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SPEECH | Feb. 24, 2016

Chicago Navy Memorial Foundation Dinner

(As prepared)

Good evening and my compliments for a wonderful meal.

Dick [Vie], thanks for that kind introduction, and for your leadership and oversight of the Navy Memorial Foundation.

Alderman Ed Burke, Alderman James Balcer, Alderman George Cardenas, fellow flag and general officers, members of our military, veterans and representatives for the U.S. Navy League, industry, local businesses and academia – thanks for taking time to be here with us this evening.

I’d also like to recognize Jeff Gray, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, for his tremendous efforts in putting together a fantastic itinerary.  It truly has been a wonderful day, culminating with an interview at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library.

I’m a fundamental believer in having a culture of learning.  It’s what I call beta-learning or continuous learning.  I learn something new every day – whether it’s something about one of our adversaries, or my bride of almost 38 years. Yes, it’s amazing to think that after almost 38 years of marriage, I’ve finally learned that “no comment” is a viable response to any situation.

While I’m not sure the Pritzker library stocks books with appropriate responses for your spouse, I do want to thank Col. (Ret.) Jennifer Pritzker for providing such an excellent collection of materials that allow for open discussion of the past, present, and future of our military.

It really is an honor to be here with you this evening.  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 water as a Sailor can be.  So 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.

Despite that lack of salt water, the city of Chicago has, as I’ve come to appreciate, a great military heritage and has significantly contributed to the nation’s national security in terms of personnel and resources.

Since opening its doors in 1911, Chicago and the Navy’s boot camp just north of here at Naval Station Great Lakes has been a “home away from home” for thousands of Sailors, preparing young men and women with the necessary skills to defend the freedoms of our great nation.  It’s great to see Rear Adm. Stephen Evans, the commander for Naval Service Training Command here.

The Chicago Navy Pier was also a significant training ground.  Thousands of naval officers were taught to man merchant vessels during World War I.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, almost 15,000 naval aviators (including former President George H. W. Bush) were qualified to land on aircraft carriers and over 40,000 crew members were trained here on Lake Michigan before they went to the Pacific theater.

Having spent considerable time in the Pacific, I had the opportunity to visit the memorials and sites of historic battles like Midway, Peleliu, Tarawa, Guadalcanal and Corregidor. Each time I was struck by how remote and inhospitable these places were as I imagined the difficulties of fighting to take these beaches, with the crashing surf and shifting tides and the constant barrage of counter fire from the enemy. I’ve also been privileged to talk to veterans and hear their firsthand accounts of these battles and how they fought with honor, courage and commitment.

On a personal note, Chicago is the hometown of the late Adm. Hyman G. Rickover – a person with whom I interviewed as a midshipman and for whom I have the deepest respect.  Renowned as the Father of the Nuclear Navy, Admiral Rickover’s vision fundamentally changed how submarines powered through water – with a nuclear reactor.

Admiral Rickover’s foresight enabled those early submarines to break endurance records for speed, sail beneath the polar ice cap, and reach the geographic North Pole.  Today, our nuclear powered submarines perform a variety of missions from surveillance and reconnaissance, special operations, mine sweeping to nuclear deterrence.

Now, one could argue that nuclear deterrence started here in the “Windy City” a little over 73 years ago, when Enrico Fermi succeeded in obtaining the first-ever controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.  I am sure Fermi had no idea that his “experiment” under the Old Stagg Field at the University of Chicago would forever change science and the strategic calculus of the U.S. and its adversaries.

That strategic calculus became the foundation of the Cold War.

While the Cold War is over – and has been over for more than 24 years – the global security environment is more complex, dynamic and volatile than it’s ever been.  Just a glance at the headlines today will point to efforts supporting our coalitions in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places 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.

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 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 of 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, showing a 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. 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.

U.S. Strategic Command is working to support out national security approach to these global challenges.  As a functional combatant command, U.S. Strategic Command has trans-regional responsibilities that extend from under the sea all the way up to geosynchronous orbit.  In other words, our mission set is not geographic in nature, but rather is composed of global, functional, strategic capabilities, that we provide to warfighters tackling some of the challenges I described.

With that being said, I’ll spend a few minutes describing U.S. Strategic Command’s nine mission areas and my six associated priorities – and why they matter here in the “Windy City”.

You heard in the introduction that U.S. Strategic Command’s nine mission areas include:  strategic deterrence, space operations, cyber space operations, joint electronic warfare, global strike, missile defense, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, combating weapons of mass destruction, and analysis and targeting.

While these 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 strategic environment, I hope you can 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 included 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 also have strategic effect.

Second, strategic deterrence capabilities are sometimes simply described 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 omitted from the discussion 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.

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.  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.

Today 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, including missile defense.

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.

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, and the level of activity against our systems only continues to grow.

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 cyber security 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.

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.

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 having 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.  It means encouraging the next generation of deep thinkers, engineers, physicists, mathematicians and cyber experts.  It means enabling individuals who are willing to develop and stretch their minds beyond, well beyond, one-dimensional problems.

I was thrilled to see some of that intellectual thinking alive during my journey around Chicago today.  From the bright, thoughtful questions at the Rickover Academy, the inspired leadership seminar with more than 300 of Chicago’s youth to the very innovative projects going on at the Illinois Institute of Technology Idea lab – I am confident that today’s young leaders of Chicago will continue making us proud in the future.  So thanks to Col. (Ret.) Kevin Kelley, the executive Director of the Service Leadership Academy Network for Chicago Public Schools.

Similarly, we have stellar folks in our military, 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.  As I have travelled to places as close as Minot, N.D., and as far away as Alaska, Greenland, and Australia, I have personally witnessed their dedication, and I am proud of each and every one of them.

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.

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