Last week, the missile defense community gathered in Huntsville, Alabama for the 2021 Space and Missile Defense Symposium. Our nation’s most senior Military Commanders addressed the most critical strategic challenges facing Missile Defense. General John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Chas Richard, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, General Glen VanHerck, Commander, of U.S. NORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Lieutenant General Dan Karbler, Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and Vice Admiral Jon Hill, Director of the Missile Defense Agency all spoke. They each addressed three core areas in missile defense: the state of current threats, how to achieve strategic deterrence through Integrated Air and Missile Defense, and the need for critical academic thinking on these issues.
Academic Critical Thinking:
“Remember, we created the entire RAND Corporation back in the Cold War, nothing, but think about the two party problem and explore the details of deterrence theory. I just picked RAND as an example, there are others I could have used. Some of our nation’s greatest minds, Tom Schelling, Herman Kahn broke the monopoly of government knowledge on how you do deterrence to create dominant theories that we use through the cold war and to this day, because we invested in intellectual capacity. Look, at STRATCOM, it’s not like we’re just sitting here and monitoring the problem, right? We’re rewriting operational deterrence theory and asking a number of very hard questions. But we can’t do this alone. This will take a national academic undertaking. Only when we get a fundamental understanding of how deterrence theory is applicable in today’s strategic environment, can we inform strategy, create a mutual understanding of that strategy and threat and then execute plans in our national defense. One thing that changes when you start to talk about a potential crisis between two nuclear armed parties, is it quickly becomes less about a correlation of force and who can win the battle and more becomes a issue of who judges greater stake and is willing to take greater risks in the pursuit of that.” (ADM Chas Richard, August 12, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“It’s about strategic deterrence and you can’t look at one without looking at the other and the impact. We have the opportunity to address policy, as we look at these strategic documents, policy with regards of homeland defense, missile defense and the foundation of our homeland defense, which is our nuclear deterrent. This is a crucial time to establish policy.” (Gen Glen VanHerck, August 10, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“I found it interesting that one of the themes of this conference was Integrated Air and Missile Defense. So I asked you to go out and read the current requirements from the Joint Requirements Oversight Council for Integrated Air and Missile Defense, and I asked you to look at the portfolio of Integrated Air and Missile Defense and see where the JROC has identified gaps and capabilities from looking at Integrated Air and Missile Defense. And you’ll find out that we have not. And because we have not, the Services actually do the best they can to identify where the gaps are, because they look at it from a Service perspective and they do exactly what Services do, the army figures out exactly what I need to have for the next air defense system, the next missile defense system, the next structure, but we never give the overarching structure that we have to plug into. And we have to do that. So we’re going to do that. And we’re going to do this capability gap assessment of everything in that portfolio. And oh, by the way, we don’t make the budget. The defense, the Deputies Management Advisory Group, the DMAG, is the budget vehicle in the Pentagon. The Deputy Secretary of Defense sits ahead of it, but I happen to be co-chair of the budget group as well. It’s interesting.” (Gen John Hyten, 8 11, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“And then we integrate the defensive of elements of our architecture with our offensive elements. There is from an adversary’s perspective, deterrence comes from the integration of all capabilities. That means offense and defense. That means nuclear plus missile defense. That creates a deterrent. Right now that deterrent is focused on North Korea on the defensive side, focused on the world on the offensive side, but together all our capabilities create that deterrent. And we have to make sure we bring that capability together. That is what we do. That is who we are. That’s why we exist. We exist to defend this nation and we defend this nation first by deterring conflict.” (Gen John Hyten, 8 11, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“It is imperative that missile defense initiatives are integrated with nuclear conventional cyber and space. It’s only when we integrate across domains we’re going to achieve this integrated deterrence at the highest level that we see. That’s going to let us have the right systems, positioned to provide combatant commanders with a range of options while denying our potential adversaries the benefit of the attack and threatening cost imposition. Integration and missile defense planning and ops helps establish a credible deterrent, contributes to all three elements of current deterrence theory.” (ADM Chas Richard, August 12, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“The strategy focus on really four key elements. It will enable us to defend our homeland in North America. Domain awareness is the first. If you can’t detect a threat, you certainly can’t defeat it, but it’s much more than defeating. It’s about deterring as well, and you’ll see as we go on, I’m keenly focused on deterring each and every day. The second is information dominance, General Karbler talked a little bit about this. I’m a believer that he/she, in the future, with the right information at the right time wins, whether that’s in conflict, in crisis or in competition, taking that right information and getting it to the right decision-maker, the right leader at the right time. And finally, globally integration, understanding that the problems we face today are all global in nature. They require global and all domain options and actions. The days of having a single supported commander are over. It won’t happen again, folks. We need the ability to collaborate globally, across all domains and near real time, or in real time, to present options to our nation’s leaders that have considered options that have considered global resources, global risks and global readiness.” (Gen Glen VanHerck, August 10, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“Let me just quickly sum it up. The homeland is no longer the sanctuary that we had 10 years ago. Today we’re a threat. In 10 years, we’ll be threatened 24/7, 365 with two peer competitors, both nuclear armed, both with the intent to limit our power projection capability. We must fill those gaps. If we don’t, the risk of strategic deterrence failure goes up when your only options are to respond with strikes on their homeland or nuclear strikes. That’s not where we want to be. I want to create that deterrence so there’s never a doubt in their mind about our ability to survive any attack on our homeland and the resiliency that goes with it.” (Gen Glen VanHerck, August 10, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
State of Current Threats:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing a strategic breakout by China. Let me say that again. We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China. Their explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking. Frankly, that word breathtaking may not be enough. Look, I know, I read the press like you all do. There’s been a lot of speculation out there as to why they are doing all of this. I just want to say right now, it really doesn’t matter why China is and continues to grow and modernize. What matters is they are building the capability to execute any plausible nuclear employment strategy, the last brick in the wall of a military capable of coercion and keep in mind, China is treaty-unconstrained, might do whatever they want. You’re not going to find the definition of strategic breakout in a doctrine or a manual. I think it’s one of about four words in the Department of Defense that doesn’t have a definition buried in some joint pub somewhere, but it is significant and I don’t use the term lightly. Business as usual will not work. Let me recap quickly what I said in my April congressional testimony. China is rapidly improving its strategic nuclear capability and capacity. It’s growing in enhancing its missile force, multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, MIRVs, is developing fielding precision strike capability. An example would be the DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile, scores of road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, gin class submarines, now capable of employing the JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile. So moving a big chunk of its forces to higher readiness status, including some on a launch on warning or launch under attack status. It’s developing a separate NC3, nuclear command and control capability, explosive growth of intercontinental ballistic missiles and anti-access and area denial networks. assessed as two nuclear missile fields in Western China. Each has nearly 120 ICBM silos. Now these compliment and are additive to what they already have, the CSS4-Mod 2, Mod 3 ranges to 13,000 kilometers. I think it’s noteworthy, just one data point, that in 2019, the PRC test launched more ballistic missiles than the rest of the world, combined. Just 13 days ago, satellite imagery revealed a tunnel under construction and the region that China historically used as a nuclear war testing ground serves as a reminder that China has an active nuclear weapons testing program.” (ADM Chas Richard, August 12, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021) “For the last three decades, we’ve been focused on conflict, but the fact is, we’re in strategic competition with two strategic competitors, both nuclear armed, we’ve never been there before, and we’re economically intertwined with one of them more than we’ve ever been. That creates some unique challenges.” (Gen Glen VanHerck, August 10, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
“Well, not only is it in their Doctrine. Let’s look at what they’ve shown recently. Last year, we had more air defense identification zone incursions than we’ve ever had since the end of the Cold War by Russia. Now, this isn’t just flying, this is multi-access, very complex, remaining for hours inside our air defense identification zones. For five years straight, their Sev-class submarines, the very capable one I talked to you about, have sailed into the Atlantic Ocean. They create significant challenges for us, capable of land attack cruise missiles striking the homeland. Over this summer, exercised distance somewhere out in the Pacific, clearly focused on Hawaii and the homeland, and last year’s exercise of ocean shield up near Alaska, was a significant exercise with messaging geared towards North America and the homeland.” (Gen Glen VanHerck, August 10, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021)
These are the three core areas of focus for our nation, as put forward by our nation’s top military commanders: academic critical thinking, strategic deterrence, and assessment of current and future threats. As we develop our capabilities within and in unity with these three areas, we can set the conditions to win.
“It doesn’t matter if individually your stuff is better. If you don’t have enough of them, you still lose.” (ADM Chas Richard, August 12, 2021, SMD Symposium 2021