An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


SPEECH | March 3, 2016

2016 Deterrence and Assurance Workshop and Conference

(As delivered)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command Commander: Well good evening. It’s great to be back here at the University of Nebraska Omaha, among such an elite group of critical thinkers we’ve assembled here, discussing a topic that’s near and dear to my heart − deterrence.

So Dr. [Lana] Obradovic, thank you for that kind introduction and all that you do here at the university.

Additionally, I want to thank Dr. [Judy] Neathery-Castro and Dr. Michelle Black for your leadership and planning and executing this deterrence and assurance conference and workshop.

I am thrilled with the participation. As of today, we have 23, that’s 23, local and national universities that are members of our academic alliance, and 14 of those universities are represented here tonight. What a great thing.

This morning, we had approximately 60 faculty members and students who participated in a thought-provoking, deterrence-themed tabletop exercise here at U.S. Strategic Command in our wargaming center. As I looked at it, I said “Boy, we need to enlarge that wargaming center so we can get more in there,” but that was just fantastic.

This opportunity provided the attendees a glimpse of how my team at U.S. Strategic Command analyzes our adversaries − and potential adversaries − and how critical that information is for senior decision-making.

So thank all of you who are here − especially those who travelled some distance to get to the heartland of America for discussions on deterrence, assurance, and escalation control. I know you will greatly benefit from the fantastic line-up of speakers and panels tomorrow. And I hope they will stimulate new thinking in deterrence and assurance studies.

I trust that this workshop will enable an exchange of information and a setting in which to debate concepts and perspectives.

I challenge you to engage, to ask your questions, walk away with a better understanding of deterrence and assurance, and drive to continue studying this topic. I also challenge you to engage with our allies, particularly [U.S.] Strategic Command’s British, Australian, and Danish liaison officers. They too will provide a unique perspective. I’m really pleased to have [U.K. Royal Navy] Captain [Richard] Dicky Daws and [U.K. Royal Navy] Commodore John MacDonald, who I think is here tonight? Where are you? Very good. He [MacDonald] came to visit [U.S.] Strategic Command today and I was glad that he would participate here tonight, as well. And Australia, [Royal Australian Air Force] Group Captain Chris Miller, and from Denmark, [Royal Danish Air Force] Lieutenant Colonel Kim Bech.

So, before I get to my “assigned remarks,” I am going to take a minute to recognize someone who knows a thing or two about national security decision making and truly understands the complexity of deterrence in today’s complex and multi-faceted strategic landscape.

Former Secretary Chuck Hagel is a highly accomplished political leader, a defense and foreign policy strategist, and a distinguished executive now at Georgetown University. But of course, he is my former boss.

He has had a tremendous, remarkable career, which he’s shown and demonstrated dedication to our nation in just so many ways. I can’t thank you enough for that.

I heard the chancellor [Dr. John Christensen] here will provide a more complete introduction, but I did have to highlight at least one area in which I worked with Secretary Hagel where he had just the enormous impact associated with things that I’m responsible for.

That’s associated with our nuclear deterrent enterprise. Under his leadership, significant positive change occurred, from oversight, to policy and culture. Today, our nuclear deterrent enterprise is healthier, and is getting much-needed support across our Department of Defense and Congress.

This is important because of the existential threats nations like Russia pose with their nuclear weapons capabilities. Secretary Hagel also reminded our strategic warriors the importance of their mission − deterring and detecting strategic attack against the United States and our allies − and that “no other capability we have is more important.”

I heard first-hand from our Sailors, our Soldiers, our Airmen and Marines, and our civilians, how much they appreciated your visits, Sir, to our nuclear bases. In fact, he was the first Secretary of Defense in 32 years to visit our missileers standing alert duty in the launch control centers in the missile fields.

Secretary Hagel, I salute and thank you for your exceptional service to our military and our nation, and I so look forward to your remarks tonight.

Now getting back to my favorite topic. Let me start by saying deterrence isn’t easy.

I appreciate the tremendous intellect represented here in this audience and I want you to know that I intend to leverage your innovative approaches and thinking to the fullest extent possible to address the complex challenges posed to us these days.

Deterrence is about conducting integrated and combined operations and activities. It requires a comprehensive understanding and perception of the strategic environment from an adversary’s point of view.

It’s about communicating capability and intent. Whether we are deterring aggression in space, cyberspace, or nuclear − and no matter the foe − 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.

Our adversaries must appreciate that we are not limited to a single domain or axis; that we will respond in a time and place and a domain of our choosing.

So how do we ensure that we continue to deter our adversaries, in a world where deterrence depends on the situation, and one size never fits all?

How do we convince adversaries − and potential adversaries − that our actions are aligned with our “peacetime” plans − that they don’t perceive and match our actions as escalatory?

This requires us to have a deep understanding of our adversaries and be able to rapidly connect to and digest traditional and non-traditional reams of information, integrate it together into historical and cultural models to create timely options for national security decision-makers

To get at some of the tough problems I described, we need high-velocity learners who are willing to develop and stretch their intellect well beyond one-dimensional problem solving as we work on these things. We need individuals that embrace what I like to call “beta-learning” or “continuous learning.”

We need leaders who do not become static, and who search for and recognize signals of change − and then find connections and solutions that are seemingly impossible.

We need “chess players” who can operate in a multi-dimensional environment, with multiple activities taking place simultaneously, on a board where they may not fully understand the rules by which multiple adversaries are playing.

We need to inspire and develop the next Tom Schelling or Henry Kissinger to address 21st century deterrence, assurance and escalation control issues.

This is why it’s so important to me to have an Academic Alliance with universities across our country − focused on developing a community of interest for deterrence and assurance in the context of national security.

So, Dr. John Christensen, the chancellor here at the university, has been instrumental in this university’s involvement, from fellowships to visiting my headquarters. This workshop is just one of the many ways the University of Nebraska Omaha and U.S. Strategic Command partner together.

My hope is that through U.S. Strategic Command’s partnership with the university here and other universities around the country, that being passionate about strategic deterrence will become a common theme and area of research − because the world we live in today is more diverse, and complex and uncertain than ever.

So let me get to my task at hand, and that is to introduce you, Chancellor John Christensen. He’s nearing 10 years in serving as the chancellor here at the university. And what I’ve heard from the faculty and staff here, they’re really hoping for another 10 years. And another 10 years from you there, Dr. Christensen.

You started working here; I am to understand, in 1978? That’s the year I graduated from the United States Naval Academy, so that’s interesting in that particular touchpoint that our careers have gone about from about the same starting point.

He’s had a variety of positions, including the Dean of the College of Education, and Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs. He also has the unique distinction of being the only UNO grad to hold this position.

Clearly, Dr. Christensen brings a wealth of experience to the university here, and I have tremendously enjoyed the number of conversations and interactions we have had. In fact, I will admit that as someone who always considers himself as a student, I have learned a great deal from all those conversations.

So before I turn it over to Dr. Christensen, I do want to touch on the university’s tremendous support to our military and veteran students.

Under Dr. Christensen’s leadership, this university has been named the nation’s best four-year university for veterans - and home of the nation’s best business school for veterans, two years in a row. The numbers are just as impressive. Approximately 10 percent of the student body here are service members, veterans or dependents, and I think that’s just phenomenal.

Dr. Christensen, I’m sure, is also proud of the university’s Presidential Award for Community Engagement − and recently of course, had the President of the United States here.

Dr. Christensen, thank you for your leadership, and what you do day after day every day here − not just for the university’s sake, but for our country. The education of our population is a strategic capability that we must never underrate.

So ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a warm welcome to Dr. Christensen.