U.S. Strategic Commander Briefs Reporters at the Pentagon


Navy Adm. Charles “Chas” A. Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, briefs reporters at the Pentagon, September 14, 2020.

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Transcript

us, EPA with us today is Advil. Task Richard from U. S. Strategic Command. How he’s speaking about his mission set and the poet virus. This is on the record with that for over a year. Right? So good morning, everyone. And, uh, okay, go ahead. I think I’m properly, socially. Distance here. The it is for those of you that don’t know me, I’m emerald. Chazz Richard. I’m the commander of U S Strategic Command on I have the privilege of leading 100 and 50,000 soldiers, sailors, Airman, Marine civilians. It’s actually nice to see everybody’s faces this time. The last time I had a chance to talk to you all, I was on a phone bridge, and in fact, we didn’t realize it was on television. And eso it is, uh, I think a much better opportunity when I can actually see you. I appreciate taking some time to have a conversation this morning before we get to the questions that let me offer you a few updates on how we’re doing inside us Strategic command. First, I’m very pleased to report that throughout the challenge that was presented to us by Cove in 19 U s strategic command has and continues to be fully mission capable and, uh, like to thank my department’s leadership in terms of giving us authorities, resource is an understanding of what we were up against. That was a key in terms of our ability to be able to respond to this unprecedented threat. The, uh, conditions in Omaha are favorable. We’re adjusting workforce inside the new LeMay commander control facility. Thio adapt to local conditions. I’m at about 75% throttle with the rest on, uh, tele work, and we’re ready to go up or down as conditions dictate. Very pleased with, uh, my component commanders. Admiral Chris Grady. General, uh, Tom Ray and our timbre and Dan cobbler at S M d. C. For the Army who provided great leadership to adapt to their local conditions and maintain all their forces fully mission capable. Bottom line here is we’re ready. And why is that important? I I think it’s important for us to remember that throughout this challenge of covert 19 no threats went away, right? Nothing else changed. Uh, no one gave up a single nuclear weapon. Uh, based on the fact of cove in 19 in fact, it’s going in the other direction. Uh, our competitive continued to develop both nonstrategic and strategic capabilities in an effort to outpace us, and we are going into a very different world. The we are on a trajectory for the first time in our nation’s history, to face to peer nuclear capable competitors who have to be deterred differently on we’re working very hard to meet that challenge. I think we all know the threat that Russia poses to us. Modernizing strategic, conventional space counter space. Cyber uh, they’re developing hyper sonics in their gray zone actions. Uh, it’s not only what they’re developing, it’s what they’re doing. China’s similar right? Uh, I think you all have seen the recent China military report. I think it’s an excellent explanation in terms of what China’s overall strategy is and explains the why behind the things that we see them doing, particularly in my mission, sets again. Looking Thio. We like talking about the fact that they’re going to double their stockpile by the end of the decade. I’d ask you to consider that just measuring a nation’s stockpile is a relatively crude measure of their capabilities. You have to look at the totality of it, the delivery systems, what they’re capable of, what their readiness is. And, uh, China in particular, is developing a stack of capabilities that my mind is increasingly inconsistent with a stated no first use policy. Uh, we’re ready. I think one visible demonstration of that is the bomber task force missions that we’ve been operating worldwide. We’re pleased to be able to support US European command in the Pacific Command in providing forces that they used to accomplish our objectives. My, I see wings, my SS being groups are also continuing to mitigate risk from Kobe 19 operations and again, they’re fully mission capable. The, uh, I am also pleased to report that the department has made tremendous progress in its nuclear command and control capabilities. It was a wise decision to establish the N. C three Enterprise Center on. We are moving out and making great strides and making sure that the N C three systems that we have will continue to pace the threat. There certainly fully mission capable. Today. I have absolute confidence in them, and I’m also pleased that we’re gonna be able to say that going into the future, we do see a future N C three fitting hand in glove into the broader departments Commanding control jazz. See, too, if you will framework, Uh, and we are able to present to the secretary and the chairman on overall view of their NC three in a way we haven’t been able to do in many years. The bottom line here is I close and get ready for some questions were ready, but we’ll continue tohave toe work to maintain, uh are in a world with changing threats on us. I’m very proud of the men and women of U. S. Strategic Command and I wanna leave you with one last thought the way we have put the strategic forces and capabilities of this nation together from day one, we were always very humble in our ability to anticipate threats We always built in margin. We always built in hedge not only for the risk that we could foresee, but the risk that we might not be able to foresee. And so a big piece of why I can stand in front of you and tell you that we’re fully mission capable is because of wise decisions made by my predecessors to give me capability, flexibility and everything I needed to be able to respond to the thing that we didn’t see coming on. That’s an important thing, a important attributes. I think we need to keep in mind as we think about the recapitalization of these systems. And with that I’d be happy to take questions. He said We’ll start on the full line with Bob Burns. Yeah. Thank you. This is that. This is Bob. Uh, Admiral Richard. You mentioned the bomber Task force missions of recent months. Excuse me. Um, there have been a number of incidents lately that the Russians have characterized much differently. For example, just a few days ago, the head of the Russian air Force was saying that a number of times in August, in September that B 52 bombers have flown close to Russian borders and that he saw this as both hostile and provocative action by the United States. I’m wondering if you could say whether you know, if you have concerns about the escalation of tensions with Russia, um, you know, that could lead to actual conflict. Eso Bob. Thank you for the question. It’s nice to hear from you again, sir. I think the bomber task forces are a iconic example of how we’re executing the national defense strategy in terms of us being strategically predictable yet tactically unpredictable. I’m very pleased in the support that we’re providing to the other combatant commands. And, uh, I think that they have done a very good job of showing that the United States is capable of operating anywhere in international airspace and is ready to meet any challenge that is presented to us. Okay, we’ll come back to the room with Barbara CNN. Two things If I may unq ove it First of all, could you just walk us back to this past winter when strategic command, because it’s so critical, really began to understand? When did you know the severity of the potential co vid threat? But my other questions, perhaps first, is you referenced China and no first use policy. What’s your thinking on this? Can you talk about that a little more? Do you believe that China either is rejecting the notion of no first use is moving towards and no first use? What’s your assessment of that? And what does that mean for the United States? So am, I would start with a za military commander. What I look at MAWR is a another nation’s capabilities, less about what their stated intentions are. And I see China developing a stack of capabilities that would be inconsistent with the no first use policy. It’s not my place to judge whether they, uh, intend to honor that or not. What I can tell you is is that they certainly have the capabilities to execute any number of deterrent or employment strategies that air, seemingly inconsistent with a and in no first use policy, really drives you back quickly to a minimum deterrent strategy. And it just looks inconsistent to me. And it’s my responsibility to make sure that I have thought through what we have todo do to deter what they’re capable of doing a supposed to what they say they’re going to do. Offensive attack is what you’re saying. No, ma’am, I didn’t say anything about offensive attack. I’m talking about deterring what they’re capable of doing covert this past winter. When did you when did you really know and told by your people that it was a serious threat? Man, we are constantly looking at any number of threats, and we take all of them seriously, that, uh, you know, one thing I’m putting the Department of Defense has a plan for just about everything. We had a plan in place for a pandemic infectious disease, and we simply in, uh, very early on, um, December time frame started looking through what if scenarios and started devising mechanisms strategies to address that and that that process served us very well. Okay, we will stay here in a room with Lucas from Fox. Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News. Admiral, why do you need a low yield nuclear warhead on your ballistic missile submarines? Well, I think the justification for the low yo ballistic missile was very well laid out in the nuclear posture review and then captured inside our national defense strategy in order to deter, you know, the basic equation of that has not changed over time, right? For any action that your opponent considers, can you deny a name or impose a cost that is considered greater? And so it was opening up a possibility. This was looked at basically by the capabilities that were being developed in terms of the thought that, uh, someone might think that a small, limited use of a nuclear weapon might drive the US into a situation where any response that we would consider would be considered disproportionate and therefore not credible. Uh, the low yield ballistic missile submarine closes that perception and enhances security, enhances deterrence that the new nuclear warhead that the president was referring to recently the, uh, again, I, uh I think you’re referring to something that is going to come out in this Bob Woodward book, which I’ve not seen. In fact, I’m sure that it’s available to be seen, so I’m not in a good position. Toe help you address that question? Um, but I will say, uh, look, as a commander strategic command. I have any number of classified capabilities that if you had my responsibilities to defend the nation, you would find that they’re actually quite useful in that. Uh, but beyond that, I’m not in position toe to really help you with that. Okay, we’ll go out to the phone lines Thio drizzly with Reuters. Alright, thanks to quick questions. Firstly, in terms of cove it what’s the time line you’re looking at in terms of when things may go back? Thio the way they were. You know, it’s at the end of the year. Is it indefinite? Um, And second question part of your job is to look at the strategic force of other countries. Were you seeing in terms of the missile forces of Iran and North Korea and the Impact Cove it is having on them? Well, first, uh, to your to your first question in terms of I’m not sure that we’re ever gonna go back. Thio, Uh, the way we were before, there’s any number of things that, uh, we understand the disease better the potential for a vaccine. There’s a, uh, any number of things. And so we’re very well postured to operate for ah, long period time indefinitely in this. But actually, we’ve learned some things along the way. Um, that I don’t want to go back on right. Eso our ability to operate, distributed and remotely particular administratively has been greatly enhanced. Uh, we have finally crossed the bridge in terms of being able to do some teleworking, and in fact, from my one small example my personnel shop, we’re never bringing them all in again. I was telling Congressman Thornberry I’m gonna take 70 cars off, uh, entrance to the base in the morning because we’re just mawr efficient when we operate in a distributed fashion. So when I know, I don’t think we’re going back to the way that we used to do business before. In some cases, I don’t think we want to. Okay, we’ll stay on the phone lines and go toe Tony Cappuccio with Bloomberg. Hi, sir. I have a quick follow up Thio. The earlier question from Lucas. At some point will you be able to discuss what weapon the president was referring to when he told Woodward about this new secret nuclear weapon? And I have a China follow up. Well, I’d be happy to take the China follow up and again on a question about the Woodward book. I just shit make not really in a good position to help you. I would, uh, refer your question either the White House or the Secretary of Defense. But I would enjoy that. China follow up. These among their new capabilities are the gym class submarines. Are those gym class submarines now starting strategic patrols near Hawaii? The China report mentions that their their jail two missiles could range the United States, but they need to be in western Pacific waters near Hawaii. Are you seeing that threat emanate? Well, what I would offer is Thio not shoot behind the duck on. I would actually pay more attention to their jail three missiles that they’re working on, which give them a greatly expanded range. And again, I think this is I get apprehensive that were not fully conscious as a nation of the threats that we face. Right? Um, China now has the capability, and we can get into the specifics to directly threaten our homeland from a ballistic missile submarine. That’s a pretty watershed moment. Uh, and that’s why when I come up here and say that we need to maintain the forces to give us a deterrent capability against that, why we have to go recapitalize are, uh, strategic Triad. Why I say that there’s no margin left and why that’s the most important mission in the Department of Defense. It is. You’re giving me a great example of why we have to go do that. The, uh, it is, uh it’s important, I think to remember. I say the department frequently says that strategic terms most important mission in the department. It is foundational everything we do. But maybe a way to operationalize that is I am my forces set the conditions necessary for the rest of the Department of Defense to execute its mission. If strategic deterrence fails, the, uh, complexion and the character of the competition just changed dramatically. And it is in everybody’s best interest for that not to happen. But to do that, I have to have sufficient force to execute our strategy. And you see, from, uh, a great example off What other nations air doing toe threaten that? Okay, we’ll come back in the room toe Seligman politico, Um, two questions. One I wanted to follow up on barbs. Question about the China report. Um, just to ask you to clarify a little bit mawr What you mean when you say you think they are, you know, they are moving towards a no no, first use nuclear policy. E mean, the 200 missile figure that was in that report is a fraction of the size of the arsenals of both the US and Russia. So I’m just wondering again what you’re basing this thing’s conclusion on, and then I also wanted to let me address that first. Right again. Don’t shoot behind the duck, right. It’s not where they are, It’s where they’re going, Right? And when China sets its mind to something, they are very impressive in their ability to go accomplishment on. And it got to be careful about mirror imaging. They’re not put together the same way that we are. But one of my favorite examples. And I think I have it here because it won’t get the numbers right. You know, China just established a Coast Guard in 2013 right? And again, they’ve had other forces, but they decide they want a Coast Guard in 2013. They have 255 ships today. I’m sorry, 255 in seven years, they go build 200 ft on top of all the other ships they’re building. Uh, I just think that their strategic forces are next on their to do list, right? And I’m trying to posture us for the threat that we’re gonna face. Not the one that we have today and then a different subject. I wanted to ask you about the G BSD contract that was recently awarded from Northrop. Are you concerned at all about the lack of competition on this contract and what that means going forward? Uh, the short answer And I do need to clarify I’m a combatant commander. So in some respects, I’m the customer for the capability that your question, uh, might be better Asked to the Air Force that said, I’m fully confident in the Air Force’s ability thio, uh, deliver the requirements and capabilities that I asked for on time in the budget that they say that they’re going to need. In fact, I was just out at Hill Air Force Base myself doing, uh, some reviews with both, uh, the program manager for G B S d as well as the contractor that you’re talking about. And I have to tell you, I walked away very impressed with cutting edge ways that the G. B S D program is not only going about accomplishing the acquisition task that they’ve been handed, but actually we talked about you all haven’t gotten to it yet, But if you ask me what keeps me up at night, it is our ability to move fast. I just gave you an example of how China can move fast, and in the end, we’re gonna have to move equally as fast in order to pace that threat. In the end, Uh, it is time for us to start getting some of our bureaucracy out of our way. I think that is the fundamental thing that slows us down. I’d point of the G B s D program as ah Pathfinder in terms of how to achieve the old standard by a new way. Okay, we’ll go back to the phone lines. Thio segment Lee with Radio Free Asia. Yeah, I have a question on operation plan 50 to 7 with military operation plan made by us and South Korea for the defense against a possible North Korean basin. Uh, does this plan include the use of nuclear weapons? Well, one, obviously, I can’t go into any specifics of any operational plan. But what I will say is is that we maintain a very close ally alliance and partnership with South Korea. Um, longstanding. It’s formally documented, uh, proud that the United States extends extended deterrence and assurance commitments to South Korea, which has been beneficial thio both nations and I’ll tell you that whatever the situation is or whatever a plan, uh, needs to be considered, my forces will be ready to support what they’ll be asked to do. And we’ll stay on the phone lines and go to Jeff Struggle with task and purpose. It turns straight against North Korea after 5 50 to deploy in Guam will be doing to us Homeland. Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I don’t think I understood the question. Okay. Is there any change in nuclear deterrence twenties against North Korea? Ever since being 52 diplo in Guam will be drawn to unite us comment? Well, I I go back to I think, the decision to employ dynamic force employment. Um, uh, which I think is what you’re referring to, as opposed to a continuous bomber presence on Guam has actually enhanced deterrence by being strategically predictable, tactically unpredictable. It has given us ah, good opportunity and to improve both short term and long term readiness. Uh, in his ah great example of the wisdom in the way that the national defense strategy has been put together. Okay, Now we’ll go to the phone line to Jeff struggle, task and purpose. Thank you. Uh, well, I have a question about the W 76-2 Is it Strat com’s belief that if the United States explodes a low yield nuclear weapon over Russia or China, that Russia or China will not retaliate with strategic weapons? Well, the first part is is remember that the whole idea is to prevent any of that from happening in the first place. The mission is deterrence, and it’s, uh, sometimes the hard thing to wrap your head around that in my mission said, victory looks like nothing happened. Right? And we have been successful in that inside of, uh, for over 70 years. And so, uh, where I think the particular value is is the deterrent effect that the 76 2 provides to see to it that we never go down the path that you’re describing to begin with. Second, my question is, can you limit a nuclear exchange to tactical weapons, or is there no such thing as tactical nuclear weapons? So you’re asking one of the greatest unanswered questions in military theory. Deterrence theory of all time, right? The answer is, nobody knows if that’s the case, but I do think it’s an obligation for the United States to do everything in its power. Should a nuclear weapon be used by somebody else to stop the exchange as soon as possible, toe limit damage to the US to the maximum extent possible and to end it on terms favorable to the United States? The short answer, your question is, is that, uh, nobody knows. Fortunately, we don’t have any real world experience in that, and I would just assume keep it that way, we’ll come back in the room. Thio Lucas, Admiral The Pentagon recently stood up. A UFO task force has that given you something that you have to plan for as the head of America’s strategic arsenal? I, uh, Lucas, I can’t go into a lot of detail on any number of things that we’re working on. I’ll just offer that Strategic Command looks at a wide range of threats. In fact, I probably let this conversation get too narrowly focused on, uh, nuclear capabilities, right? I think the 2000 of the last NPR wisely acknowledged that you can have a strategic attack, that it’s not nuclear in nature. That is something that has changed in the current environment. So We’re looking at any number of threats, not just nuclear. To make sure we understand them, understand what might happen to us. And do we have a strategy in place Taylor to deter that, Uh, that includes any number of threats. Chris Anderson. Um, a w past news. So New York Times has an article this morning about the risk legal risk to the United States from the use of supporting Saudi Arabia using and other countries Saudi Arabia, in this case using, uh, weapons against civilians. So my question is, does it also bring up the question of a risk that increases as we proliferate arms sales to countries around the world? And is that something that we should look at as a strategic risk? So I am. I have no direct responsibility in the area that you’re talking about, and I would defer your question back to the secretary of Defense is better positioned to answer it for one last question. So we go to Barbara Excuse go back. Just explain a little more about one thing that you said and you said we are not fully conscious of the threats that we face. I think that’s pretty close to what you exactly said we’re not. You’re worried that we’re not fully conscious of the threats we face? What? What? Tell us what you mean by that. I mean is is the military unconscious? Is the American? It’s the American people. Barbara, I think we’ve had a little conversation about this. I think you and I have done duck and cover drills back when we were a kid. Right. If you’ll remember that, I certainly have. So we knew that there was a threat to us that might require us to respond strategically. We don’t even think about that anymore. We take strategic deterrence for granted in a lot of cases. Not acknowledging the fact that we have never had a nuclear attack on the nation and haven’t had a great power war in 70 years was not just some accidental fate in history or event in history. It was a lot of hard work by a lot of people to maintain systems ready to go so that we deterred that from happening. That’s what I’m talking about. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have any other questions, I’ll be in the press officer area. Thank you all very much. Thanks, Adam.

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