Deterrence Symposium Opening Remarks

By Admiral Cecil D. Haney | La Vista, Neb. | Aug. 13, 2014

Good morning, and welcome.  It’s certainly a privilege to be here today to kick off this 2014 Deterrence Symposium, and I just want to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to journey here to the center of our continental United States in order to discuss, perhaps debate important topics that are very near and dear to my heart.

I’m delighted with the diversity and experience of this audience.  I see representation from a lot of places including industry, our allies and partners, international experts, academia, congress, think tanks, members of our government and military, members of the media, and I would especially like to welcome our younger talent here, both civilian and in military uniforms.  It is critically important that we engage our future leaders on the foundational issues, and I hope you will engage them throughout this symposium over the next couple of days.

I’d like to publicly thank Major General D.T. Thompson and his elite team that really not only put this together but worked hard in gathering the intellectual capacity here in America’s heartland.  And I can think of no better place to get to the heart of the issues that are so important to America and to our allies and partners.

Of course my team could not have done a better job than they did here in terms of timing for this.  As I was talking to a group this morning, it’s during the congressional recess; football season, college football season, hasn’t gotten started yet; so it’s actually a good time, perhaps, so that we aren’t distracted.  Because if we had moved this a little later in the month, like the 30th of August is the first Nebraska Huskers game -- Go Big Red -- but I trust you won’t be distracted by that today or tomorrow.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the LaVista Conference Center staff and all the work that they have done to help us out in this venue.  So why don’t we give them and Major General Thompson and his team a round of applause for setting this all up.  [Applause].

The theme for this year’s symposium is Exploring Deterrence Foundations.  Over the course of the next two days our speakers and panel moderators will guide rich discussions that will explore areas such as examining the importance of strategic deterrence in today’s dynamic security environment, whether there is a need to adjust deterrence approaches given the current geopolitical environment, and if so, what changes should be considered and how deterrence affects standards of behavior in domains such as space, cyberspace.  These are incredibly challenging issues and require us to think about not only our response to a full spectrum of crises, but it also requires a sophisticated discussion on the strategic landscape, all while reexamining our own assumptions and preconceptions about the world and our adversaries or potential adversaries.

So I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little this morning and to prime the pump for the next two days of rich discussions.  With the few minutes I have remaining I would like to talk a little about how I view deterrence, why deterrence is important, and are we adequately equipped for 21st Century strategic deterrence?

At the heart of any deterrence analysis is the understanding of the strategic landscape.  As you know, today our nation is dealing with a global security environment that is complex and dynamic -- perhaps more so than at any time in our history.  We are dealing with an environment with multiple actors operating across multiple domains.  An environment where strategic attacks are defined by their effects versus a specific weapon or delivery platform, and an environment that is characterized by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks; biological and chemical warfare; violent extremist organizations with increased capabilities and desires to have weapons of mass destruction; and a contested, congested and competitive space domain.

That complexity is readily apparent today.  North Korea continues their provocation cycle of rhetoric along with their missile launches and nuclear threats. Iran’s ambition for nuclear weapons is no secret, although diplomatically we have hope the P5+1 talks that they will be successful.  The crisis between Russia and Ukraine continues.  Israel, Palestine.  And of course Iraq and Syria.  As well as frictions in the Western Pacific.  Despite the unrest around the globe I firmly believe that strategic deterrence is relevant and is working.

But what is deterrence?  As stated by former Secretary of State George Shultz, “Deterrence has been part of international relationships throughout recorded history.”  He goes on to say that, “Deterrence is not synonymous with nuclear or a mutually assured destruction.  It can and is exercised in many different ways -- through non-nuclear military forces, through economics, through alliances and coalitions.”

At the foundational level deterrence is often defined as influencing the adversary to not take action.  It’s influencing their perceived costs and benefits of actions and the perceived costs and benefits of restraint.

It requires the adversary or potential adversary to understand both the action from which he must refrain and the unacceptable cost of non-restraint.

At the operational level deterrence has fundamentally changed from what was the backbone of our national security strategy during the second half of the 20th Century.  Today we must think about it in terms of 21st Century deterrence.  For me it is about deterring strategic attack on the United States of America and our allies, dissuading our adversaries from actions that would counter stability and peace, partnering with other combatant commands so that we can work together to demonstrate our resolve -- not just as U.S. Strategic Command but as the United States military.

We must provide the nation with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force while also addressing the challenges in space, building our cyberspace capability and capacity (given our dependency on both), and building enduring relationships with our allies and partners to confront the broad range of global challenges we face.

As the commander of U.S. Strategic Command I have been charged with providing and maintaining a credible and responsive 21st Century strategic deterrent to ultimately provide the President of the United States with flexible options with adequate decision space, and should deterrence fail, to be responsive.

This includes, of course, a triad of strategic delivery systems; a safe, secure and effective nuclear weapons capability and associated infrastructure; and assured command, control and communications.  But it doesn’t stop there.  It also includes a robust and agile intelligence apparatus that can provide the necessary indications and warnings.  A synthesis of dedicated space and ground sensors that provide critical early warning for missile launches and bomber threats.  A credible missile defense system, relevant space and cyberspace capabilities.  Trained and ready people to conduct strategic operations and planning.  Holistic and synchronized treaties, policies and strategies such as the New START Treaty, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, 2010 National Space Policy, and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review.  And of course a campaign plan that orients all of our assigned capabilities and activities toward a common daily purpose to deter strategic attack and assure our allies.

Just as deterrence has evolved over the course of time, so too have our ideas and actions.  Today we must now recognize the multidimensional threats created by increasing numbers of adversaries who are willing to pay the relatively low cost of entry for some strategic capabilities including space and cyberspace weapons.

Threats are evolving at an unprecedented pace in today’s complex world.  We must look at each one differently and in an integrated manner to ensure we get the deterrence solution right.

Therefore, 21st Century deterrence must be tailored to specific adversaries and threats and must employ all the elements of national power and a whole of government approach to include our allies and partners.

Together we must make clear to our adversaries that restraint is always the better course.

Today the United States has credible strategic capabilities that serve to deter attacks on our homeland, our U.S. forces abroad, and on our allies and partners.  And we continue to demonstrate that capability in a number of ways.  For example, just in June here my component commander for integrated missile defense and the Missile Defense Agency achieved a successful ground-based interceptor launch and intercept. 

We are improving our space situational awareness capabilities, eve in geosynchronous orbit.  Last week Air Force Global Strike Command reached their 5th anniversary, and yesterday Secretary Curry and Hagel signed a Force Posture Agreement with Australia that among other things allow our legendary B-52s to operate from Air Force Bases in Darwin and Tindall.  Next month our SSBN force will hit their 4,000th patrol mark.

While I remain confident today, to ensure we maintain a strategic deterrent capability well into the future, we owe a thoughtful assessment in how we prioritize investments of resources.  To have this capability requires a multi-decade recapitalization strategy touching all areas of our deterrence force including space and ground-based radar systems, nuclear national command and control and communication systems, delivery platforms, nuclear weapons, and missile defense technologies.  This is why, for example, moving forward with programs such as the Ohio Replacement Program is so important to our future today.

This recapitalization strategy, however, is not just about hardware.  Effective strategic deterrence requires an in-depth understanding of an adversary’s intent and perception, its history, culture, and of course vital interests, well beyond the traditional order of battle thinking.  This requires significant investments in time in order to conduct tabletop exercises, wargaming, and other intellectual exchanges.

While the overall investment may appear significant and difficult in the current fiscal environment, with a national debt of more than $17.6 trillion, we should not overlook the value of a credible strategic deterrent to our nation -- now and into the future.

If we delay recapitalizing our strategic forces and the industrial base that supports it, we risk degrading this credible 21st Century deterrent and its stabilizing effect.  Is that a risk that we can afford to take?

So what does the future hold?  As President Obama recently told the graduating West Point cadets, “Global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all of its danger and uncertainty.  We have to be prepared for the worst, prepared for every contingency.”

I believe we’re working toward that goal and in doing so we must ensure we have a comprehensive understanding of the threat environment, to anticipate change, and to confront uncertainty with agility and of course innovation.

Part of innovation requires us to reinvigorate our thinking about strategic deterrence because it must work now and well into the future.  That’s why I’m appreciative of the all-star lineup of professionals giving speeches and serving as panelists in this symposium, that will stimulate the intellectual thought, and I thank you in advance, those of you I the audience, for the tough questions you’re thinking about.  Questions such as, for example, how do we measure successful deterrence today?  How do we define deterrence failure?  How can we restore deterrence if it fails in a limited way?  How can a potential adversary use space and cyberspace capabilities to affect our deterrence equation and solution set?  Are the concepts for global deterrence the same as the concepts for regional deterrence?  How does nuclear deterrence factor into today’s environment as we see nations like Russia parade and exercise strategic capabilities, even displaying them on YouTube during exercises that occurred during the Ukrainian crisis?

A thoughtful, fact-based and analytical approach is needed to ensure we are on the right course.  Asking those vital questions, effectively interpreting the answers, providing well-reasoned conclusions and offering alternative views.  Ultimately the future is about people, people who are willing to engage in deterrence debates, challenging traditional thinking, and using their intellectual capacity to offer solutions for effective 21st Century strategic deterrence.  So foundational for today’s complex world.

Your contributions are essential and I thank you all as well as the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and of course civilians who work for U.S. Strategic Command.  I can’t thank them enough for the service they provide our nation.

If I can have the slide up here, it gives you a glimpse of that.  The nature of 24x7 strategic deterrence is often sight unseen, occurring in the missile fields, in submarines, in bombers, in missile defense brigades, in space, in cyberspace teams including in our planning teams.  Roles so foundational to successful strategic deterrence.  I can’t thank them enough.

Once again I want to thank everyone for their participation.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and discussions that ensure here on these critically important issues for our nation.

I’d like to end this segment with just a short video clip to echo what I just said.

(Video shown).

So thank you.  Let’s get started.