Secretary of Defense
Remarks at STRATCOM Change of Command
Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
Good morning, everyone, and thanks for being here, and look at those magnificent servicemembers standing so proud. Thank you.
Listen, before I begin, I need to share with you, in case you weren't aware that it's been a tough day for us in Afghanistan. Two of our servicemembers were killed, along with four others wounded, in an operation alongside our Afghan partners in Kunduz Province. The Afghans also suffered casualties. We’re still learning all the details, but I hope you’ll join me in expressing our deepest condolences to the family, loved ones, friends and teammates of those affected by this tragedy. All of them are in our thoughts and prayers. And we’re going to honor their sacrifice by remaining firm in our resolve to complete our mission in Afghanistan.
Over 40 years ago, a young high school student in Washington, D.C. got a summer job working at the Navy Department’s Naval Sea Systems Command. Now, for those who may not be old enough to remember – I am – that was a different time for our military. I remember it all too well. This was the last years of Vietnam, our armed forces were facing many challenges. It was also the start of a technological revolution that transformed how we live, how we work, and how we fight. And just to show you, a summer intern in those days in Washington, D.C. worked the punch card machine, because that was how computers worked back then.
Now, four decades later, our technology, our military, and that young man have come a long way. You can see that remarkable progress in how our military operates and where we operate from space to cyberspace. You can see it in how this command, the United States Strategic Command, supports every DoD mission in every region and in every domain. And you can also see that progress in the leader we honor today, Admiral Cecil Haney – once that key punch operator – and now a combatant commander, and long an inspiration to our men and women in uniform.
Chairman Dunford, STRATCOM team, Congressman Ashford, Congressman Fortenberry, Mayor Rita [Sanders], friends, family, it’s an honor to be with you today as we pass this critical command from Admiral Haney to General John Hyten, two of our military’s most accomplished leaders.
I’d like to especially welcome Admiral Haney's family – his wife, whom he affectionately calls “Ms. Bonny,” daughter Elizabeth. Although Cecil may be the warrior in the family, we know Bonny is the real fighter. Bonny, we owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your service and your sacrifice over the years. I know you're looking forward to spending more time with your husband and all of us in the DoD family, including me and my wife Stephanie, wish you and your family the very best.
And to the men and women of STRATCOM, each and every one of you, all of you are doing one of the noblest things a person can do, which is to help defend our magnificent country and to make a better life and a better world for our children.
In the heart of our nation, you perform a mission at the center of everything we do as a Department. You underpin our nuclear deterrence. You enable precision-guided munitions and navigation, space capabilities, and experiment with new warfighting strategies in emerging domains to prepare us for whatever the future may bring.
Through it all, each of you is critical at a time when our military is addressing five major, unique, and rapidly evolving challenges. We're countering the prospect of Russian aggression and coercion, especially in Europe. We're managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific, the single most consequential region of the world for America's future. We're strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea's continued nuclear and missile provocations. We're checking Iranian aggression and malign influence in the Gulf, and protecting our friends and allies in the Middle East. We're accelerating the lasting defeat of ISIL – lasting and certain defeat, destroying it and its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and everywhere else it metastasizes around the world, even as we help protect our homeland and our people. And we're preparing to contend, moreover, with an uncertain future, ensuring that we continue to be ready for challenges we may not even anticipate today.
And all the while, of course, America's nuclear deterrence remains the bedrock of our security, which all of you ensure here at STRATCOM. As you do so, you manage uncertainty, prepare for change, and perform your duties with the unparalleled excellence we expect of each and every one of you. I couldn't be prouder of what you've accomplished.
And you've done all this thanks to the wisdom and leadership of Admiral Haney.
For Cecil, of course, that summer job became a remarkable career. Graduating from Annapolis in 1978, he joined the Navy at a time when we were still very much thinking about the Cold War and that kind of threat. Much has changed since then, but over the years – whether he was commanding a submarine, operationalizing our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific as commander of the Pacific Fleet, or addressing global, multi-domain threats here in Nebraska – Cecil has confronted many of our most complex challenges with unwavering dedication, profound insight, and the calm, deliberative manner that the gravity of these missions require.
Although most of Cecil's accomplishments remain classified of course, I want to highlight some that he's done to strengthen our systems, our partnerships, and our people.
As a strategist, Admiral Haney contributed to the essential missions of today, even as he prepared STRATCOM for the missions of tomorrow – by ensuring a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent force, while paving the way to its future, and by collaborating with new and innovative ways with our intelligence community on space issues.
As an ambassador in uniform, he built bridges to our allies, to academia, to industry – recognizing as he says that there's “no stronger deterrent message than partnerships and international cooperation.” That message is powerful, because as all of you know, the United States is an unrivaled source of innovation, in DoD and outside of DoD. And the United States also has an unrivaled network or friends and allies around the world and our potential opponents have none. That's not accidental.
And as leader here at STRATCOM, he's been a champion for your mission, and most importantly for his people – all of you. That was particularly important as DoD undertook and implemented the 2014 Nuclear Enterprise Reviews, which recognized that our country had for decades underinvested in its nuclear forces – and not only in its aging technologies, but also in its people. And we're determined to correct that now, and we're just beginning to do so – more on that in a moment – and that's in part because Cecil worked tirelessly to get you, and your families, the resources you need, the opportunities to advance your career, and the climate to empower your success.
Through all this, Admiral Haney leaves STRATCOM, DoD, and our country stronger because he planned for the future, strengthened key partnerships, and helped ensure we invested in our capabilities, our people, uniformed and civilian. For all that, I'm confident that STRATCOM will be ready no matter what tomorrow brings. And I'm certain the nation owes a debt of gratitude to Cecil, to Bonny, the rest of the Haney family. Thank you all.
Now, as we honor STRATCOM's commander this morning, I also want to talk to you about your nuclear and space missions, and emphasize how important they are...to our department, our military, and our nation.
In September, I visited Minot Air Base in North Dakota – home of some of the ICBMs and bombers under this command – and I made clear that America's nuclear deterrence is the bedrock of our security. While this mission isn't in the headlines every day – as I see it, we're in real trouble if it ever is – it remains the highest priority of the Department of Defense. That means it's one of STRATCOM's most important jobs – one that we count on you every day to perform with unparalleled excellence – excellence you define.
That's because you deter large-scale nuclear attacks against the United States and our allies. You help convince potential adversaries they can't escalate their way out of a failed conventional aggression. You assure our allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible. And if deterrence fails – though we hope it never does – you provide the President with options to achieve American and ally objectives, all to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons ever being used in the first place.
And as you execute these missions, I and DoD's other senior leaders are making sure we sustain our deterrence by recapitalizing all three legs of our nuclear triad, so they don't age into obsolescence. Indeed, even as we would all of course, wish to live in a world without nuclear weapons, it's also true – something that President Obama has noted many times – that we may not realize that goal in our lifetimes. And so we must continue to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.
As I mentioned earlier, we're beginning to correct for decades of under investment in nuclear deterrence – dating back to the end of the Cold War, when the United States believed it would be safe to allow funding for the nuclear enterprise to drop, and drop it did, dramatically. Over the last 25 years, we made only modest investments in basic sustainment and operations. But while we didn't build anything new for 25 years and neither did our allies, others did – including Russia, North Korea, China, Pakistan, India and for a period of time, Iran. So we can't wait any longer and we also can't operate under the mistaken assumption that our own recapitalization will stimulate others to invest – because the evidence is just the opposite – they have consistently invested in nuclear weapons during a quarter-century pause in U.S. investment.
Our recapitalization is about sustaining deterrence in a world very different from the world of the Cold War. From ballistic missile submarines, to ICBMs, from bombers to air launch cruise missiles we're replacing many aging nuclear weapons delivery systems because if we don't, we'll lose them which would mean losing confidence in our ability to deter – something we can never afford.
Our necessary replacements include the long range standoff weapon, replacing nuclear air-launched cruise missiles that enable the penetration of air defenses by our air launched deterrent...exactly, precisely, just the same logic as when they were first deployed, four decades ago. Our necessary replacements also include our Ohio Replacement Program to build the next generation of ballistic missile submarines. Our necessary replacements also include the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent Program – in which we'll be replacing old ICBMs with new ones that will be less expensive to maintain. And they include investments in the nuclear command-and-control, communications, and intelligence capabilities that support our nuclear enterprise. As many of you know, that includes satellites, radar systems, ground stations, command post, control nodes, communications links, and more – which are critical to assuring nuclear command and control and providing us with integrated tactical warning and attack assessment.
And we're investing, too, in many more parts of our nuclear enterprise, as well. We're continuing to make vital investments in the people of our nuclear force – the men and women who operate, enable, maintain and secure America's nuclear deterrent every day. We continue to support the Department of Energy and its national laboratories that play a critical role as DoD's partners in the nuclear deterrence mission. And we're making much-needed infrastructure and facilities repairs to ensure the maintenance and security of the DoD bases and installations that are home to the nuclear enterprise are up-to-date.
This enterprise relies heavily on our space systems, but nuclear deterrence is far from being the only mission we have that depends on space – and let me turn to that, a second mission of STRATCOM.
Not everyone thinks about it, but the truth is, space is woven into every aspect of our military operations today – conventional and nuclear alike. And that's why we're making sure – and making it known – that our space capabilities are as resilient and assured as our nuclear capabilities.
While in the past we may have been able to view space as a virtual sanctuary, DoD must now prepare for competition there and seek to prevent conflict from extending into space. Thanks in part to Admiral Haney's leadership, and the hard work of STRATCOM personnel, we're doing just that – working closely with our partners in the intelligence community and with our allies.
Indeed, as space becomes increasingly congested and contested and competitive, it makes STRATCOM's work to deter and defend against attacks in space all the more important. That's why we're continuing to make serious investments in capabilities that enhance our ability to identify, attribute, and negate threatening actions by others in space. Our new investments aim to foil these efforts – whether an adversary aims to blind our reconnaissance satellites with lasers, disrupt our satellite communications with jammers, or use kinetic means like a co-orbital attack or a direct ascent missile to destroy the space capabilities that support our forces.
Now, some have suggested we should treat space as something separate – either organizationally or managerially or operationally – but doing so would be a mistake. Because every one of our missions in every domain – air, land, sea, and cyber – and also our potential opponents, rely on space in some way. Because of that, we must integrate, and not separate, everything we have and do in space.
All of you, the men and women of STRATCOM, are ensuring that we leverage and integrate the advantages we enjoy in space for the great benefit of all our combatant commanders and forces on the ground and in the air and in the sea. STRATCOM is helping us write a playbook for future space operators to follow by incorporating space into our operations and our contingency planning. Indeed, as we've been updating each of our core contingency plans at DoD, we've made sure they account for how we must now view space as a potential warfighting domain.
To make sure we're doing so effectively, we need to experiment. And that's where STRATCOM's Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, JICSpOC, comes in.
I created the JICSpOC last year to experiment with new concepts of integrated space operations, and so far it's been very effective – helping us identify ways to improve data-sharing, hone our ability to protect and defend critical space infrastructure, and assure command and control if they come under attack.
And for several years now, General John Hyten has played a key role in how we've begun to treat space as a warfighting domain – he’s been a key partner of mine – from when we first saw the need for what would become JICSpOC, all the way through how we've operationalized that vision. And that's one of the many reasons why I'm pleased that he's bringing his 35 years of experience to STRATCOM as its next commander.
Of course, he's also bringing along his wonderful family, namely wife Laura – Hi, Laura – she’s here this morning, along with her children Katie and Chris. And John's brother Scott, and proud parents Sherwyn and Barbara are with us, too. Thank you all for being here. This is John and Laura's 15th move since John joined the Air Force. So, as he assumes this critical command for our country, I want to thank his family for their flexibility, for their service, and their support. Thanks, Laura and family.
Today, John's returning to Offutt after leading our Air Force Space Command in Colorado. There, he organized, trained, and equipped over 30,000 men and women to support STRATCOM's missions. But just as important, he's helped shape thinking at our government's highest levels about the threats we face in space.
And I've certainly benefited from his strategic counsel. I've known John for years. We worked together closely when he was Air Force's Director of Space Acquisition at the Pentagon, and I was Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. I can't publicly describe everything we worked on together, but I can say with great confidence that throughout his career – whether serving in space operations, acquisition roles, and all the other things he's done – John has developed a keen understanding of the current and future operational needs of our DoD space force and how to acquire the capabilities we need. His experience and expertise will be a tremendous asset to STRATCOM as we prepare and face future threats in all domains.
And John also has a keen appreciation for what's at stake across the entire strategic landscape for which I will depend on him, as will the President. When he's in D.C., he's been known to road trip up to Gettysburg to study that 150-year-old-battle. And recognizing the lush hills of Gettysburg couldn't be more different from the endless vacuum of space, a kinetic conflict in space could exact an even higher toll than that bloody battle, and leave behind a legacy that would last far longer.
John's determined not to let that happen. And whether it's by building interagency partnerships through JICSpOC, training our men and women to face new challenges, John's helped build a more resilient national security space enterprise that will also help strengthen our nuclear deterrence. That's important work he'll continue here at STRATCOM, because there's more to be done to confront those 21st century threats – we have to continuously adapt, innovate, stay flexible. With his demonstrated leadership, expertise, managerial acumen, and strategic vision, John will be a strong leader of this command for years to come – ensuring it meets not only the challenges we face today, but also those we'll confront in the future.
I'll close by emphasizing again that we really have come a long way – both as a military and country – from that summer over 40 years ago when Cecil worked that punch card machine.
Today, ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known. There's no other military that's stronger, more capable, more experienced, or more innovative in every domain. That's why our military edge is second-to-none. And it's a fact every American ought to be proud of.
That edge, and all that progress, is the result of each of our leaders, each of our officers, each of our enlisted service members, and each of you – every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and DoD civilian – being dedicated to leaving their unit, their command, their office, and their mission a whole lot better, stronger, and more advanced than when they got there. It's an iterative process, one we all contribute to...one I'm very proud of.
That's exactly what Admiral Haney did here at STRATCOM, left his mission a whole lot stronger. Cecil, we're grateful for your tremendous contributions to our safety, to our strategy, and our deterrence. And most of all, we're grateful for everything you and Bonny have done over the years for our people – here in Nebraska, and everywhere you've served. As you transition from this command, you can take comfort knowing that STRATCOM is now in the hands of another proven strategic leader, who will keep pushing forward.
In the days to come, STRATCOM's mission will continue to remain vitally important to the bedrock of our security, and General Hyten will lead this critical team with the full trust and confidence of me, Chairman Dunford, and President Obama. And the force he inherits is ready to execute any mission required, thanks to Admiral Haney's visionary leadership.
So to Admiral Haney and Bonny, to General Hyten and Laura, to their families, to all the men and women who have served under their strong and steady leadership: thank you for everything you've done to meet the challenges of today, to stay ahead of the threats of tomorrow, and to keep our nation safe. May God bless you and my God bless our magnificent country. Thank you.