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SPEECH | Oct. 19, 2015

TF-294 Assumption of Command

(As prepared)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander: Good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, men and women of Task Force 294, 18th Air Force, Air Mobility Command and U.S. Transportation Command.

How about a round of applause [for Airman Aquino] for that wonderful rendition of our national anthem. I""m told this morning she""s an icon here. So great talent there.

It is great to be back at Scott Air Force Base given all that the team here does for our country, our security, and for strategic stability.

What a beautiful day to celebrate and welcome Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, Tammy, and their children, Claire and Patrick, to the U. S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and 18th Air Force families.

It""s fantastic also to have your mom, [Ann], and your dad here, Sam. And your dad, Jerry, who has served our country for 30 years in the Air Force uniform, service to our grateful nation. How about a round of applause? I know as parents you must be extremely proud of your son.

Gen. [Carlton] Everhart, thank you for your leadership in this critical mission of air mobility. I know you understand and appreciate the global mobility solutions that aircraft and air lift provide our combatant commanders around the globe; especially having previously served in command of 18th Air Force.

Maj. Gen. Tom Sharpy, I see you""re smiling today. Thank you for leading this incredible team here over the last ten weeks. I know Gen. Everhart here is eager to get you back as his Director of Strategic Plans, Requirements and Programs. So thanks for your leadership here.

Finally, it is super to have the U.S. Transportation Command team here, represented today by [Lt.] Gen. Stephen Lyons. It""s good to have you here today as well as [Mrs.] Evelyn [McDew,] thank you for being here this morning and all that you lead and represent.

Some of you might be surprised that the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, myself and team, is here today. I""m here, because I truly value the relationship between U.S. Strategic Command, 18th Air Force, Task Force 294, and the essential role air mobility continues to provide our strategic deterrent mission.

While the history of aerial refueling dates back to the 1920s, its application of the strategic deterrence mission really started in the 1940s when Gen. Curtis Le May, then Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command, asked Boeing to develop a refueling system that could transfer fuel at a high rate to support our bomber missions.

That led to the development of a variety of different platforms including the KB-29, KC-97, the KC-10, the KC-135 and of course the newest, the KC-46.

To realize the importance of air refueling back in the early 1950""s, one must remember that the main strategic bomber at the time was the B-47 Stratojet, which had a range of about 2,000 miles. That meant these B-47s required overseas basing to hold targets around the world at risk. Once the B-47s had the capability of in-flight refueling, they became intercontinental bombers with a virtually unlimited range. The advent of the tanker gave early bombers global reach. This is still very much the case today with the B-1s, the B-52s and, of course, the B-2 bomber.

Having not that long ago myself taken a KC-135 flight that included the inflight refueling of a B-2, I was astonished at the ease by which this operation was conducted. Clearly an out of body experience for this submariner - one I continue to call an unnatural act, since of course our nuclear powered submarines do not need to refuel.

Just as our strategic bombers depend upon tankers, conducting strategic deterrence depends upon more than the platforms and weapons that compose our visible triad of ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and our nuclear-capable bombers.

To have a credible safe, secure, and effective nuclear strategic deterrent, we need appropriate intelligence and sensing capabilities to give the indications and warnings of incoming threats. We must have assured national and nuclear command, control and communications to enable communications from the President down to the warfighter. Effective weapons systems, to include reliable warheads, are essential. But above all, our people must be trained and ready to maintain and operate those weapon systems. These visible, and not-so-visible, weapon systems work in concert enhancing strategic deterrence "" a concept first demonstrated with the advent of aerial refueling.

These tankers are critical to my operational plans, and I know the men and women assigned to 18th Air Force routinely practice bomber refuelings during our bomber assurance and deterrence missions conducted around the globe, in our exercises, and in our day-to-day operations.

Of course, tankers do more than just enable the global employment of our bombers. They also enable our airborne nuclear and national command and control aircraft to do their missions.

I place high priority on the tankers that are assigned to the E-6B Airborne Command Post and communications relay aircraft and the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, commonly called NAOC. These critical command and control platforms are essential to connecting the President to his nuclear forces. They are the survivable nodes that transmit emergency action messages to our forces, allowing both the military and the civilian leadership of our nation to ensure full control over our forces at all times. The E-6B also represents an airborne launch control center that can launch our Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, if needed. And finally, that same platform serves as a critical communications link between our command centers and our on-alert ballistic missile submarines.

As such, I hope I have illustrated that the tankers are a very important asset to me. They support the legs of the nuclear triad and they enable survivable command and control capabilities, which underpin our nuclear deterrent.

I am also reminded that strategic and tactical airlift is necessary to move our Mobile Support Teams, which support all aspects of U.S. Strategic Command""s strategic deterrence mission.

While today, some equate U.S. Strategic Command""s strategic deterrence capability as simply holding on to the legacy of the Cold War stuff. Let me be clear. Today, this is not about the Cold War. The Cold War is over, and has been over for more than 23 years. This is about addressing a global strategic and security environment that is more diverse and uncertain than at any time in our history.

For example, Russia has more than a decade of investments and modernization across their nuclear forces. China is modernizing its strategic nuclear platforms, and is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads.

Even North Korea continues heightening tensions by coupling provocative statements and actions with advancements in strategic capabilities and claims of developments in miniaturized nuclear warheads and in road-mobile and submarine-launched ballistic missile technologies. Now I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Yes, the world today is complex and dynamic. Intent can change quickly, and I would argue that our strategic deterrence mission remains relevant today.

At the end of the day, our day to day readiness matters to maintaining strategic stability. Should deterrence fail, our strategic capability has to work. Our adversaries must understand that they cannot escalate their way out of a failed conventional conflict.

We cannot successfully employ our nuclear triad without you, 18th Air Force.

I want to salute our warriors here, active duty, guard and reserve, from the senior leaders to the most junior among you "" for all you do "" day in and day out for our nation in support of our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and civilians conducting operations across the globe.

Our nation is blessed today to have Sam Cox take the helm of 18th Air Force and Task Force 294. He has an impressive resume, packed with extensive leadership and operational experience. From his bio, you can tell he has worked both manpower and personnel issues, as well as strategy and policy. He has commanded at the squadron, wing, and operation center levels. He has deployed in support of operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. And most importantly, he knows air mobility operations and knows Scott Air Force Base.

We are getting an inspirational leader who is calm, compassionate and down to earth. He is a strategic thinker, a good listener, an outstanding communicator, and I""m told you will enjoy his sense of humor.

Sam, you are taking command at a time when the global landscape is increasingly complex, and the demands for airlift are skyrocketing, at a time when our available budget is not.

I""m sure you are happy with the great work going on with the new KC-46 Pegasus. But, as with everything else we are doing to modernize our forces, operating long-term under a continuing resolution can have some serious implications. It is not just problematic for this program, but for many programs affecting our entire joint military force.

I look forward to working with you to address the many complex issues we face.

Sam and Tammy, Bonny and I welcome you to the U.S. Strategic Command family. As my wonderful bride often reminds me, military life is also demanding on the family.

While it offers experiences you could never have elsewhere, I know it also involves a lot of moves and upheavals in your personal lives. It requires significant sacrifice. Don""t think I ever take that for granted. I thank you both for your service to our country.

Tammy, I understand you were teaching high school English before your move. I want to thank you for your part in keeping excellent written and oral communications afloat in a sea of acronyms and emoticons.

Claire, congratulations to you on your recent selection for Officer Training School and I salute your plan to fly our remotely piloted aircraft. This is an exciting field to be going into as every Combatant Commander, including myself, wants more of this capability.

Patrick, I understand you""re living and working in Illinois. I know your parents will be happy that you""re closer by. I enjoyed our conversation this morning over the Lamborghini. That""s some pretty cool stuff.

I look forward to getting to know you all as a family better. I look forward to working with you and the teams of Task Force 294, 18th Air Force, and Air Mobility Command.

Thank you all for tolerating me this morning. May God continue to bless the wonderful leaders we have here, our all-volunteer force, and of course the United States of America.

Thank you.