Strategic Command Provides Vital Warfighter, Operational Support
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2013 While providing the deterrence to protect the United States from a strategic attack, U.S. Strategic Command is playing a very real, yet often unrecognized, role in operations in Afghanistan and around the globe, its commander, Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, reported.
Warfighters might not realize it, but U.S. Strategic Command provides many of the capabilities they rely on in combat operations. Here, Army 1st Lt. Michael Kim, platoon leader of 2nd Platoon, Apache Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, checks his location with a handheld GPS -- a capability provided through Stratcom -- while on patrol in southern Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matt Young
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I joke to theater combatant commanders and tell them, ‘There isn’t anything you do that Stratcom doesn’t touch,’” Kehler told American Forces Press Service during an interview here.
“At first they would push back on that,” he said, not immediately recognizing Stratcom as the behind-the-scenes force that drives many of the capabilities they rely on every day.
Kehler said he reminds them that Stratcom is the driving force behind satellites that allow them to communicate, cyber defenses that protect their networks, and GPS capabilities that help them navigate and, when necessary, lock in on and engage targets. In addition, the command coordinates the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that give U.S. and coalition forces a decisive edge on the battlefield that saves lives.
“We are in the fight everywhere U.S. military people operate, communicate, have global awareness and local awareness,” Kehler said. “In all those cases, there is some piece of that that is either provided by or enabled by Strategic Command.”
Despite being central to military operations, that support largely is transparent to users, he acknowledged.
“We are providing real-time, day-to-day capability for space and for cyber. We are providing the ballistic missile defense system. We are providing the synchronization for combating weapons of mass destruction,” Kehler said.
“We are providing the synchronization activity for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on a global basis,” he continued. “We are providing analysis and targeting on a global basis, to include the cruise missile support activities for the Atlantic and Pacific. We are providing the long-range global fires through global strike, if those are required in the theater.”
For example, Stratcom provided global-strike capability for U.S. Africa Command during the opening days of Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya, Kehler said.
In addition, Strategic Command provides the oversight and tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure military operators have uncontested access to the electromagnetic spectrum.
That access, required for almost every modern technical device, “provides us the opportunity to communicate with one another and to share data across long distances,” Kehler said. “It’s the glue that binds us all together.”
Stratcom’s challenge, he said, is to ensure all U.S. forces have access to and control of this spectrum that provides the a vital military advantage, while protecting against vulnerabilities adversaries might try to exploit through jamming or “dazzling” that makes sensors inoperable.
Kehler offered high praise for the men and women of Stratcom for their behind-the-scenes contributions to the wartime mission and to every other military operation around the world.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Stratcom continues to provide what Kehler called the ultimate form of support for those charged with defending the nation: deterrence that prevents conflict from breaking out in the first place, and if it does, from escalating.
“We don’t want to fight a war. We don’t want to get there. We would rather be in some place where we have prevented one,” Kehler said. “And we think that deterrence and assuring our allies, contribute to the prevention of conflict, which is where we would rather be.”