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Nuclear Triad Will Continue to Deter, Stratcom Commander Says

March 17, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

U.S. Strategic Command is ensuring the U.S. nuclear deterrent is strong, even during the coronavirus pandemic, Stratcom's commander told reporters at the Pentagon in a telephone briefing from the command's headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard said in today's briefing that Stratcom is putting plans in place that ensure the nuclear triad of manned bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles remains strong.

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At this point, the virus has had no effect on the command's mission, Richard said, but officials remain watchful. ''This pandemic has our full attention,'' he said. ''We are taking all necessary steps to fully implement the department's guidance.''

Stratcom is looking specifically to ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of deterrence forces, the admiral told reporters, and has had to plan for every conceivable scenario.

''We in Stratcom, we in the Department of Defense, the potential for a contagious pandemic like this is not novel to us,'' he said. ''We had plans in place that we have updated and are executing.''

Stratcom officials are looking at all elements of the triad, Richard said, including the people required to accomplish those missions, as well as the command centers and all the places where the command operates. Stratcom is designed to be able to operate isolated for long periods of time, he noted. ''And so we are taking prudent steps to make sure that our personnel will be available,'' he said.

Officer stands at lectern while reporters receive a telephone briefing.
Stratcom Briefing
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, briefs reporters at the Pentagon via telephone from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., about Stratcom's response to COVID-19, March 17, 2020. The admiral is pictured on the monitor.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200317-D-BN624-0063

The command and its deterrence mission are designed to have ''tremendous redundancy and reliability'' in both people and capabilities, the admiral said, and has taken prudent steps. ''We have minimized contact on critical watch spaces — we're not doing tours down on them anymore,'' he said. ''We're looking to see to make sure that we minimize the cross-section for exposure.''

The command screens personnel who are going into the missile fields or submarines, he said, and has contingency plans to separate people to make sure that they have a minimum risk of infection.

Stratcom has not seen changes in any potential adversaries' operational stance, Richard said. ''That is something that we look at every single day for every single potential threat to this nation,'' he added. ''To date, we have not seen anything beyond what I would describe as normal or day-to-day operations by anyone.''

Richard said the command will study what is happening. ''One thing I'm excited about here is the possibility that we may find some better ways of operating day-to-day utilizing some of this incredible communications capability that we have,'' he said. ''That may take us to a new normal, where we find more efficient ways of accomplishing our business.''