great forum. Thank you all.