Stratcom Commander Addresses Strategic Deterrence in 21st Century

Global security threats today must be viewed in a transregional, multi-domain and multifunctional context, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said Oct. 21.

Global security threats today must be viewed in a transregional, multidomain and multifunctional context, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said Oct. 21.
Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney and Gen. Lee Sun-jin leave the flightline at Offutt AFB

Speaking at Kansas State University’s Landon Lecture Series, Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney addressed U.S. military strategic deterrence in the 21st century.

Haney discussed Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as the five evolving challenges the military faces, and he emphasized that strategic deterrence capabilities are used every day to maintain strategic stability.

 “As we look in the rear-view mirror over the last year and extrapolate into the future, our global security environment remains dynamic and uncertain,” the Stratcom commander said. “Some nation-states are developing and modernizing their nuclear weapons capabilities,” he said. “Nuclear and non-nuclear nation states aspire to or have demonstrated their ability to employ not just a variety of missile capabilities, but also cyber, counter-space and other asymmetric capabilities.” 

Addressing Challenges

But any nation that thinks it can get away with a strategic attack on the United States and its allies must think carefully about their actions and potential consequences, Haney cautioned. “I think we all understand the impact a nuclear weapon could have, but it’s also important to understand that an attack in space or cyberspace can have strategic effect,” he said.

And with all the complexities and the interconnectedness of globalization, these strategic problems have global ramifications that require comprehensive solutions, Haney said.

As a global combatant command, Stratcom has transregional responsibility that extends from under the sea to geosynchronous orbit, the admiral explained. 

“[Stratcom’s] capabilities underpin the fundamental elements of deterrence, affording the United States the ability to maintain strategic stability – a must in this dynamic and uncertain security environment,” he emphasized. 

Stratcom works to understand deterrence mechanisms and gain a deeper understanding of the adversary, he noted, adding, “We provide the nation with a safe, secure, effective and credible strategic nuclear deterrence force that is ready.”

Deterrence Forces Critical in Global Security

U.S. deterrence forces stand at the ready and are critical in a global security environment where it is clear other nation-states are placing a high priority on developing, sustaining, modernizing, and in some cases expanding their nuclear forces, Haney said.

“Today, the extended service of our nuclear delivery platforms is testament to the efforts and ingenuity of our predecessors — particularly the designers, engineers, maintainers, and industry — but we are fast approaching the point where having an effective nuclear deterrent will be put at risk,” he said. “To be clear, however, baseline sustainment won’t meet future adversarial threats. We simply must modernize.”

Delaying development and fielding of our modernization programs – everything from space-sensing, communications, platforms and life extensions for warheads – or ceasing to invest in the people who engineer, maintain and operate these systems — will create an unacceptable increase in risk, the admiral said. 

“Equally, if not more important, delaying will directly affect our credibility and ability to deter and assure and will detract from our nonproliferation efforts,” Haney told the audience. 

Synchronized Campaign

Meeting future challenges requires a synchronized campaign of investments supporting the full range of military operations that secure U.S. national security objectives, he added. And while the admiral said he was pleased with the president’s proposed defense budget request for fiscal year 2017, he said he is “not pleased with the fact we do not have an approved budget and continue to live with a continuing resolution.”

A credible strategic deterrence capability cannot be done by Stratcom alone, he said, adding that a holistic approach should be taken to integrate military effects with all instruments of national power.

Haney explained such synchronization is commonly called “DIME” – for diplomatic, information, military and economic – “which together deters our adversaries and assure U.S. allies and partners.”

For example, he said, Stratcom aims to work seamlessly with the other combatant commands and across the federal government, as well as with partners and allies, the commercial sector and academia to apply the scope of its portfolio toward a synchronized pursuit of national objectives, such as building, sustaining and supporting partnerships to better understand the strategic and the regional environment and successfully develop effective strategies.

The Stratcom commander also noted that leaders must ensure they are developing the talent that will assume the mantle as the geopolitical landscape continues to change and evolve.

Nation Needs Future Leaders

The nation needs professionals who can think deeply and strategically, voice educated opinions, coherently document those thoughts and drive effective solutions, Haney said. “We must ask ourselves: How do we deter one without provoking another?” he said. “Are we thinking about our actions from the perception of our adversaries? How do we communicate our intent, our resolve, and our readiness?”

The answers to those questions start with this institution and with the people in this room,” the admiral told the university audience. “KSU fosters a high-velocity learning environment and helps to create leaders who not only understand the challenges associated with the world we live in today, but who can develop and apply solutions. Therefore, we need you.”

The goal of deterrence is peace, the Stratcom commander noted. “Peace is achieved through strength,” he added. “Strength is all of us working together to prepare for an uncertain world.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)