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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Adm. Haney in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Press Operations

Admiral Cecil Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command
March 24, 2015
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STAFF: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for attending the briefing today.

Today you'll hear from Admiral Cecil Haney, the commander of the United States Strategic Command.

You should have already received his biography, a press release on our ongoing command and control exercise Global Lightning, as well as information on strategic missiles -- excuse me, strategic weapons tests. If you haven't received those, let us know, and we'll be happy to get those to you right away.

Admiral Haney will begin with a few brief comments, prior to taking your questions. And I would ask that you help us out by identifying yourselves and your organization, prior to asking those questions of Admiral Haney.

And if there's no questions for me, ladies and gentlemen, Admiral Cecil Haney, commander, United States Strategic Command.

ADMIRAL CECIL HANEY: Well, good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here and I want to thank you all for your coverage of defense and your role, quite frankly, in telling the American public about their military and the world about the brave men and women who serve.

I've spent a considerable amount of time, more recently here on Capitol Hill, meetings with various members of Congress and providing testimony in both open and closed sessions. And while it's an important part of my job, I will say I am not unhappy, I am not unhappy to be done with all those scheduled hearings.

I thought it would be helpful if I highlighted a couple of focus areas. In particular Strategic Command's role in the context of the global security environment and, of course, my budget priorities.

First, as we look back on the events of 2014, and the early part of 2015, we can see that today's threat environment is more diverse, complex and uncertain than it's ever been, against a backdrop of global security environment latent with multiple actors, operating across multiple domains. From under the sea to geosynchronous orbit, you have your Strategic Command focused on addressing existential threats and preserving our democratic values and way of life.

For 70 years, we have deterred and assured. And while our nation's nuclear enterprise is safe, secure and effective, we cannot take it for granted any longer. For decades, we have sustained while others have modernized their strategic nuclear forces, developing and utilizing counterspace activities, increasing the sophistication and pervasive nature of their cyber capabilities and proliferating these emerging strategic capabilities around the globe.

You all know Russia is modernizing both their nuclear triad and associated industrial base, and President Putin continues his provocative actions, such as demonstrating nuclear capabilities during the Ukraine crisis, penetrating U.S. and allied air defense identification zones with long-range strategic aircraft flights and violating the INF treaty.

And Russia is not alone. China has developed a capable submarine and intercontinental ballistic missile force, and has recently demonstrated their counterspace capabilities. North Korea claims to have possession of a miniaturized warhead and frequently parades their KN-O8 nuclear-capable ballistic missile. And Iran recently launched a space vehicle that could be used as a long-range strike platform.

While strategic deterrence today is underpinned and reinforced by our nuclear capabilities, it is more than nuclear. It also includes space, a contested, congested and competitive environment, and cyber space, where intrusions around the globe are also increasing at an unprecedented and alarming rate.

The president's budget for 2016 strikes a responsible balance between national priorities and fiscal realities, and it supports my mission requirements, but leaves no margin to absorb new risks.

As a nation, we cannot simply afford to underfund our strategic capabilities. Any cuts to the president's budget, including those imposed by sequestration, will hamper our ability to sustain and modernize our joint military forces and put us at real risk of making our nation less secure and able to address future threats.

I will conclude by saying I can't do this alone. No combatant commander can do it all. It requires us all to work together, as part of our whole-of-government effort, so that we can provide the nation with the requisite capability for our national security.

Finally, I'm proud to lead the outstanding service men and women, as well as the civilian workforce of U.S. Strategic Command. We remain ready, agile and effective, deterring strategic attack, assuring our allies and partners and addressing a diverse, complex and uncertain world.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your questions.

Bob?

Q: Admiral, Bob Burns, from Associated Press. I have a question for you about the nuclear reviews that Secretary Hagel completed last year. And one of the changes that he ordered, as you know, is to elevate the Global Strike Command from a three-star general to a four-star.

And the four-star general who's been nominated has no strategic nuclear background. And, not making any comment on his qualifications, but I'm just wondering if you could -- what does this say about the shallow bench of general officers in the ICBM field today? And does it -- is it going to have the same impact that you had intended it, to elevate it to a four-star position?

ADM. HANEY: Let me say, absolutely yes. The strategic deterrent enterprise reviews we had in 2014 were important, important to me because, number one, it showed the importance of this particular area, the importance of having a safe, secure and effective strategic deterrence, through that whole process.

And, quite frankly, it did everything from an internal, external, and bottoms-up review to really look at it holistically.

It is about leadership. And, quite frankly, I'm pretty proud of the leaders I have today and the leaders I'll have in the future associated with this part of our national security apparatus.

Q: My point being the fact that there are apparently no four-star generals qualified for the job.

ADM. HANEY: Well, Bob, I'm not going to get into questioning the leadership. I'm really, quite frankly, thankful for the leadership. And I know a lot of scrutiny goes on in terms of what leaders the Air Force, the Navy, the other services provide our apparatus. We're a joint military force. And each of those leaders bring their joint military experience to what I need in terms of running this nuclear deterrent enterprise.

Q: Admiral Haney?

Q: Admiral?

ADM. HANEY: Please.

Q: Jamie McIntyre with Al Jazeera America. You mentioned in your opening comments that North Korea has claimed to have miniaturized some elements of its program. You made reference to that in your testimony about the belief. Can you help us understand what is -- doesn't North Korea have a nuclear warhead it can put on a missile at this point? What's your best knowledge about that?

ADM. HANEY: Well, as you have mentioned and as I stated, they claim they have a miniaturized nuclear warhead. And just that statement in itself is very important and cannot be ignored. At the same time, they have demonstrated, as I mentioned, by launching various associated rockets, as well as their space-launched vehicle during the time frame here. And they've parades this Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, called the KN-08 around and clearly put that on demonstration. As of yet, I don't see any tests yet that associated with this miniaturized claim. But as a combatant commander, as commander of your Strategic Command, it's a threat that we cannot ignore as a country.

Q: Does deterrence have any effect on North Korea?

ADM. HANEY: Absolutely. The fact that we have a safe, secure and credible strategic capability does have an impact and it's something that any nation state, any adversary that would think they could escalate their way out of a conflict has to think about.

Phil?

Q: Admiral Phil Ewing with Politico. On your comments about the threat to space and the threat in space, how urgent is that? Is that something that's right around the corner? Is it five years down the line? And is the United States doing enough to prepare to defend military and civilian spacecraft against these potential dangers?

ADM. HANEY: The threat in space, I fundamentally believe, is a real one. It's been demonstrated. First, in 2007 as we watch, quite frankly, with astonishment, as the Chinese launched their Anti-Satellite kill vehicle up in space and created just thousands and thousands of pieces of debris that we are confronted with even today.

They've repeated this kind of test in -- last summer. And during that test, fortunately, they did not do a hit-to-kill kind of thing. And as a result, that's good, because we didn't end up with more debris. But as a result, you know, there's a debris problem up there. But just seeing the nature of these types of activities show how committed they are to a counter-space campaign. So we have to be ready for any campaign that extends its way into space.

Q: What does "being ready" mean? Does it mean new systems, new sensors? How do you take the need to be ready forward in terms of programs?

ADM. HANEY: In terms of programs, first and foremost, we have to be able to really recognize what's going on in outer space. And this is what we call the space situational awareness programs. And this program has to be more than just cataloguing things, but really being able to monitor and attribute any mischief that is detected in space.

Additionally, we have to have and we're working toward resiliency, both in how we operate, resiliency in designs, resiliency in how we work with our international partners and what have you, in that regard, and in fact, other mechanisms associated with space protection. Now I won't give any further details here because going further than that, it's pretty classified.

Q: Just one other quick follow-up, what do you think the future of Cyber Command should be? Should it be its own separate, stand-alone combatant command?

ADM. HANEY: Well, as you know, Phil, your Cyber Command is a sub-unified command that works for me today. Admiral Mike Rogers I consider my battle buddy. We work very closely in terms of dealing with the threats we have in cyber today. I don't impede his operations on a day-to-day basis. But when it comes strategically, we are linked together.

And my priorities today, quite frankly, is that we work to build up our cyberspace capabilities and capacities as a priority. And I think if Mike Rogers was in the room, he would tell you that's a priority for him, as well.

ADM. HANEY: Where this goes in the future as we develop more and more cyberspace capabilities, I won't speculate here. We'll see how it occurs. But when you look at -- and as I mentioned -- it's very important as a joint military force that we work together -- we work together to solve the problems today and work together for solutions in the future. And that's exactly what Mike Rogers and I are doing today.

Q: Thank you, sir.

ADM. HANEY: Yes, please?

Q: (inaudible) -- from Inside the Air Force. There's plenty of people in Washington who don't want to fund nuclear modernization. Could you do without, say, a new -- a new ICBM or a new cruise missile?

ADM. HANEY: I would say it's imperative that we move forward with our nuclear modernization programs. We've put some of these programs on hold as we've had to address other things. But as you look at the modernization that is going on in various other countries, it's very important that we have a safe, secure and effective and credible strategic deterrent, not just today, but in the future.

When President Obama made his speech in -- in Prague, he announced the fact -- and it's something I truly believe in -- "I would like to have a world free of nuclear weapons." But as he also said, it's going to take time and patience. And it may not occur in his lifetime.

So, this is an area, as we have seen, other nation states invest in. It's important to us for deterrence. It's important to us for assurance going forward. Because we do not want other nations building more and more nuclear capability.

Q: Are these weapons -- (inaudible) -- out that you have at the moment?

ADM. HANEY: When you say "weapons" -- when I look at our strategic deterrent, it's more than weapons. It's our warning system. It's our national nuclear command and control and communications capability, our platforms, all the way to the weapons. So, we have platform modernization that we have to get to. For example, the Ohio replacement program. Very important to me that we not delay that any further, or we will have gaps. So, that's just one example.

Thank you.

Bob?

Q: How many weapons --how many nuclear weapons does the United States have? How many does it need?

ADM. HANEY: Well, I would focus it more where we're going with the new START Treaty in terms of 2018, which isn't that far away. We've agreed to go down to 15 -- 50 operational nuclear warheads. And quite frankly, I am very proud of the -- the overall reduction we have had over time, when you look back just a few decades how many we had and what we have today. Those -- you know, we want to have a safe, secure and effective and a meaningful nuclear deterrent going forward.

Q: Can you do that and still be lower than those levels?

ADM. HANEY: I would just say, as we go further in terms of arms control agreements, going lower, we just need to make sure we have verifiable means, not unilateral, and that we approach this, quite frankly, in a deliberate fashion, as we've done our other arms control agreement.

Barbara?

Q: Admiral, can I take you back to Iran for a minute? Right now, now that they have achieved a long-range albeit space launch, what's your assessment? Could they launch a missile that could hit the United States, number one? How soon could they do that, in your estimation?

And second, the current negotiations on -- with Iran, about their nuclear program, as you look at that, is that negotiation, if it is successful, enough for you to believe it's a sufficient deterrent to Iran having a full nuclear capability with a miniaturized warhead and a delivery system?

ADM. HANEY: Well, I would say first and foremost, as we work deterrents at large, it's a whole of government approach to the problem. And I think you are aware of that. I am not going to get into the work that's ongoing right now. I think that would be too speculatory. And I will allow the folks in the National Security Council and the Department of State work that particular problem.

I will say, as you have articulated, that the business of seeing Iran work -- to work to understand and be able to launch things in space is part of that physics problem. And that's why we have our missile defense system. And it's designed in order to take on those kinds of threats, both from Iran and North Korea. And we are continuing to work that system so that it can be ready in time.

Q: Does Iran have a long-range missile that could hit the United States?

ADM. HANEY: At this point in time, I would say Iran has worked on their capability, and to date they've only demonstrated their ability to go in space, and I'll leave it at that.

Q: I'm (inaudible) with the Korean-U.S. News. Do you think that the North Korean nuclear capability ballistic missiles they have, do you think South Korea needs strategically THADD system against the North Korea ballistic -- you know, high-level missile threat?

ADM. HANEY: If I understand your question, and perhaps I'll paraphrase it a bit here, is how concerned am I associated with the Republic of Korea, South Korea's concerns for North Korea and the nuclear threat that they propose.

I would just say we work very close in hand with the Republic of Korea. In fact, their chief of defense visited me at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters last year, and we had great discussions there, Admiral Choi, associated with what U.S. Strategic Command has overall in our concept of operation for strategic deterrence and assurance.

And so, we've worked very closely, clearly, with U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces-Korea.

Q: But my question is do you think South Korea needs THAAD system against the North Korean missile threat?

ADM. HANEY: I still…

Q: THAAD.

Q: THAAD.

Q: South Korea needs a THAAD.

ADM. HANEY: Oh, a THAAD system. I know that there is some discussions that are going on with THAAD today. I'm not going to get in front of those discussions. I think South Korea has to determine what it needs. They're a great partner that we have worked with in multiple dimensions, and we'll continue to do so.

Q: Did the -- (inaudible) -- THAAD, that General Dempsey will visit South Korea this week, Thursday. What is the official agenda between South Korea and the United States? And will they talking about the --

(CROSSTALK)

ADM. HANEY: I won't get into what Chairman Dempsey is going to talk about with his agenda. That's his agenda, and we'll let that unfold. And I'm sure you'll hear more about it.

Yes, sir?

Q: (innaudible), (innaudbile). I'd like to follow up a little bit more about your statement with the North Korean capabilities on miniaturized warhead.

So, you stated to service committee, we think they already miniaturized some of this capability. So your -- your assessment that North Korea is now posing more threat to the region or the U.S.?

ADM. HANEY: Well, I would just say, first and foremost, North Korea has been very provocative in what they have stated that they would do, when you look at over the last couple years of activity. They have conducted three nuclear tests. So clearly their nuclear ambitions are not new news.

They have claimed that they have miniaturized -- as I said before, they have claimed that they have miniaturized a nuclear warhead. And, quite frankly, from my command, I have to assume so and think about that in terms of our deterrence, assurance and associated response option.

Q: Just one more. Related to the world without nuclear weapons, my understanding is that that is something that try to reduce the role of the nuclear weapons, probably in the future. But it also seems to be that it's trying to reduce your role. So have you ever felt any difficulty to keep your command's role every time high --

(CROSSTALK)

ADM. HANEY: I work with some astute professionals, both there in Nebraska at headquarters, as well as the men and women that serve throughout the United States and beyond, in the mission of deterrence and assurance, space, cyberspace, missile defense, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, in all of my mission areas.

And I'm proud of each and every one of them. And I can tell you, their morale is pretty high. These are individuals that come to work every day focused on the mission. And I'm astonished by the work that they do.

David?

Q: You said that last summer's Chinese anti-satellite test was not a hit to kill. So, what was it? Can you -- can you describe that test a little more and why you're concerned about it?

And then, on a separate subject, you mentioned a couple times that the North Koreans have paraded the KN-08. Do you consider the KN-08 an operational missile?

ADM. HANEY: First, for space, in -- I think it was July of 2014, was -- where the Chinese launched a similar test that they had with a anti-satellite missile in space that they did in 2007. The only difference this time, it did not impact another satellite. I'm not convinced that was their intention. But quite frankly, just the whole physics and the demonstration and everything that they did, I'm sure they collected data, and what have you, in order to further make this an operational capability.

Q: I'm sorry. Could -- you're not sure they intended not to hit something or you -- are you saying you think they might have been trying to hit something and didn't?

ADM. HANEY: I'm saying -- I'll give you the facts. They didn't hit anything. But quite frankly, that does not mean that that was a failed test. What I'm saying is that it could likely be what they intended to do, while gathering data associated with their tests at large, in terms of things.

Q: The 2007 test was against satellite in Low Earth Orbit. Was this test --

ADM. HANEY: This was also a test for capability in Low Earth Orbit.

Now getting to your question, relative to the KN-08 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile that's been paraded around, from where I stand as Combatant Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, I can't just assume that away. I have to plan accordingly, associated with that. And that's why
it's so important that we have strategic deterrents as a national priority and why we continue to invest to have a safe, secure and effective capability for now and into the future.

Sir?

Q: Thank you, Admiral. John Harper with Stars and Stripes. Going back to the counter-space capabilities, what is the U.S. military doing to improve America's counter-space capabilities? And do you feel like enough money is being invested in that area?

ADM. HANEY: I believe the president's budget in 2016 provides adequate funding associated with where we need to invest in, associated with our capabilities for space protection.

And as I mentioned earlier here, there are various chapters and verses associated with what we need to do. And enhancing our awareness in space, as mentioned through the Space Situational Awareness Program and in both working to develop responsive capabilities in space -- tactics, techniques and procedures, more flexibility and agility there, just as much as maneuvering on the ground and what have you -- is part of our calculus, are also building resiliency in our architecture and resiliency in our concept of operations.

Q: You mentioned resiliency in defensive measures. But are you developing any offensive capabilities, anti-satellite capabilities, anything like that, that could be used in operations against sophisticated foreign military.

ADM. HANEY: I will leave it at we are working for our space protection program. And quite frankly, when you look at any domain, and we sometimes fixate ourselves on one versus the other, whether it's space, cyberspace, et cetera, to me, we have to continue to work on cross-domain solutions. And that's exactly what our space strategy said in 2011. We're continuing to work on that strategy and continue to work to operationalize it.

Q: Admiral, I apologize for asking so many questions, but we don't get a chance to talk to you that often. I wanted to take you --

ADM. HANEY: Yeah, I could have you come out to Nebraska there and visit me there.

Q: -- well, I'm on my way. I want to get back to the big -- sort of the big picture. Has the nuclear triad sort of outworn its usefulness? Could you accomplish your mission just as effectively without all three legs of the triad in the future?

ADM. HANEY: Well, first and foremost, I would say we have looked at this and validated it year after year, particularly historic for me, more personal, was with the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and that process, because I was in the Pentagon then. And then seeing this, of course, accounted for and the value of the triad, all the way through Quadrennial Defense Review 2014.

When you look at the triad, the responsive nature of our Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, the survivable nature of our ballistic missiles, submarines and the flexibility and the visibility of our bomber leg, each of those provide unique characteristics that are so important to strategic deterrence in the 21st century.

Q: What do you say to critics who say the modernization program is -- is too expensive, unsustainable, in effect, overkill?

ADM. HANEY: I would say to them that when you look at our nuclear capabilities, two points. One is, today we sustain it on something less than three percent in the capability and the national insurance policy we have and associated with an existential threat to the United States of America and our allies. And I -- when we look at this modernization, we're talking about, you know, instead of 2.6 or so percent of Defense spending, to be on the order of five percent to six percent. And I would say as we look at that, we may want to flip it around a little bit and think about it in terms of it's part of the national policy that is an insurance policy for deterrence well into the future. And it's something that the cost of not doing it can be more of a problem than the cost of doing it would be what I'd answer to that.

In the gray sweater?

Q: Yes. (inaudible) -- of Air Force Times. You talked about morale in your command earlier. And I wanted to go back to one of the biggest stories from last year was morale among troops in the nuclear community, most specifically Air Force missileers. And I was wondering, from your perspective, are you satisfied with the progress of the Air Force's force improvement program on this? What changes sort of need to be done going ahead? Are there any more issues that really need to be addressed in the near term?

ADM. HANEY: Well, I Brian, thank you for that question. I would say first and foremost, it's important that we continue to work on things. I wouldn't say I'd declare victory just because of the improvements we put in place in 2014. This is a business about -- in order to have safe, secure and effective is a continuum. So, that requires the requisite and the right training. It requires the right readiness. And those two are parts of how our service men and women look at this mission.

And then the other part is the business of being recognized of just how important this mission is for our country. So, as I've traveled around and visited the various bases that our -- what I call strategic warriors, whether they're in the missile fields, the submarines, or whether they're dealing with space or cyberspace, I find each of them today very excited about the mission that they're in. And I think -- I think it was Air Force Times that just recently had an article about how the morale has improved the retention associated with some of the Air Force missileers. And so, I know you're paying attention to that -- (inaudible).

Q: Admiral --

ADM. HANEY: Yes?

Q: -- could I ask you again, at the budget -- you had a discussion last week on the Hill just about OCO not being a suitable replacement for -- for stable base budget funding. You may get your money for 2016, but then after that, you know, then what? Take some money out of the ground-based strategic deterrent for other priorities? How important is stability in the budget when it comes to your modernization plan?

ADM. HANEY: Well, stability in the budget is important for defense at large and security for our nation. For my business, no different. Very important that we are able to plan more than one year, and be able to have that outlook. Very important for our workforce, as well as for our mission in terms of achieving the ends we ascribe to per our strategy.

So, being able to look at it year to year is very problematic, because when you look at these programs that take a while in order to get them built and in operation, even though they last a long time -- I mean, the B-52 we're operating today, built in '62, will be out there all the way to 2040. Just one.

The submarine program, very similar. Built for 30 years. 42 years of service life -- we have extended it. We can't extend it any further. But it requires stable, predictable funding. And that's the piece that we have to get better than where we are today. Number one, I would say we've got to have the president's budget. And then we've got to have a long-term view as we look at this type of spending.

STAFF: Last question.

ADM. HANEY: In the red tie.

Q: Admiral, going back to cyber for a second, can you describe the cyber capability of ISIS and whether they have the ability to conduct cyber attacks? And is there any evidence of that?

ADM. HANEY: Well, I think you have seen our outfits, like IS and ISIL, various other organizations, as you look at the list of different cyber activities that have occurred. And clearly in the case of that group, being able to use it to recruit, use cyber to threaten and those kind of things -- so we see more and more sophistication associated with that.

This is something that we look at very, very closely. U.S. Cyber Command as well as our interagency team are working this piece. And, quite frankly, it is looked at on a day-to-day basis.

Q: This kill list that ISIS issued, is that evidence of sophistication from ISIS or perhaps something else?

ADM. HANEY: I would just say, you know, they were -- wherever they got that information, it didn't come from Department of Defense's networks, quite frankly. It's unfortunate. And, quite frankly, the safety and welfare of the joint military forces and particularly the people I lead is very important, going forward.

So we do have a campaign where we practice and train on operational security, but not just with the members, but also alert the families, in terms of this business of using social media.

Well, listen, I thank each and every one of you, as I did at the beginning of my opening statement, for covering national defense. I think it's very important. You are part of that connective tissue to not just our nation, but many nations at large, quite frankly, in our connected world we live in.

And, quite frankly, I really thank you for paying attention and saluting our joint military forces for the work that they do day in and day out for the safety and security of the United States of America. Thank you.