The principle advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and to the Secretary of Defense, General John Hyten, the United States Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Head of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), presented in public for the first time last time last week.
Below are the key statements from General Hyten that will shape the United States of America’s future in national security and missile defense.
“I’m also on a number of different councils and committees in the pentagon that look at budget I look at acquisition I look at force design and force development, all of those structures and I work those issues very seriously and the one thing I noticed about all those processes when I look at even the JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] is that the one element that is not in those processes is speed. It is not a rapid process anywhere in the department of defense. I will talk about some of our competitors here shortly but when you look at our competitors large and small, one of the things you find that they have in common is they are moving very fast. Very very fast. we are not. My second priority is to do everything I can to insert speed into the processes inside the pentagon. That’s going to be a difficult challenge because we have built processes over the years that by design are not built for speed. By design they are built to remove risk and if you have a process designed to remove all risk it becomes very deliberate. Very structured, very bureaucratic, step after step after step and what you do, you basically remove authorities from the field and move them into the pentagon so you can make sure that we don’t take risk and that means you go slow. If you have an adversary, competitor that’s going fast and you are going slow, that doesn’t matter how far ahead you are, at some point that adversary will catch and pass you. That’s the nature of any competition. If we are in competition in the United States and I don’t shy away from competition, I like competition, but the goal of the competition is to win. Not to finish second and in our business finishing second is bad, there is no such thing as second place in our business, we have to be in first place, which means we have to put speed back in the process, we have to understand how to take risk and how to properly manage risk, how to delegate risk down to the people that can actually move fast and move on from there. That’s going to be a significant challenge and while I’m the Vice Chairman and I’m going to work hard at every element of the pentagon I’m involved in to try to put speed back into that.” – General Hyten
“A little over 40 years ago, 1979, China came up with a new strategy the strategy of allowing foreign investment, the strategy of free market. That was 1979. When they did that, their country, if you look at the numbers, 88 percent of the Chinese population lived in poverty in 1979. 88 percent. Today, six percent of the nation lives in poverty. That’s in 40 years. That’s an unbelievable transformation, an amazing transformation. It shows you the power of free market the power of it shows you the power of foreign investment and the power of integrating into the world economy. At the same time, they realized they needed a different security strategy and started going down a different path. It’s interesting to me when we look at China and many of the readings you do, China was our friend until just a few years ago. China was not a major power competitor like the National Defense Strategy talks about, they were our friends until a few years ago. But if you look at their strategy, their military strategies dates back to the mid-1990s, and their military strategy in the mid-1990s you can go read it because it’s in public documentation was focused on countering the United States of America and our allies. That’s what it was and it started in 1990s. The interesting thing about their economic power and economic structure that came from that decision in 1979, is its tied very tightly to the military because everything that happens in China, every technology in China is available for military use. There is not the separation like you see in the west, the separation you see in the United States, it’s very tied together, so all their economic power can be brought to bear for military use at the same time. When that happens, if you end up with this competition going on. This is not an overnight thing. When I look at what China has done in space they announced those initiatives back in the 1990s. I read them in the 1990s. but it wasn’t until a few years ago people started looking and saying, wow this is new. No it’s not, they have an economic strategy that dates back to the 1979. They have a military strategy that dates back to the mid-1990s and they have been going on a consistent approach to dealing with both of those pieces and if we don’t wake up the world is going to be different and in many cases, that’s not good. Some cases it is good but in many cases it’s not and we have to deal that. That consistent strategy is hugely powerful in terms of achieving the objectives they stated as long as 41 years ago.” – General Hyten
“China is a powerful economy. Let’s look at another powerful economy. I put that in big quotes North Korea, North Korea is 115th most powerful economy in the world. 115 out 192, one of the poorest countries in the world. Somehow over the last few years North Korea has developed a ballistic missile program that can threaten its neighbors and threaten the United States and nuclear program that can threaten its neighbors and the United States and they’ve done that and change the entire structure of the world with 115th most powerful economy in the world. What’s been different about North Korea? You want to know what is different about North Korea? They learned how to go fast. If you look back at Kim Jong-un, then you look at his father and his grandfather, there are some significant differences. When his father and grandfather they launched missiles, and his grandfather launched I think nine, his father launched I think 22 during their entire tenure. Kim Jong-un has launched 67. He’s launched over a dozen in 2016, 2017, 2019, and didn’t launch anything in 2018. His father and grandfather, when they were failures in the missile program, let’s just say the engineers and scientists that failed were not treated well. Kim Jong-un realized that was not the way to go fast. The way to go fast in the missile program and I’ve been around rockets and missiles my entire life, my dad worked on a Saturn V I have been around rockets and missiles my entire life, I know how they work, I know how they test. I’ve been working that business since the beginning of time, if you want to go fast in the missile business, you need to test fast, fly fast, learn fast. Look at Space X in this country. There are some pretty spectacular failures. Did they stop? No. They had instrumented the heck out of their capabilities, they learn from the failures, launched rapidly again, they changed systems, they changed subsystems, they go in a completely different direction, that’s what North Korea has been doing and North Korea has been building new missiles, new capabilities, new weapons as fast as anybody on the planet with the 115th most powerful economy in the world. Speed itself is efficiency. Speed builds capability and savings into your programs. But you have to be able to accept failure. If the dictator of North Korea has learned how to accept failure, why can’t the United States learn how to accept failure? We need to understand what failure is and learn from those failures, learn from the mistakes we make. Move quickly from these mistakes.” – General Hyten
“I look back at hypersonics, we are now in a significant competition with a number of competitors around the world, we were ahead in hypersonics a decade ago. We had two programs, two flights, HGV-1 and HGV-2 under DARPA. They didn’t quite work. What did we do after they failed? We instituted multi-year studies into the failure process and then canceled the programs. That’s not how you go fast. Every time we have a failure in the launch business, I have been in there and it’s not a good thing. We stopped for years at a time to recover. If there’s human life involved that’s essential, like if you have the tragedy of the Challenger or Columbia you have to, because you can’t risk human life but if you don’t have human life involved, you have to figure out how to go fast. how to adjust, how to learn, how to launch quickly. We have to do that across our entire enterprise and we’re not doing that. That’s why we need speed back in our processes. That’s why we have to learn how to take risks. When you look at our nation today and you look at our stature in the world in terms of a competitive environment, there are so many places where our country is the leading technology engine of the world. In the information technology area, in the information application area, we are the leading? Why is that? Because we go faster than everybody. We turn faster than others can get started. The defense sector that’s not the case. But it has to be the case. Which means we have to do something.” – General Hyten
“I could go on and on about that structure, but I just think back for a second on where China has been in the last 40 years and the constancy of purpose and ability to move fast. And you think about North Korea and what they’ve done in the last few years. And then you think about the potential of the United States of America we should be able to defend ourselves against any threat, we should be able to deter any adversary from taking action against us with a $700 billion defense budget we should be able to create the environment of peace in the world across the board. In order to do that we are going to have to look at the world, compete in the world and that means we have to go fast again.” – General Hyten
“It’s important to realize that it doesn’t matter what the threat is, if you can’t see it, you can’t defend against it. If you can’t see it, you can’t deter it either. The second piece is actually maybe the most important thing. If you can see it, then you can enable your entire defense. you can enable your deterrent capability. You actually don’t have to build hypersonics to be able to deter hypersonics. You just have to have the capability that can respond if you’re attacked by hypersonic. Hypersonic missiles I’ll use the right term. It is the correct term by the way, but nonetheless, I will probably slip again because everybody else does. When you look at that capability, if you can’t see it, you can’t defend it. If you can’t see it, you can’t deter it. So if you want to do that, the first thing you have to do is build sensors in order to see it. What’s the best sensor to see hypersonic? The best sensor to see hypersonic is actually probably a ground-based radar. What’s the problem with ground-based radar? Well the earth is a big place. There is not enough islands in the Pacific, there’s not enough room on the east coast to build all and imagine the cost it would take to build that amount of radars you just can’t get there from here. That means you have to go to space in order to see those capabilities. Absolutely. So you look at our capabilities we have today and our capabilities to see missiles is in geosynchronous orbit. We have very exquisite capabilities and there are some capabilities in geosynchronous orbit, but if you want to see dim target and by the way hypersonic missile is a dim target you have to get closer, which means you have to come down to a different orbit. You have to come down to medium earth orbit (MEO) or low earth orbit (LEO) in order to see that and you have to start building. That’s with the space-based sensor layer is. From my perspective I would like to see research and development into low earth orbit, as well as medium earth orbit, to figure out what the right mix of capabilities are in order to see that, that’s the only way to get global capability that’s affordable to actually deter that threat and a lot of people think the only reason you build it is to build a missile defense capability. We should have some missile defense capabilities, or point defenses and etcetera, we have to do that with hypersonics, just like we do with ballistic missiles. That’s a critical element of the architecture, but the first reason we built all the early warning radars we have around the world we built those before we had any missile defenses. We built that to enable our deterrence. We built it to provide early warning. We need the same for hypersonic missile threat. That will enable our deterrence first and then ultimately it will enable our defense as we continue…. It is a priority. It’s one of those things where I’m a little frustrated at our abilities to go fast. I won’t beat up the space sensor layer in the department this time. I will go back to historic issue on missile warning because this is the same thing. We are going from the space-based infrared system to whatever the next is going to come. We actually started that transition in roughly 2006-2007, I guess it was 2007 we started that then every summer between 2007 and 2014, I was involved in the summer study that would look at the next replacement for that capability. And then we would decide it in the budget and we would defer it to a year and then we would go back and say well, we actually need to study it a bit more, and then we would go back the next summer. I did seven summers in a row I did a summer study and that’s what we are doing on space sensor layer. We’re studying the heck out of it. When actually what we need to do, is we need to say, because I know the two basics, there’s only two orbits that make sense. LEO and MEO, that’s it. Ok now what kind of sensors can I put, there’s all kinds of sensors out there, put the sensors on some satellites, fly them cheap, fly them fast, see what they can do and then figure out what you need to actually go build. If you do that you will go infinitely faster and save enormous amounts of time, enormous amounts of money and get the capability faster. But that’s not the way we do it, we try to study the heck out of it to get to the perfect answer before we start something. I think that’s crazy.” – General Hyten
“And another question related issue on missile defense more specifically, do you think current missile defense systems are capable of protecting the United States from North Koreans new missiles?” – Kathleen Hick, Senior Vice President; Henry A. Kissinger Chair; and Director of International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, asking an audience member’s question.
“They are. I have 100% confidence, I don’t say 100% very often. I have a 100% confidence in those capabilities against North Korea but you have to understand, that’s what they are built for. They are built for North Korea, they’re not built for anything else. They are built for North Korea. They will work against North Korea, god forbid if we ever have to. But that’s again not the perfect answer, I think when you look at our deterrent the rest of the world looks at deterrence as the integration of offense and defense. That’s the way the rest of the world looks at deterrence. And oh by the way, when they look at us, they look at our offense and defense and think about that as our deterrence. We need to think about offense and defense as our integrated deterrence as well. We need to start thinking about what the next generation of defense is going to be and what we will walk into that and we don’t. If you want to know how you know that we don’t look at it together, last time we had the opportunity to look at it together was the beginning of the administration and we decided to do a Nuclear Posture Review and a Missile Defense Review. Separate. It’s all a singular strategy, you have to decide what you want to do and oh, by the way, as a nation, we understand that missile defenses are critical to our future. They are critical to our defense. They are critical to the rogue threats. They are critical to North Korea. But we haven’t made a decision about what the role of missile defense is broader in our overall architecture. We have to make that decision and that is a national decision. That’s not a Joint Chiefs decision. That’s a national decision we have to make.” – General Hyten
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