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SPEECH | April 13, 2016

Project on Nuclear Issues Capstone Conference

(As Prepared)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command Commander: Well, good evening everyone.  It’s truly a pleasure to be here with you all, although I feel that I am at somewhat of a disadvantage.  Speaking after a meal is always challenging, thank Bob Servant, but it’s even more challenging following what I know was a day full of very thoughtful and intellectual discussions. 

As I was trying to figure out what to say, I asked my beautiful bride, who has heard me speak more times than she cares to remember, for her counsel.  She very eloquently told me that the only good after dinner speech is when someone turns to you and says, “You leave the dishes, I’ll do them.”  She also told me to keep it short, because it’s best to leave your audience before they leave you.  I’ll do my best to follow her advice.

Let me start by thanking Rebecca Hersman, not only for that very kind introduction, but also for her leadership of Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI).  I truly value education, and even at my tender age, I still consider myself a student.  So, Rebecca, thank you and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at large, for the work you do in attracting and developing the next generation of experts and strategic thinkers in the nuclear enterprise, both in the policy arena and in our national labs.

Rebecca recently presented her work “Building a Compelling Rationale for the Role and Value of U.S. Nuclear Weapons” at a conference in Bangor, Washington.  I was told it was one of the highlights, and I’m sure many of her themes resonated throughout the day.

To our panel presenters and moderators, this group was fortunate to hear some very thought-provoking presentations addressing salient topics such as NATO and Russian posturing; emerging unconventional threats; future capabilities; and enforcing non-proliferation.  These are critical issues in light of our current security environment.

Finally, thanks to all who attended today.  I was ecstatic to see such a diverse, youthful crowd, including the two cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy and all the views you represent.
This evening, I will further today’s discussion by providing a few of my thoughts on the strategic environment and how U.S. Strategic Command fits into that picture.

Today, as you know, the global security environment is more complex, dynamic and volatile, perhaps more so than any time in our history.  There are a number of concerns I have as the combatant commander responsible for deterring strategic attack against the United States and our allies. 

Just glancing at media reporting today provides a glimpse into the ongoing operations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots around the globe. We are part of an international campaign to defeat violent extremist organizations such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and others, who are recruiting and operating across political, social and cyberspace boundaries. 

We will continue to work hard in this area, while also involved in planning and activities associated with Secretary of Defense Carter’s four other challenges, North Korea, Russia, Iran and China.

Kim Jong-Un is keeping us on edge, especially in anticipation of a fifth nuclear test.  Increasingly, and despite sanctions, North Korea’s coercive, irresponsible rhetoric is undermining regional stability as it continues along the path of building a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S.

North Korea claims to have miniaturized a nuclear warhead, as well as successful testing of a hydrogen bomb, an engine designed for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), claimed just this weekend, and a ground test of a solid rocket-fueled engine. 

The latter would allow Kim Jong-Un’s regime to launch with minimal ability for observation.
Additionally, North Korea’s actions such as launching satellites into space using ballistic missile technology and jamming GPS on commercial aircraft and ships for almost a week are disruptive and destabilizing.

Russia poses one of the most troubling existential threats to the U.S. by virtue of the size of its nuclear arsenal, which it continues to modernize despite a shrinking economy.  It is also building its conventional military forces, while maintaining a significant quantity of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

President Putin is engaging in destabilizing actions in Syria and Ukraine, emphasizing new strategic approaches, developing counter-space and cyber capabilities, while also declaring and recklessly demonstrating his willingness to escalate to de-escalate if required.

Both North Korea and Russia must understand they cannot escalate their way to victory.

China continues to advance claims over disputed areas and is making significant investments in its overarching military capabilities, including nuclear and conventional, to support its anti-access area-denial campaign.

China is also pursuing conventional prompt global strike capabilities and offensive counter space technologies, and exploiting computer networks.  These activities, when considered with China’s lack of transparency, raise questions about its global aspirations.

Iran’s continued involvement in the Middle East conflicts continues to require our attention, particularly with its development of ballistic missile programs and cyberspace capabilities.  While it appears to be following the mandates of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we must remain vigilant for any shift regarding nuclear weapons ambitions. 

Clearly, there is a lot going on around the world. I probably should stop here, before some of you get post-dinner acid indigestion. 

Given these complexities, we must be thoughtful going forward, because deterring in today's multi-polar world requires us to view threats across the “spectrum of conflict,” where escalation may occur with more than one adversary, and will be transregional, multi-domain and multi-functional.

As a functional combatant command, USSTRATCOM has transregional responsibility that extends from under the sea to geo-synchronous orbit. While my nine missions, assigned by the Unified Command Plan, may seem distinct and disconnected, when considered as a whole, they are complementary and synergistic.  This synergy is what allows us to address global challenges.

Deterring strategic attack on the U.S. and assuring our allies is my top priority.  Strategic deterrence is a complex subject that is foundational to our nation’s security. Deterrence depends on the situation and one size never fits all, yet it is bounded in the understanding that adversaries will not gain the benefit they seek. Adversaries cannot escalate their way out of a failed conflict. Adversaries understand that restraint is always the better option, and that if necessary, the U.S. and our allies will respond in a time, place and domain of our choosing.

Providing a safe, secure, effective and ready nuclear deterrent is also a top priority, but I must caveat that some view our strategic deterrence capabilities only as the platforms and weapons that comprise our visible triad.  While all legs of the triad are vital to our strategic deterrence efforts, those capabilities alone are not enough.

Often overlooked are the necessary tankers that refuel our strategic bombers.  A safe, secure, effective and ready strategic deterrent also includes: an appropriate intelligence and sensing apparatus to give indications and warnings of incoming threats; assured national and nuclear command, control and communications; the necessary infrastructure to sustain and maintain reliable warheads; a credible missile defense system that defends against limited attacks; a resilient space and cyberspace architecture as well as a robust conventional force.

Additionally, verifiable treaties and policies are also key to strategic stability. For example, New START promotes stability by maintaining rough equivalency in size of strategic nuclear forces, as well as transparency via inspections.  Furthermore, it helps assure our non-nuclear allies that they do not require their own nuclear deterrent capabilities. 

While I won’t go through my other priorities, and my remarks are focused primarily on nuclear deterrence, we are making large investments in cyber and space, and preparing for the possibility that a future conflict may extend into these domains, so I was very happy to see several presentations addressing these issues.

So how do we deter adversaries, and potential adversaries?

First, we must have a comprehensive understanding of the strategic environment as perceived from an adversary’s point of view.  We must understand capability and intent, so that we can deny enemy action, hold critical nodes at risk, and prevent misperceptions and actions from escalating.

Second, deterrence requires integrated and combined operations.  As such, we must look at our military capabilities in a holistic manner and fully integrate them with our other levers of national power. 

Third, we must have a whole of government approach, and include our allies and partners whenever possible, so I want to thank all of our international guests for being here.  Your presence and opinion are important in this dialogue.

Fourth, as a nation, our messages must be aligned.  Nuclear deterrence and the triad remains a vital and central element of our national security.

Finally, we must have a ready force.  Make no mistake, USSTRATCOM is a ready force, capable of delivering comprehensive warfighting solutions to our commander in chief - but perception also matters.  Adversaries and allies alike must recognize the readiness of our forces.

Our strategic capabilities are routinely demonstrated and exercised.  Two weeks ago, we completed a B-2 deployment to the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations, where we worked with the Royal Australian Air Force to build upon our interoperability.  In February, we successfully flight tested two ICBMs from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

This past November, the USS Kentucky garnered nationwide attention when a D-5 ballistic missile lit up the sky over the California coast. 

The atmospheric conditions were such that many in the western U.S. could see the spectacular trail of light from the missile.  As those who work for me know, my appetite for strategic messaging is large. 

So it was great to have the Kardashian sisters, and others, spark interest in this launch.  They lit up the land of Twitter, “spazzing out” over their alleged UFO sighting, following the launch. Having personally witnessed this test, I can assure you it wasn’t a UFO.

Now as this audience is aware, while we are making great progress, most of our delivery systems and nuclear command, control and communications architecture are “maturing.”  They have already been, or will be, extended decades beyond their original expected service life and all must be replaced in the 2025 to 2035 timeframe.

We are fast approaching the point where we will put at risk having an effective nuclear deterrent.  We must not jeopardize strategic stability by failing to sustain and modernize our forces. 

This is critical in a global security environment where it is clear that other nuclear-capable nations are placing high priority on developing, sustaining, modernizing and in some cases expanding their nuclear deterrent forces.

Usually when I get to this point in a speech, I typically get the question, “Commander, can we afford this investment?”  I generally reply, “Given the security environment and our quest for strategic stability, can we afford not to?”  Today, maintaining our strategic nuclear capability costs about three percent of our defense total obligation authority. 

In the 2020s to 2030s, as we begin recapitalization in earnest, that figure will grow to between six and seven percent.  That is a modest price to pay for a deterrent capability against countries like Russia and North Korea. 

I, and many of my peers, will likely be retired, but some of you will perhaps be in positions that will influence budgetary decisions.  Some of you may determine if not having a strategic deterrent is a risk our country should take.

This is why PONI and the PONI scholars are so important to ensuring this discussion remains contextually relevant in a world with so many competing global security issues. 

Our country needs professionals, like the people who are in this room, who can think strategically about complex issues, and who can adapt to the ever-evolving environment.  We need lifelong learners, who can apply past experiences to future challenges.   We need leaders who can voice an informed opinion, coherently document those thoughts, and drive effective solutions. 

For our panel presenters today, you are clearly in that category.  I can’t thank you enough for your energy and your passion with these given problem sets.

While I would never shamelessly plug USSTRATCOM in future jobs searches, I encourage you to consider working at USSTRATCOM.  I am proud to have such an outstanding team of men and women, military and civilians, at my headquarters and across the globe, who work extraordinarily hard every day in executing the missions of USSTRATCOM.

I had better stop here.  Now, who has the first question for me?