Technology Extends Stratcom’s Priorities

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 — U.S. Strate­gic Command’s pri­or­i­ty is to deter nuclear attack on the Unit­ed States and its allies, but broad­er respon­si­bil­i­ties in the 21st cen­tu­ry include cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and mis­sile defense, the organization’s top offi­cer said here yes­ter­day.
Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee for the first time since he assumed com­mand of Strat­com in Jan­u­ary.

“Of the threats we face, weapons of mass destruc­tion clear­ly rep­re­sent the great­est threat to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, par­tic­u­lar­ly when they are pur­sued or pos­sessed by vio­lent extrem­ists or state pro­lif­er­a­tors,” Kehler said.

While nuclear deter­rence is Stratcom’s No. 1 pri­or­i­ty, the gen­er­al added, the com­mand also has broad­er respon­si­bil­i­ties in the 21st cen­tu­ry, such as sup­port­ing U.S. Africa Com­mand, he said.

“We pro­vid­ed B‑2s ear­ly in [Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn] for Africom’s use,” Kehler said. “We are also tak­ing steps … to make sure they have the space capa­bil­i­ties they need, to make sure the net­works there are oper­a­tional and have suf­fi­cient capac­i­ty and are secured.”

Strat­com also has long-term engage­ment in oth­er regions of the world in sup­port of oth­er com­bat­ant com­man­ders, the gen­er­al added. Such activ­i­ties, he said, “are pri­mar­i­ly syn­chro­niz­ing — syn­chro­niz­ing plan­ning and capa­bil­i­ties for things like mis­sile defense; intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance; elec­tron­ic war­fare; and com­bat­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion.”

Anoth­er pri­or­i­ty is to improve capa­bil­i­ties and oper­at­ing con­cepts in the civ­il and nation­al secu­ri­ty areas of space and cyber­space, he added.

“Space is increas­ing­ly con­test­ed, con­gest­ed and com­pet­i­tive,” Kehler said, “and its impor­tance to the Unit­ed States goes far beyond nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

Essen­tial objec­tives include ensur­ing unin­ter­rupt­ed access to space and space-based capa­bil­i­ties, improv­ing aware­ness of objects and activ­i­ties in space, and enhanc­ing the pro­tec­tion and resilience of crit­i­cal sys­tems, the gen­er­al said. Achiev­ing those objec­tives, he said, demands con­tin­ued invest­ments to improve space sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness and to sus­tain crit­i­cal space capa­bil­i­ties while pur­su­ing increased oppor­tu­ni­ties with allies and com­mer­cial part­ners.

Strat­com and its sub­uni­fied com­mand U.S. Cyber Com­mand, he said, “are work­ing hard to improve our orga­ni­za­tions and rela­tion­ships, enhance our net­work sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness and pro­tec­tion, increase our tech­ni­cal capac­i­ty, and devel­op the human cap­i­tal we need as we look to the future.”

Cyber threats include a range of sources, he said, from nui­sance hack­ers and cyber­crime to denial of ser­vices and poten­tial­ly destruc­tive activ­i­ties. “Our great­est chal­lenge in cyber­space is to improve our abil­i­ty to oper­ate and defend the DOD net­work at net­work speed,” Kehler said, “and to make sure our crit­i­cal activ­i­ties can con­tin­ue, even in the face of adver­sary attempts to deny or dis­rupt them.”

In every one of those cas­es as the roles of gov­ern­ment, Defense Depart­ment and indus­try are defined, the top issue is “mak­ing sure we’ve put in place the right rela­tion­ships, the right roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties and in some cas­es mak­ing sure we have the right author­i­ties in place so that we can act at what our cyber experts would call net­work speed, which is a very tough chal­lenge for us,” Kehler said.

The mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment on cyber­space signed in Octo­ber between the Defense and Home­land Secu­ri­ty depart­ments, the gen­er­al added, is “a very, very good start.” The next steps include improv­ing sit­u­a­tion­al cyber aware­ness among the com­bat­ant com­mands and into the pub­lic domain, he added.

Strat­com also must recruit and retain the best cyber experts and resolve the ques­tion of author­i­ties, Kehler said, “so we have prop­er­ly sort­ed out this bal­ance between our con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tions and our need to act on behalf of the nation, with the appro­pri­ate civ­il author­i­ties in the lead.”

Kehler said the ser­vices are help­ing to bol­ster cyber recruit­ment, and he not­ed that at least one ser­vice has put cyber aware­ness train­ing into place from basic train­ing on up. “Almost like every Marine is a rifle­man [and] every sailor is a fire­fight­er, every ser­vice mem­ber, cer­tain­ly every air­man, … is going to be a cyber defend­er,” he said.

Anoth­er front for Strat­com, Kehler said, is the phased, adap­tive approach for mis­sile defense in Europe. Mis­sile defense for the Unit­ed States has been based on two major objec­tives, he said.

“Objec­tive No. 1 has been to make sure that our home­land is pro­tect­ed against a lim­it­ed bal­lis­tic-mis­sile attack from North Korea and to extend that if events war­rant and Iran devel­ops sim­i­lar capac­i­ty,” he said.

The sec­ond objec­tive that has emerged, Kehler said, has been to ensure Strat­com is respond­ing to rapid­ly grow­ing region­al threats. The phased, adap­tive approach is intend­ed to put resources into the com­bat­ant com­mand the­aters to bol­ster the defens­es of U.S. troops and allies in such a way that is adapt­able to the threat, he said.

“I sup­port that,” he added. “I think that’s the right way to go for­ward.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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