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SPEECH | Feb. 23, 2016

Chicago Council on Global Affairs

(As prepared)

Good afternoon and my compliments on the splendid meal.  Mike [Werner], thanks for that very kind introduction.

Thanks, also, to Ambassador [Ivo] Daalder and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at large for your continued efforts in engaging the public and raising awareness on global challenges.

U.S. Strategic Command provides strategic capabilities to warfighters tackling some of these global challenges, and I’m honored to have this opportunity to share with you some of what the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians I represent do for our nation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 366 days this year.

Chicago has an incredible history associated with our nation’s military, particularly our Navy.  Being stationed in Omaha, Neb., for the second time in my career, I can assure you that Offutt Air Force Base is about as far away from the seaways as a Sailor can be.  Therefore, it’s great to be back in the great Navy town of Chicago, on the shoreline of Lake Michigan – even if the water is not salty enough for a submariner like me. 

Having visited Chicago and the Navy’s only boot camp just north of here at Naval Station Great Lakes on several occasions in the past, I know how supportive the local communities are to our young Sailors.

For many of our newest Sailors, Great Lakes boot camp is their first home away from home.  Programs such as “Adopt-a-Sailor” provide a welcoming respite during major holidays, and I thank the local organizations and families for their efforts to make Chicago “home” for our military members.

It’s not just the boot camp.  There’s Navy Pier, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s naval academy, and the high school and college ROTC students that Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago and I had the pleasure of addressing this morning. These are just a few of the ties, but I want to publicly salute all of you for what you do and your continued support for our military.

While I do have some prepared remarks, I am most interested in hearing your thoughts and questions.  With all the executive brainpower I see here today, perhaps your questions will “prime the pump” as I get ready to testify in front of the House Armed Service Committee tomorrow.

So this afternoon, I will give you an overview of U.S. Strategic Command’s nine mission areas and my six associated priorities – and why they matter here in the “Windy City.”  But before I do that, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the strategic environment and how U.S. Strategic Command fits into that picture.

The global security environment is more complex, dynamic and volatile than at any time in our history.  Just a glance at the headlines today will point to efforts supporting our coalitions in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the globe.  Additionally, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently highlighted five challenge areas that are driving our defense-planning efforts.

The first two, Russia and China, reflect a return to great power competition.  Third and fourth are North Korea and Iran.  Fifth is our ongoing fight to defeat terrorist activity.  I’ll say just a few words about each.

Russia poses an existential threat to the U.S. by virtue of the size of its nuclear arsenal.  Russia’s desire to reemerge as a great power clearly underpins the drive behind Moscow's continued efforts to modernize both its conventional and strategic nuclear military programs.  Russia has declared, and at times has demonstrated its ability to escalate if required, and is conducting destabilizing actions in Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, while also violating treaties and other international accords and norms.

Russia has also publicly stated they are developing counter-space capabilities, and we have seen enough news of their malicious activities in cyberspace. 

As the Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, recently noted in the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment, “Russia is assuming a more assertive cyber posture based on its willingness to target critical infrastructure systems and conduct espionage operations even when detected and under increased public scrutiny.”

We’ve witnessed China’s attempts to advance its claims over disputed areas, as well as significant investments in its overarching military capabilities (including nuclear and conventional) to support its anti-access area-denial campaign and overall quest for sovereignty.

China is reengineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads.  It recently conducted another test of a hyper-glide vehicle, and is pursuing conventional prompt global strike capabilities, offensive counter space technologies, and exploitation of computer networks.   These actions, when considered with its lack of transparency, raise questions about China’s global aspirations.  

North Korea’s actions are destabilizing and provocative, and undermine peace and security in the broader region.  Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea continues to heighten tensions by coupling troublesome statements such as its claims of possessing miniaturized warheads and announcements of what it refers to as “successful hydrogen bombs tests” along with developments in road mobile and submarine-launch ballistic missiles technologies.

More recently, North Korea conducted a rocket launch putting a satellite into space, continuing its efforts to develop and advance its long-range ballistic missile program.  These actions are flagrant violations of United Nations Security Council mandates and demonstrate North Korea’s lack of regard for regional stability and representing serious threats to our interests.

As Iran follows the mandates of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we must be vigilant for any shift regarding nuclear weapons ambitions.  Iran is developing ballistic missile programs and cyberspace capabilities – and their continued involvement in conflicts in the Middle East requires our attention.

Finally, violent extremist organizations and terror groups are recruiting and operating across political, social, and cyberspace boundaries – seeking to destroy our democratic way of life. 

Clearly, there is a lot going on around the world, and while I won't go through the array of other security concerns, the reality is that the strategic environment is increasingly complex.

Unlike the bipolarity of the Cold War era, today's multi-polar world is more akin to multi-player, concurrent and potentially intersecting games of chess that severely challenge regional and global security dynamics.  Future conflicts will not be contained within prescribed borders, stove-piped domains, or segregated areas of responsibility. 

In other words, we must view future conflicts as transregional, multi-domain and multi-functional, and we must take a comprehensive approach to strategic deterrence, assurance and escalation control. 

This is where U.S. Strategic Command comes into the picture.

As a functional combatant command, U.S. Strategic Command has trans-regional responsibility that extends from under the sea all the way up to geosynchronous orbit.  While my nine unified command plan-assigned missions may seem distinct and disconnected, when considered as a whole, they are complementary and synergistic. 

Having these missions under U.S. Strategic Command is what allows us to address global challenges and 21st century deterrence in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

With that context in mind, let me outline my priorities for you.

As I described the threat environment, I hope you see why deterring strategic attack against the United States and providing assurance to our allies is at the top of my list of priorities.  Also a top priority is providing a safe, secure, effective and ready nuclear deterrent force.

Let me highlight a couple of points here. 

First, a strategic attack is one that has devastating or catastrophic effects on a population.  I think we all understand the strategic impact of a nuclear weapon, but it’s also important to understand that an attack in space or cyberspace can have strategic effect.

Second, strategic deterrence capabilities are sometimes simply understood as the platforms and weapons that comprise our visible triad – made up of ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and our nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers. 

The triad alone, however, is not enough.  Often forgotten are the necessary tankers that refuel our strategic bombers.  This critical capability enables our bombers to carry out global missions, such as last month’s B-52 bomber flight over South Korea – demonstrating our ironclad commitment to our allies in the Pacific.

A safe, secure, effective and ready strategic deterrent also requires 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 from rogue nations like North Korea; and a resilient space and cyberspace architecture.

We are a warfighting command, and as such, my third priority focuses on delivering comprehensive warfighting solutions. 

To effectively deter, assure, and control the escalation of conflict in today’s security environment, threats must be looked at across the “spectrum of conflict.”  Escalation may occur in varying degrees of intensity, with more than one adversary, and in multiple domains. 

We must also consider “below threshold activities” or “gray zones” that would not ordinarily propel international action, but must be carefully monitored as part of the larger sight picture in which conflicts can grow and spill over or spiral out of control.

At the end of the day, our actions and capabilities must convince any adversary that they cannot escalate their way out of a failed conflict, and that restraint is always the better option. 

As a country we are growing increasingly dependent on space and cyberspace, and so my fourth priority is addressing challenges in these domains by increasing capability, capacity and resilience. 

If anyone remembers the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you might recall the description that “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.”

Today, this characterization of space seems to be amiss. The truth is, in relative terms, earth-centric space is quite small. Once thought of as a sanctuary, the space domain has increasingly become contested, degraded, and operationally limited.

There are more than 60 nations operating in space, and we can only expect that number to continue growing.  Similarly, we can expect an increase in the number of nations who may wish to deny the peaceful use of space.

Adversaries and potential adversaries are developing, and in some cases demonstrating, disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities.  They are exploiting what they perceive as space vulnerabilities – threatening the vital national, civil, scientific, and economic benefits to the U.S., and the global community. 

This is a particular concern to me as the combatant commander responsible for space, especially as you look at how crucial space is to my foundational nuclear deterrent mission, in addition to my other assigned missions.

My space team at the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., detects and tracks more than 16,000 space objects.  Last year, they confirmed more than 150 collision avoidance maneuvers, including four involving the International Space Station. 

They also closely followed North Korea’s recent missile launch of a satellite and continue to monitor the status of these objects.

Any collision or an attack in space could severely impact our ability to operate as a nation.  To give you an example, just imagine the impact a disruption to the GPS constellation could have in our day-to-day lives.  While the inability to find your way to the nearest Starbucks might be a concern to some, the long-term consequences could prove much more severe. 

The loss of accurate timing signals provided by GPS will impact our financial transactions, and will slow the protocols that hold the internet together.  It’s not just our home and office networks that will be affected.  The power grid, traffic lights, rail signals, water treatment plants – all are controlled by complex, intricately timed networks.

What about our military personnel in combat who rely on GPS, or the unmanned aerial vehicles and GPS-guided munitions we are using to fight ISIL? 

GPS is just one of the many systems that provide vital capabilities to our country (and others around the world).  I think you get the point, that a loss of our space-based capabilities will be problematic for both our military and civil infrastructures.

Know that U.S. Strategic Command is working hard to ensure we maintain our strategic advantage in space.

Switching gears, similar to our reliance on space technology, cyber is essential to our network centric way of life.  As Americans, we depend upon modern technology. 

The “Internet of Things” connects us in ways that many of us would never have imagined.  Everything that makes modern economies possible relies on data and networks -- and all of that is vulnerable.

Today’s cyber threats are evolving at an unprecedented pace.  The level of activity against our systems only continues to grow and, unfortunately, we are no longer just talking about that proud Chicago-area native, albeit fictional character, Ferris Bueller, changing his absences in the school computer.  

Cyber intruders are hacking into household networks using electronics contained in everything from appliances to baby toys.  Hackers are disrupting government networks, and are attempting to deny service to thousands of industries daily. 

Highly advanced hacking tools, once only available to nation-states and well-funded industrial espionage efforts, are easily available – ironically in many cases, online – to terrorists, hacktivists, and organized criminals who are targeting our banks, healthcare systems, critical infrastructure, manufacturing, distribution, telecommunications, and retail networks. 

The internet is being used by terrorist organizations to recruit and indoctrinate others with their radical ideologies, as well as to gather, release and exploit sensitive information about military personnel.

As the combatant commander for cyberspace operations, these trends are concerning.  Adm. Mike Rogers, my sub-unified commander for cyber, manages these threats across the Department of Defense’s approximately seven million networked devices and 15,000 network enclaves. 

He is “closer to the fence” than many in this area; and he often says that one of his most challenging issues is creating a culture where the cybersecurity and cyber hygiene of a computer system is as foundational as securing and protecting military-issued weapons. 

So we are working hard to increase a “culture of hygiene and personal responsibility,” but as I often tell the workforce, we must all be cyber warriors and sensors.  Let me be clear, that is sensor with an “s” not a “c”, although, as a parent, I’m not opposed to being a cyber censor with a “c”, either.

As most are probably aware, the President recently released his Cybersecurity National Action Plan to help guide our long-term approach to cybersecurity.  I’ll highlight a few areas where U.S. Strategic Command is contributing.

First, we are hiring qualified people and finding creative ways to increase their expertise. U.S. Strategic Command is working hard to build a cyber mission team force of 6,000 strong, but I recognize there is a global demand for cyber skills. 

It is imperative we think innovatively about how to hedge those skill gaps – such as implementing internships and industry exchange programs and working automatic solutions for threat detection.

In other words, we are looking where automation can replace human operators.  As our Secretary of Defense might say, we need third offset strategies that can counter incoming cyberattacks faster than a human could.

Second, we are making the defense of future networked systems a design priority. 

Finally, we are strengthening relationships between the Department of Defense and our private industry counterparts, because we can’t do it alone.

This brings me to my fifth priority: building, sustaining and supporting partnerships.  As the military component, we are working together with other combatant commands to synchronize our whole government approach, across the interagency, with our allies and our partners, as well as with industry and academia. 

That’s why these types of forums are so important.

My sixth and final priority is anticipating change and confronting uncertainty with agility and innovation.  If we are to deter and detect strategic attack – whether that is nuclear, in space or in cyberspace – we must think about “unthinkable” scenarios through wargaming, exercises and a deeper understanding of our adversaries.

This means having the right people in the right jobs at the right time.  It means investing in our workforce; encouraging the next generation of deep thinkers, engineers, physicists, mathematicians and cyber experts.  It means enabling individuals who are willing stretch their minds beyond, well beyond, one-dimensional problems. 

In fact, after lunch, I will travel to the Illinois Institute of Technology Idea shop where I will learn about some of their innovative projects, many of which are important to the Department of Defense -- including the means to detect smuggled nuclear materials through our ports of entry.

One area I didn’t talk about is the budget.  I know you are well aware of our current resource environment.  While the President’s budget for defense offers a balanced approach to national priorities and reduces some of the accumulated risks associated with modernizing U.S. Strategic Command mission areas, we cannot forget that our budget has a deterrent value of its own and reflects our nation's commitment to our deterrent strategy.

If we are to meet future challenges, we must continue to invest in our nuclear deterrent forces, foundational intelligence, nuclear command and control communications, space, cyberspace, missile defense and personnel development programs.

To that end, budget stability is integral to strategic stability.

In closing, let me say, in this era of resource constraints, we must get 21st century deterrence right, because we are dealing with a world where the rules are not respected.  I painted a rather somber picture of the global landscape, but I hope I impressed upon you that our nation is working hard to avoid strategic conflict and maintain stability.

If you take nothing else away with you today, know that we have stellar folks in our military.  As I have travelled to places as close as Minot, N. D., and as far away as Ala., Greenland, and Australia; I have personally witnessed their dedication, and I am proud of each and every one of them.

I want to thank you all again for your time this morning.  I will stop here to take a few of your questions.