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Stratcom Chief Talks Nuclear Deterrence, Modernization

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, January 22, 2016 — The global security environment calls for a continued strong nuclear deterrent along with modernization for elements of the nuclear triad and advanced training for U.S. Strategic Command’s workforce, the Stratcom commander said here today.

Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney addressed an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussing strategic deterrent forces as a foundation for national security.

Haney said today’s security environment is complex, dynamic and volatile, compounded by asymmetric methods, proliferation of advanced technologies, and provocative and destabilizing behavior by current and potential adversaries.

At the same time, he said, while the United States is engaged in a campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other violent extremists, the behavior on an international stage by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran warrants U.S. attention.

Russia’s Programs

Haney noted Moscow’s continued efforts to modernize conventional and strategic military programs, “emphasizing new strategic approaches, declaring and at times demonstrating their ability to escalate … and conducting destabilizing actions associated with Syria, Ukraine and Crimea while also violating the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty and other international accords and norms.”

Russia also is developing counter-space capabilities and conducting malicious activities in cyberspace, the admiral said, noting that Russia claims to be establishing its own cyber command that will conduct offensive cyber activities.

Still, Haney said, there is continued progress in the New START treaty, which reduces the number of nuclear weapons and launchers that the United States and Russia deploy.

New START Progress

“By complying with a series of treaties, the United States has reduced its stockpile by 85 percent relative to its Cold War peak,” the admiral said. “Instead of dozens of delivery systems, we're well on our way to only four. We are retaining and modernizing only those systems needed to sustain a stable and effective deterrent capability.”

Given continued funding and authority, Haney said, “we're on track to achieve New START limits of 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems by February 2018.”

The treaty, he added, engenders stability by maintaining rough equivalency in size, capability and transparency through inspections, and it helps to assure non-nuclear nations that they don’t need their own nuclear deterrents.

On China, Haney said, “It's not just the build-up of features into larger land masses in the South China Sea, it's also the build up of their overarching military capabilities to support their anti-access, area denial campaign and quest for sovereignty in the East and South China seas.”

China’s Military Investments

China continues to make significant military investments in its nuclear and conventional capabilities with a stated goal of defending its sovereignty, he added. For example, China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads, and it recently conducted a sixth successful test of a hyperglide vehicle.

China also is “parading missiles, clearly displaying their modernization and their capability advancements. China's pursuit of conventional global strike capabilities, offensive counter-space technologies and exploitation of computer networks raises questions about China's global aspirations,” Haney said.

North Korea and Iran

North Korea, with claims of miniaturized warheads, recent claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test and developments in road-mobile and submarine-launched ballistic missile technologies, shows disrespect for United Nations Security Council mandates and a lack of regard for regional stability, the admiral said. And with Iran, he added, even with the joint comprehensive plan of action, the United States must remain vigilant of any shift in actions regarding nuclear weapon ambitions, ballistic missile programs and continued involvement in Middle East conflicts.

As a functional combatant command, Haney said, Stratcom has transregional responsibility that extends from under the sea all the way up to geosynchronous orbit.

Six Priorities

Haney listed what he called his six overarching priorities for Strategic Command:

-- Deter strategic attack against the United States and provide assurance to allies;

-- Provide a safe, secure, effective and ready nuclear deterrent force;

-- Deliver comprehensive warfighting solutions;

-- Address challenges in space and cyberspace;

-- Build, sustain and support partnerships; and

-- Anticipate change and confront uncertainty.

“Achieving comprehensive deterrence and assurance requires more than just nuclear weapons systems,” the admiral said. It rests on a whole-of-government approach, he explained, and includes having a robust intelligence apparatus; space, cyber, conventional and missile defense capabilities; global command, control and communications; and comprehensive plans that link organizations and coherently knit their capabilities.

America’s Nuclear Deterrent

America’s nuclear deterrent, Haney added, is a synthesis of dedicated sensors, assured command and control, a triad of delivery systems, nuclear weapons, enabling infrastructure, trained and ready people and treaties and nonproliferation activities.

“All remain essential to our national security and continue to provide a stabilizing force in the global geopolitical fabric of the world,” he added.

Deterrence also requires a comprehensive understanding and perception of the strategic environment from an adversary's point of view, the admiral noted.

Haney said the command has made great strides in force improvement, readiness tracking and resource commitments, but most of its delivery systems and the nuclear command, control and communications architecture must be replaced in the 2025 to 2030 timeframe.

Strategic Stability

“We are fast approaching the point where [failing to modernize these elements] will put at risk our safe, secure and effective and ready nuclear deterrent, potentially jeopardizing strategic stability,” he said.

The budget has a deterrent value of its own and reflects the nation's commitment to its deterrent strategy, he added. “If we are to meet future challenges, we must have a synchronized campaign of investment supporting the full range of military operations that secure our national security objectives across the globe,” Haney said.

In the same way that Stratcom sustains and modernizes its platforms and weapons, the admiral said, the command also must sustain and modernize its workforce.

Future Force

“We must invest in the future of the professionals, both civilian and military, who operate, maintain, secure, engineer and support our nuclear enterprise,” he said, adding that Strategic Command is working in this area.

“For example, we’ve established an academic alliance program focused on developing a community of interest of deterrence and assurance in the context of national security,” the admiral said.

Stratcom is partnered with 20 universities and military higher-education institutes, including Stanford University, Georgetown University, National Defense University and several Nebraska universities, he said.

“Tomorrow, we will kick off the third 13-week fellowship program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha aimed specifically at providing professional growth opportunities for my civilian workforce,” Haney explained.

In March, he added, the same university will host an inaugural deterrence and assurance workshop aimed at bringing those professionals together for discussions.

“We must modernize the force, including the people, to ensure this force remains capable of delivering strategic stability and foundational deterrence well into the future, even as we pursue third-offset strategic choices,” Haney said.

The Defense Department’s “Third Offset Strategy” builds on work done in the 1950s and 1970s to ensure the United States and its allies maintain their technological edge over potential adversaries.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)