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General John Hyten speaking at the 2018 Space and Missile Defense Symposium on August 7, 2018.

“The US Strategic Command is the most powerful command on the planet, 162,000 people under that command coming to work everyday doing work by themselves, work with our allies, work with our partners, work with our friends, doing all the things they have to do.” – General John Hyten

In the epicenter for missile defense in the world, Huntsville, Alabama, at the Army’s annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium, the most significant speech made by a Strategic Command (STRATCOM) commander from this venue was a rousing and powerful speech by General John Hyten that signaled the strategic change for the defense of and deterrence for the United States.

Here are a few of his key quotes.

  • … in the year 2000 in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the US made a statement that said we no longer have an identifiable threat that we need to worry about. And because we don’t we are going to move from a threat based approach for our strategies to a capabilities based approach to our strategies. And the capability based approach means, all I have to do is develop the capabilities I think will be able to dominate the battlefield so I will be able to dominate the battlefield. And that has two fundamental flaws, flaw one is when you do that, you basically tell everyone the capabilities that you are going to build. And if God forbid you ever have a threat, they know exactly what you are going to do and they will start building capabilities to respond to that.
  • That is what our job is at US STRATCOM. It is not to create the conditions of war, it is to create the conditions for peace and the old STRATCOM motto that we brought back, and you will see it everywhere in my command, is that peace is our profession. That is exactly what we want, the world we want to live in, the world we need and in order to be able to do that, we need to be dominant in any situation.
  • We have two adversaries, Russia and China that are building capabilities to challenge us in space and have been for a long time, as well as fielding and testing those capabilities. China has nine kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities they are testing, Russia is doing the same thing, kinetic and non-kinetic, and not because of any internal problems but because of the threat the United States is bringing.
  • On the missile defense side, we developed capabilities, many of them here at the Missile Defense Agency and SMDCR STRAT, we have 300 soldiers defending 300 million people in Alaska right now, we have Vandenberg in South California sitting on missile defense interceptors, we changed the deterrent equation in North Korea. North Korea, when they look at the US, they look at our offense and defense. It is not just the offense of STRATCOM, but it is the missile defense capability they have to worry about as well. And that package creates a powerful deterrent message, it is all together. And it is remarkable how fast we have gone building those capabilities.
  • And so, I have a lot of things I want to get done in missile defense business, I know Dr. Griffin does as well, I know Jim Dickinson does as well, but the most important thing to do in the missile defense business is make sure you can see and characterize a threat. If you cannot see and characterize a threat, I don’t care what type of shooter you have, there is nothing you can do about It. So the most important thing is you look at all the new threats that are coming together, hypersonics etc, is that we have to be able to see that threat. If you think about a global threat, there are not enough islands in the world to build radars on, you cannot have enough to be able to see and characterize a threat so the only place where you can go to be able to do that is the place where the United States is actually strongest and the technology is there to do it, and that is into space. We have to move into space to be able to characterize the threats coming off of the Earth and the threats that will be coming through space in the midcourse, and the technology on the commercial side is becoming available now that we can do that in an affordable way.
  • That is where we have to go in the future, we have to be able to see that threat and then we want to be able to drive the enemy as far as we can to the left side of the chain. If you can see it early, you can kill it early. That means boost phase interceptors, those are becoming a possibility. All of these things are becoming a possibility so we want to drive that equation to the left. Driving the equation to the left has huge operational advantages because actually, if you shoot down a missile that someone launched and it comes back down on their head, you think they are going to shoot another one? They stop shooting, isn’t that the whole point? That is what we have to be able to get to but we have to be able to characterize it and then if you can drive it all the way to the left, the other thing that does for the United States is it starts imposing cost on our adversaries. Right now, if you just have the catcher’s mitt at the end, it is a very expensive proposition for the United States. The farther you moved it to the left, the more cost-imposing it is on our adversaries. That is the change we want to make.
  • As you look at what we are doing in missile defense, we need robotic capabilities. I always put it in 3 categories, sensor first, shooter second, capacity third. We need all three, do not get me wrong, but if you do not have the sensors then the other parts do not matter. Missile defense is going that way.
  • We need to de-classify those so in the future we are able to have a much more public conversation about the United States in space. Why are we doing that? Because there is a threat. On the missile defense side, why am I standing up over and over again with General Sam Greaves, Dr. Mike Griffin and saying we need a space-sensor layer to deal with that; it is not because I am a space guy and I think it is cool. It is because we have a threat and we need to respond to the threat. These are the imperatives that we are creating.
  • We have a threat, we love our country, we need to build capabilities to let the men and women that love to defend this country make sure they can do that all the time, do it on the nuclear side, so it in space, do it in missile defense, do it everywhere and if we do that, we will be able to sleep peacefully at night, put our head down and be happy as Americans that we do not have to worry about the world falling apart
  • The number one imperative is that the men and women that work in U.S. STRATCOM below the ground, below the sea, in the air, operating in space, operating in cyberspace, missile defense, electronic warfare, analysis and targeting, wherever they are they should always have the best capabilities that the nation can provide. They should always be able to dominate a battlefield, I never want us to ever have a fair fight.

To follow General Hyten’s poignant remarks, Vice President Mike Pence stated this morning from the Pentagon “Space is a warfighting domain. Just like air and land and sea.” And put forward a direction to have a space force up and running by 2020, to include creating a new “assistant secretary of defense for space” to oversee the building of the space force and a new Four-Star Space Command. Earlier this week Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he “absolutely” supports the creation of a new space branch for the military.

“I sleep well when I go to bed at night and you should too, because the 162,000 people under my command are doing their job everyday so that we can sleep well at night.” – General John Hyten.

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