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Stratcom Prepares for Future Capabilities, General Says

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2009 – The global financial crisis and the threat of nuclear proliferation and persistent warfare in the Middle East and Central Asia are playing a major role in determining future national security capabilities, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command told Congress here today.

Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton told the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces that “2009 is an especially noteworthy year” because of the unique security challenges America faces.

Those challenges, along with the ever-changing rate of technology “often outpaces capabilities and policies,” Chilton said. He added that he is looking forward to the upcoming Congressional Commissions Report on the Strategic Posture of the United States, as well as this year’s Defense Department Quadrennial Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review.

“The recommendations made in these studies will shape our national security capabilities long into the future,” he said.

This year will be an important year for Congress to act on the issue of the aging U.S. nuclear stockpile, Chilton said. The stockpile, nuclear infrastructure and human capital are the most urgent concerns for the U.S. nuclear enterprise, he said. Modernization, he added, will “relieve growing uncertainty about the stockpile’s future reliability and sustainability.”

Credible deterrence operations depend on a reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons, Chilton said. And although U.S. nuclear weapons deployment, production, and testing have reduced substantially since the Cold War, many allies rely on the United States for those capabilities, he noted.

“Deterrence remains as central to America’s national security as it was during the Cold War,” Chilton said, “because, as ever, we would prefer to prevent war rather than to wage it.”

On space operations, Chilton said space-based capabilities give the nation essential, but often unnoticed, capabilities. However, the satellites that carry those capabilities require more and careful attention to eliminate possible delays in missile defense.

“We have made progress in space situational awareness, but capability gaps remain, and require sustained momentum to fill,” he said, noting last month’s collision between the U.S. Iridium communication satellite and Russia’s decommissioned military satellite.

Cyberspace, another key aspect of Stratcom’s mission, has become increasingly important to the warfighter, Chilton said. He remains concerned about growing threats on computer networks and is calling for changes within the Defense Department’s “fundamental network of culture, conduct and capabilities to address this mission,” he said.

“We also endeavor to share our best [networking] practices with partners across the government,” he said. “Still the adequate provisioning of cyber missions, especially with manpower, remains our greatest needs.”

Stratcom continues to be proficient in executing operations in the realms of space, cyberspace and deterring war, Chilton said. He praised his command for its ability to provide “a unique global perspective in advocating for” missile defense, information operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – capabilities the country needs to ensure national security, he said.

“In this uncertain world, [Congress’s] support is critical to enabling successful execution across the command’s assigned missions,” he said, “and in realizing [the U.S.] vision to be leaders in strategic deterrence and preeminent global war fighters in space and cyberspace.”

Contact Author

Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton

Related Sites:
U.S. Strategic Command
Video of House Armed Services Committee Hearing

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