WASHINGTON: Deterrence remains as central to America’s national security as it was during the Cold War, U.S. Strategic Command’s top officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 19.
“Our unique global perspective has given us a good platform for advocating for the nation’s needs for missile defense; information operations; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; and the things we need to both enhance our information operations and our planning for combating weapons of mass destruction,” Gen. Kevin P. Chilton told the senators. “Your support is critical to enabling successful execution across the command’s assigned missions.”
Part of that mission is a strategic deterrence plan, which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved last year, General Chilton said. The plan depends on many pieces, including a safe, secure, reliable and sustainable nuclear enterprise, command and control systems, ISR platforms and people.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has substantially reduced its deployed nuclear weapons, dismantled production capability and ceased nuclear testing, he said. Despite the nation’s steps to reduce its nuclear arsenal, other states still seek nuclear weapons.
“Many of our closest allies continue to rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella,” he added. “This reliance should be considered as we look forward to address nuclear proliferation issues.”
The most urgent issues surrounding the country’s nuclear enterprise lie with the aging stockpile, infrastructure and human capital, General Chilton said. Relieving the growing uncertainty about the stockpile’s reliability and sustainability is critical in the upcoming year.
Space-based capabilities also are a concern for STRATCOM, but the command has made progress on this front in regard to its mission of deterrence.
“Space-based capabilities provide our nation and our forces essential, but often unnoticed, abilities to act and operate,” General Chilton said. “The satellite constellations that carry these capabilities, however, require more careful attention to eliminate delays that can leave us just one launch failure away from an unacceptable gap in coverage in the future.”
Computer network communications has emerged as a key warfighting domain as well, and it’s one on which all other domains in the warfighting environment depend, he said.
“We remain concerned about growing threats in cyberspace, and are pressing changes in the department’s fundamental network, culture, conduct and capabilities to address this mission area and share our best practices,” General Chilton said. “Still, the adequate positioning of the cyber mission … remains our greatest need.”