Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 33-- U.S. Strategic Command: Peace Is Still Our Profession Nuclear weapons remain a critical element of U.S. security policy in ensuring potential aggressors do not miscalculate in threatening America's vital interests. This command's primary job is to keep U.S. deterrent forces ready, flexible and safe.
Volume 11, Number 33
U.S. Strategic Command: Peace Is Still Our Profession
Prepared statement of Gen. Eugene E. Habiger, USAF, commander in chief, U.S. Strategic Command, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 21, 1996.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is a distinct pleasure to be here today to testify on the direction of the United States Strategic Command.
Ours is a vital, young command. Although I've only been in place a short time, it is clear to me that the command is headed in the right direction. I intend to build upon our current solid foundation in looking to the future.
Our task takes place against a backdrop of great and continuing change. The end of the Cold War saw the lessening of one form of threat to America's security, but recent years have continued to reveal new challenges. America's goals of security and stability are being achieved.
If we are to continue to meet those goals in an uncertain world, America must remain strong so that its forces can deter threats to our vital interests. At U.S. Strategic Command, peace is still our profession, and the strength of our deterrent forces remains the backbone of that peace.
In meeting this task, I plan to focus on four key areas: keeping an effective and credible deterrent, actively shaping a solid and stable foundation for implementation of arms control agreements, ensuring a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile and taking care of our people.
As the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review acknowledged, nuclear weapons play a reduced role in America's security policy, but they remain a critical element in ensuring that potential aggressors do not miscalculate in threatening America's vital interests. Although the Cold War is over, nuclear weapons continue to pose a threat to the United States and to our allies. Moreover, we remain concerned about the proliferation of all forms of weapons of mass destruction which can threaten not only the United States but also allies and interests in regional contexts.
Our primary job, therefore, is to maintain ready, flexible and safe strategic nuclear forces and to bring our operational, planning and intelligence capabilities to bear in ensuring that National Command Authorities and combatant commanders have a full range of options.
Both the National Command Authorities and theater commanders require increased planning support across a widening range of force applications. We are improving our ability to meet those requirements in two ways: developing tools that increase our planning speed and flexibility, and ensuring the excellent capabilities of the Strategic Joint Intelligence Center are applied as broadly as possible. Both of these must interface seamlessly with the systems used by our regional warfighters. Current and planned system upgrades have us on track and must be continued.
We continue to test our forces and our skills with demanding, reinvigorated exercises to ensure we are ready for a full spectrum of contingencies. Our forces are well trained and ready to perform their missions.
Strategic Nuclear Forces. The Nuclear Posture Review reaffirmed two fundamental principles: the importance of the role of nuclear weapons in providing an effective deterrent and the continued relevance of the Triad. These principles are central to our vision of strengthening our deterrent in a changing world. Ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers complement each other in providing a stable deterrent at lower force levels.
ICBMs. ICBMs provide a reliable, relatively low-cost weapons system with a high alert rate. On a day-to-day basis, our Peacekeeper and Minuteman III ICBMs give the United States a prompt response capability and complicate any potential aggressor's targeting.
SSBNs. Our ballistic missile submarines continue to be the backbone of the nation's deterrent force. Stealthy and survivable, they pose a credible and powerful retaliatory capability to any potential adversary. Backfit of submarines carrying the older C-4 missile so that they can carry the newer and more effective D-5 missile is necessary to ensure that we have viable systems over the long term. Your continued support for the D-5 backfit program is essential in convincing potential aggressors that the U.S. intends to retain a strong deterrent.
Bombers. Bombers provide flexibility and visible posturing capability. The programed B-2 and B-52 force is adequate to accomplish our mission, provided that a minimum of 16 B-2s and 56 B-52Hs are maintained as primary aircraft authorized. We look forward to bringing the B-2 into our operational forces so that the B-1 can assume its planned role as a conventional-only heavy bomber.
Strategic Reconnaissance. RC-135 and U-2 strategic aerial reconnaissance aircraft are an integral part of our war plans. We need continued support in this area to ensure the continued viability of airborne reconnaissance platforms in the future.
C4I: Command, control, communications, computers and intelligence are increasingly critical to strategic force readiness. We must ensure our systems support combatant commanders across the full range of operational environments we might encounter. This is not only a STRATCOM issue. Effective and survivable C4I is important to all combatant CinCs [commanders in chief] across the spectrum of conflict to ensure we get full measure of the information age technology on which we all depend.
All our armed forces are investing heavily in technology, designing new systems to ensure tomorrow's forces support national policies and objectives. However, there are currently no new strategic systems in design. The only strategic platforms in production -- the B-2 and Trident SSBN -- are projected to complete their production runs by the end of the decade.
Without any new design or production, it is all the more important that we sustain our current forces for the long haul. We are already engaged in sustainment programs such as Minuteman III ICBM guidance and propulsion, and SLBM modernization programs such as D-5 backfit. Other sustainment and modernization programs in each leg of the Triad will be needed to preserve our technological edge over the next 30 years. We must ensure our industrial base has the technical and physical capabilities needed to sustain today's systems and develop follow-on systems, especially in key areas such as propulsion, guidance and re-entry vehicle design and production.
A stable strategic relationship with Russia remains a crucial element of America's security and has a direct relationship with our requirements for an effective deterrent. We have made good progress in the past year in building our relationship with Russia.
USSTRATCOM has been active in efforts to establish greater rapport between Russian and American military officers. This effort started several years ago with an exchange of visits by senior leaders from the Russian strategic rocket forces and USSTRATCOM. Last year, the commander of the Russian navy visited a Trident SSBN, and more junior U.S. and Russian missile officers made reciprocal visits to ICBM facilities in each country. We look forward to continuing and expanding this dialogue in the future.
Arms control treaties provide the framework for mutual force downsizing. Since START I [Strategic Arms Reduction Talks I treaty] entered into force in December 1994, the U.S. and Russia have moved well down the road toward the accountable limit of 6,000 deployed strategic nuclear weapons. Together the U.S. and Russia have destroyed over 600 missile silos, 40 ballistic missile submarines and 250 heavy bombers -- more than two-thirds of the required launcher reductions under START I. As of April 1995, Kazakstan became a nonnuclear state. We expect that Belarus and Ukraine will meet that same goal in 1996.
If implemented, START II will deepen cuts in Russian and American accountable strategic nuclear launchers and further our goal of stability with each nation limited to 3,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads. We hope that the Duma will ratify that treaty in the near future. However, we need to maintain a nuclear force hedge if they do not. As recently directed by the president, we will maintain this hedge by not making any unilateral reductions beyond those required by START I. Unilateral reductions would be the clearest signal to Russia that they no longer need to engage in meaningful and verifiable arms control efforts with us to reduce American nuclear forces.
The president has declared that the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons stockpile is in the supreme national interest. With extensive participation by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and USSTRATCOM, the Department of Energy has developed a comprehensive stockpile stewardship and management plan designed to ensure the continued safety and reliability of the stockpile in the absence of any nuclear testing.
Science-based stockpile stewardship and management of the nuclear weapons complex are extensive undertakings, replete with technical and political risks as well as hurdles such as environmental impact assessments and funding uncertainties. Publication of the Department of Energy's plan does not mean that the effort is complete. Clearly, we will need to work together to overcome these hurdles and achieve a workable program.
At the same time, I am fully cognizant of my responsibilities under the president's safeguards to advise on my confidence in the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons. We have been actively working within the Department of Defense and with the Department of Energy to develop procedures so that I can carry out those responsibilities.
People are our most important asset, and we should ensure that we take care of our military and civilian personnel in the manner that they deserve. The long deployments, separation from family and friends, and similar sacrifices our personnel make for their country demand that we keep faith with them and be attentive to their needs. Four fundamental elements -- adequate pay, a stable retirement system, safe and affordable housing and accessible medical benefits -- underpin our obligation to our troops.
The United States faces new challenges of world leadership in a rapidly changing world. In some measure, we can look to technology to provide leverage, but there can never be a substitute for the human spirit and its willingness to sacrifice in defense of a free society. This is America's greatest strength, and we must be good stewards of that precious resource.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.