U.S. Strategic Command Refines, Fields New Capabilities
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2007 To adapt to the shifting national security environment, United States Strategic Command is refining and fielding new capabilities, the organization’s commander said yesterday.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright outlined the transformation from Cold War-era structures to “new functionally aligned organizations designed to improve our operational speed and progress” in a prepared statement he submitted to the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
“We’ve moved from the old triad construct of the bombers, the submarines and the (intercontinental ballistic missiles) to one that is more integrated and offers the country a broader range of activities that can deter and assure our allies,” Cartwright said.
According to Cartwright’s statement, the functional components for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; network warfare; global network operations; information operations; integrated missile defense; and combating weapons of mass destruction are at or nearing full operational capability.
In addition, STRATCOM is constructing an organizational system “that can be joint from the start, can move to combined or allied type of configuration … so that we don’t have to build those in a time of crisis,” Cartwright said.
“Having a balanced … defense infrastructure underpinned by command and control and the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is critical to the strategy,” he said.
Subcommittee members asked Cartwright how the newly organized STRACOM will address issues like the reliable replacement warhead program to modernize U.S. nuclear capabilities. They also asked about China’s recent anti-satellite testing and the U.S. missile defense system, which some critics say has not yet sufficiently integrated the warfighters who operate it.
“One of the key issues before us today involving the nuclear arsenal is the reliable replacement warhead program,” said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, the subcommittee’s chair. “We must ask, first and foremost, do we really need such a significant modernization of our existing nuclear capabilities?”
Cartwright responded, “RRW is a form-fit function replacement, in that we’re not changing any of the delivery vehicles. … It puts us on the right path towards drawing this stockpile down to the minimum number necessary for national security.
“It has the same operational characteristics,” he said, “but it is safer for the people who have to handle it. It’s secure, so that one of these weapons does not end up in the wrong place, used in the wrong way. And it is reliable, which draws down the number of platforms I need and the number of weapons we have to deliver.”
The general then addressed members’ concerns about China’s January anti-satellite test, which destroyed a Chinese satellite orbiting in the upper area of the low earth orbit belt, an estimated altitude of 530 miles.
Cartwright said debris from the destroyed satellite could interfere with commercial and government satellites and other space equipment orbiting in the same region.
“We’re going to have to move to avoid this debris when it occurs; that is an impact on us,” he said. “We’re reactive in this; we’re going to have to change our posture to (predict) where this debris is going to be.”
Cartwright said such experiments are not unprecedented, referring to similar tests the U.S. and Soviet Union conducted during the Cold War, in which meddlesome debris took more than 20 years to disintegrate.
On the defensive side of the new triad, Cartwright said, the missile defense system has had success over the past year in forging the relationship between Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency.
“The test programs have moved to a much more successful footing,” he said. “Technically, because Missile Defense Agency has done a great job, (and) operationally, because we have integrated the warfighter into the test program.”
Cartwright said the system and its operators’ readiness and capability were tested July 4, when North Korea launched several missiles.
“We stayed in an operational configuration for an extended period of time,” he said. “The system worked well; we learned a lot. The system can be moved to an operational configuration any time.”