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Strategic Command Priorities Chart Way Forward

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2013 – With a broad array of challenges and a new defense strategy based on a leaner, more agile and technologically advanced force, U.S. Strategic Command has widened its aperture to focus on priorities that extend beyond its historic nuclear deterrence mission, its commander reported.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, shares his command priorities, all focused on providing strong U.S. deterrence and readiness capabilities, with members of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce near his command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., March 9, 2012. U.S. Strategic Command photo by Dan Rohan

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“My No. 1 priority remains the same: to deter a nuclear attack with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force,” Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler told American Forces Press Service.

It’s a mission he said will remain paramount for as long as nuclear weapons exist.

Ensuring a credible nuclear deterrent -- one the president could call on to go operational, if needed -- requires maintenance of the triad of ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable heavy bombers, an assured warning and command-and-control system and a safe, reliable nuclear stockpile, Kehler said.

While emphasizing the need for modernization -- and, in the case of the Ohio-class submarine, replacement -- Kehler verified the viability of these systems to Congress earlier this month.

“I can assure you that today’s nuclear weapons and triad of delivery platforms are safe, secure and effective,” he told the Senate and House armed services committees.

Recognizing that deterrence in light of today’s threats and challenges requires a broad range of capabilities, Kehler reported several command priorities that align with Stratcom’s full spectrum of missions and responsibilities:

-- Deter nuclear attack with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force;

-- Partner with other combatant commands to win today;

-- Deter nuclear attack with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force;

-- Respond to new challenges in space;

-- Build cyberspace capability and capacity; and

-- Prepare for uncertainty.

Unlike most U.S. combatant commands that focus on a specific geographic region, Stratcom works hand in hand with every other combatant command to provide capabilities their missions demand, Kehler said. This includes satellites that allow them to communicate, cyber defenses that protect their networks, and GPS capabilities that help them navigate and, when necessary, to lock in on and engage targets.

“We believe we are standing in the theaters, shoulder-to-shoulder with theater combatant commanders,” Kehler said. “We are essential to the function of the geographic combatant commands. And we are critical in the fight.”

After a decade of conflict, Stratcom is working with its partners across the Defense Department to institutionalize lessons learned, and improve the support it provides to current operations and responses to future threats, he said.

In addition, concerned by increased activity in space and the proliferation of capabilities that could threaten space-based operations on which the U.S. military depends, Stratcom is focused on ensuring its systems are available, whenever and wherever they are needed, Kehler said.

“If space and cyberspace are the great enablers for the American way of warfare, and I believe they are, then we have got to make sure those remain enablers,” Kehler said. “What we don’t want is for them to become points of vulnerability to exploit, and to prevent us from waging the American way of warfare.”

The command has spent much of the past year improving its contingency plans and enhancing the resilience of its systems, the general told Congress.

Kehler also noted the explosive growth in hostile cyber activities -- both in quantity and intensity -- and the threat they pose to military operations. Working largely through its subordinate command, U.S. Cyber Command, Stratcom is continuing its efforts to protect U.S. military access to and freedom of action in cyberspace, the general reported.

Despite the myriad security challenges the United States faces today, Kehler said he’s made a concerted effort to get the Stratcom staff to look over the horizon to discern threats yet to materialize.

“We expend considerable effort trying to understand the emerging strategic environment to avoid or limit the impact of surprise which military history makes clear is a deadly enemy,” he told the congressional panels.

“The question for us is, as we prepare for the future, are we ready to deal with uncertainty?” he said. “Have we prepared ourselves in a way that acknowledges that surprise is going to happen, and that surprise can be deadly if we allow it to be so?”


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Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler

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U.S. Strategic Command

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