Testimony on United States Strategic Command and United States Space Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2023 and the future years defense program.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Committee on Armed Services
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m. in Room SD-106, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Jack Reed, chairman of the committee, presiding.
Committee Members Present: Senators Reed [presiding], Shaheen, Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Kaine, King, Warren, Peters, Rosen, Kelly, Wicker, Fischer, Cotton, Rounds, Ernst, Tillis, Cramer, Scott, Blackburn, Hawley, and Tuberville.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JACK REED, U.S. SENATOR FROM RHODE ISLAND
Chairman Reed: Let me call this hearing to order.
Good morning. The Committee meets today to receive testimony from Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, and General James Dickinson, Commander of U.S. Space Command, or SPACECOM. Admiral Richard, General Dickinson, I want to thank you for your service to our nation, and I would like to extend my thanks to the men and women serving under your commands. Maintaining our nuclear deterrent and preserving our ability to operate in space are fundamental to our long-term strategic competition with Russia and China.
There is a reason we have asked the commanders of STRATCOM and SPACECOM to testify together. Until 2019, Space Command was part of Strategic Command. Now, as SPACECOM stands up as an independent command, I would like to know what gaps or seams remain exposed during this transition and how they can be addressed.
Much has changed since our last hearing in 2021. Russia's ongoing unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine has shaken the international order that has maintained nuclear stability for the better part of a century. Vladimir Putin's behavior has been reckless to a dangerous degree. Just prior to its invasion, Russia conducted a large out-of-cycle nuclear exercise, and the Kremlin has since made a series of escalatory statements. Normally, Russia conducts its nuclear exercises in the fall and the United States conducts ours afterwards in a stable, predictable fashion. Not so this year. More than ever, our nuclear deterrent, the bedrock of our national defense, is being relied upon as we witness the realities of a European conflict involving a nuclear armed nation.
In the past year, we have also seen China develop three missile fields in hardened silos throughout the country. This development, along with China's completion of its nuclear triad and modernization of its nuclear command, control, and communications fundamentally change the nature of Beijing's nuclear doctrine. We need to understand why China is undertaking this expansion, what it means for stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and how we should adjust our own nuclear deterrence to protect our nation and uphold the fundamental extended commitment to our allies.
Similarly, over the past year we gained a clearer picture of the threat we face in space, which has become a contested domain. In any future conflict, China will quickly extend its capabilities into space in a seamless fashion. Russia, for its part, acted recklessly in November by destroying a satellite in space while building up forces on the Ukrainian border. During today's hearing we will discuss these threats and the nature of conflict we can expect in space in the years to come.
In particular, General Dickinson, I would like to make sure that SPACECOM is fulfilling the space and ground functions you inherited from STRATCOM with respect to missile warning and nuclear command, control, and communications. Ensuring we can accurately warn both Strategic and Northern Commands, and our senior leadership, of a missile attack on the homeland is of the utmost importance.
SPACECOM is also responsible for integrating and tasking both ground and space sensors for better space situational awareness, essentially becoming DoD's "sensor command." General Dickinson, I ask that you share your vision on how to integrate this myriad number of sensors, which range from radars on the ground and at sea to sensors aboard satellites.
General, I would also like to know the progress your command is making during its stand-up and how you are finding and retaining personnel with the specialized skill sets associated with SPACECOM operations.
Admiral Richard, your command is undergoing an intense period of modernization that began with the ratification of the New START Treaty. This will be the third modernization cycle since 1960, as parts of each leg of our triad age out. I am interested in hearing about the progress of modernizing the entire triad and the implications of altering that plan, especially with respect to our near-peer competitors.
In addition, I would like to know your views on the efforts by the National Nuclear Security Administration to re-capitalize its uranium and plutonium handling infrastructure. Some of these facilities date back to the Manhattan Project and are single points of failure in supporting your mission. It is essential that we understand what impacts this may have on your operations.
Thank you again for appearing today and I look forward to your testimonies.
Ranking Member Inhofe cannot be here today. We anticipate he will return next week. But I would ask that his opening statement be submitted to the record, and without objection, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Senator Inhofe follows:]
Chairman Reed: And I would also note for my colleagues that there will be a classified briefing immediately following this session in SVC-217 to continue our discussion.
And with that let me recognize Admiral Richard.
STATEMENT OF ADMIRAL CHARLES RICHARD, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES STRATEGIC COMMAND
Admiral Richard: Chairman Reed, distinguished committee members, I am pleased to testify today with my fellow combatant commander, General Dickinson.
Before I begin, given the ongoing and historically significant crisis that is happening in Ukraine right now, I am going to need to defer all questions regarding Russia and a number of questions related to our own forces to the closed session.
I want to thank Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley for their continued support to the strategic deterrence and strategic defense of the nation as well as their overall leadership under some very trying conditions.
Ladies and gentlemen, right up front I want to assure you that the 150,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, guardians, civilians of U.S. Strategic Command, as always, are ready to execute our strategic deterrence mission.
Chairman Milley rightly stated, we are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power the world has ever witnessed. Today we face two nuclear-capable near-peers who have the capability to unilaterally escalate to any level of violence, in any domain, worldwide, with any instrument of national power, at any time, and we have never faced a situation before like that in our history.
Last fall, I formally reported to the Secretary of Defense the PRC's strategic breakout. Their expansion and modernization in 2021 alone is breathtaking, and the concern I expressed in my testimony last April has now become a reality. I had previously emphasized our need to be able to deter two adversaries at the same time. That need is now an imperative.
I have said this before and I think it is worth repeating. Every operational plan in the Department of Defense and every other capability we have rests on an assumption that strategic deterrence is holding, and in particular that nuclear deterrence is holding. If strategic or nuclear deterrence fails, no other plan and no other capability in the Department of Defense is going to work as designed. The nation's nuclear forces underpin integrated deterrence and enable the U.S., our allies, and our partners to confront aggressive and coercive behavior.
The strategic security environment is now a three-party nuclear near-peer reality. Today's nuclear force is the minimum required to achieve our national strategy. Right now I am executing my strategic deterrence mission under historic stress, crisis levels of deterrence, crisis deterrence dynamics that we have only seen a couple of times in our nation's history, and I am doing it with submarines built in the '80s and '90s, and air-launched cruise missile built in the '80s, intercontinental ballistic missiles built in the '70s, a bomber built in the '60s, part of our nuclear command and control that predates the internet, and a nuclear weapons complex that dates back to the Manhattan era.
We must modernize the nuclear triad, the NC3, the nuclear weapons complex, and supporting infrastructure to meet presidential objectives. And while modernization must be the priority, please make no mistake. STRATCOM's forces are ready today.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Admiral Richard follows:]
Chairman Reed: Thank you very much, Admiral. General Dickinson, please.
STATEMENT OF GENERAL JAMES DICKINSON, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES SPACE COMMAND
General Dickinson: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Chairman Reed and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. As always, I am honored today to represent the approximately 18,000 men and women of the United States Space Command. We are a joint and diverse team of professionals who value the honorable service of everyone within our ranks.
Today we are not only in full support of our joint forces globally and NATO in Europe but we remain hard at work building the command toward full operational capability. We are steadily building the capability and capacity in our headquarters, and its composition reflects our joint, combined, and partnered approach to executing our critical mission. As of this month we have over 1,000 members assigned to our headquarters, including civilians, contractors, active-duty personnel from all services, representatives from the interagency, and servicemembers from the National Guard and Reserves.
We also recognize the vital importance of our allies and partners through the contributions of an assigned international general office and two international liaison officers on our staff. We are pleased to have all of them on our team.
Responding to the threats to the U.S. and allied interests in space demands the teamwork and expertise of every one of our people. We are prepared to execute our unified command plan missions and responsibilities, yet acknowledge that the challenges from our competitors in the domain are substantial and, in fact, growing.
China remains our pacing challenge. Current PLA development is directed towards creating a joint, versatile, professional, and lethal force capability of power projection globally, and the space layer is critical to their efforts. In 2021, the PRC increased on-orbit assets by 27 percent. This increase brings their on-orbit satellite total from just over 100 satellites 10 years ago to more than 500 satellites today. Their recent counter-space capability demonstrations include the DN-1 and the DN-2 direct descent anti-satellite tests and a hypersonic glide vehicle test.
In October of 2021, the PRC launched their SJ-21 satellite, described as a, quote, "space debris mitigation," end quote, satellite. In January, the SJ-21 docked with a defunct PRC satellite and moved it to an entirely different orbit. This activity demonstrated potential dual-use capability in SJ-21 interaction with other satellites and builds on the previous demonstrations in late 2016 of potential dual-use capability that we saw in the SJ-17.
Over the past 2 weeks we have witnessed Russian aggression in Europe on a significant scale. Space is not a sanctuary from similar behavior. Russia is actively working to regain its prestige as a space power. The destructive direct ascent test just this last November is an example of their activity. Space is no longer a sanctuary, and U.S. Space Command stands ready to protect and defend the space assets of the United States and our partners and allies.
U.S. Space Command is committed to deterring the use of any space capabilities for nefarious purposes within the framework of the Department of Defense Integrated Deterrence Strategy. Key to all of this is U.S. and allied space superiority informed through space domain awareness, or SDA, capabilities. SDA helps us analyze, not just identify, what is occurring in space, which when combined with the information from our intelligence agency helps develop an understanding of why things are happening, characterize intent, and provide decision advantages to our leaders. Our SDA capabilities are part of a broader resilience space architecture that enables command and control and provides the tools to sustain freedom of action in the space domain.
Within this broader resilience space architecture, SDA remains my top mission priority for U.S. Space Command. SDA provides the backbone of U.S. Space Command's strategy for accomplishing our mission. That strategy sets the conditions to understand and attribute activities in space. This enables our mission to deter first, and when called upon, to defend space capabilities and to deliver combat power for the United States and our allies.
Our strategy has three main areas of focus: first, countering competitive influence; second, strengthening relationships and attracting new partners; and third, building and maintaining a competitive edge. With continued support from Congress, U.S. Space Command will do all of that and more. U.S. Space Command is postured to protect and defend the space domain while ensuring continuous space effects are delivered to our joint and combined force.
I assure you, here today, that U.S. Space Command is ready. So on behalf of the most critical resource in our command, the soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, guardians, civilians, and families of the command, thank you, Chairman Reed and members of this Committee, for your support of our mission to conduct operations in, from, and to space.
I submit my statement for the record, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of General Dickinson follows:]
Chairman Reed: Thank you very much, General Dickinson. And Admiral Richard, I concur with your assessment that we should reserve questions regarding Ukraine and Russia to the closed session, so I will do that.
But let me begin with a question regarding the modernization of the triad and also the capabilities at the National Nuclear Security Administration. You have said in the past that we are at a point of no return, so can you please elaborate a bit, particularly with respect to Minuteman-III ICBMs and the pit production capability at NNSA.
Admiral Richard: Chairman, one, I am pleased to report, based on what services and agencies are reporting, that the overall recapitalization of the triad is on track. No margin is left, but right now all of those programs are proceeding the way that is necessary for them to deliver capability on time to meet my requirements.
The weapons complex is a different story, and we have crossed one of those points of no return that I referred to previously in that we now know we will not get 80 pits per year by 2030, as is statutorily required. And even unlimited money at this point will not buy that back.
So there is active work underway inside the Nuclear Weapons Council to understand exactly how much of a delay we are going to have, how much of it can be addressed by funding. The fundamental question we have to answer to Congress is to certify NNSA's budget.
And I want to make another point here, which is we are not mitigating this problem. We have shot all the mitigation to get us to this point. It is the fourth time the nation has tried to recapitalize its pit production infrastructure. Now the question becomes how much damage have we done and what are the consequences of that, and we are working to better understand that, sir.
Admiral Richard: Senator, what I will offer is that I have testified to this committee and others as to my recommendations with regard to possible changes to declaratory policy. Those have not changed. That was a part of my input into the Nuclear Posture Review. As you know, that ultimately will be decided by the President.
We received very clear feedback from the allies in terms of their opinion and the harmful effects on extended deterrence and assurance that changes would have. That is one factor of many to be considered.
I do think right now we are getting a very vivid example, real-world, of the importance of extended deterrence and assurance, that if we want our allies to assist us in standing up to aggression we have to provide that assurance to them such that they are in a position go after our mutual goals.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Admiral.
General Dickinson, in some respects you have been promoted to Sensor Command as well as Space Command, because one of your first major tasks is to link sensors both in space, on the earth, and below the seas. Can you give us an idea of what it will take to perform this integration and where you might be now?
General Dickinson: Thank you, Chairman. So we have made a lot of progress over the last 2, 2 1/2 years with identifying and incorporating sensors that we traditionally did not use for space domain awareness, missile warning, or missile defense in the global perspective. And we have really identified radars such as TPY-2s around the world as well as BMD, ships afloat, and Aegis Ashore sites as well. And our goal is to link these sensors together from a terrestrial perspective.
We add to those. We add the UEWRs that we have traditionally used for NC3 around the world for early warning and brought all those terrestrial capabilities to bear, if you will, in terms of understanding what we see in the space domain.
In addition to that, we are linking our space-based assets in addition to that, bringing them into a common operating picture. We still have work to be done with regards to that, but we have made some good progress over the last 2 years, 2 1/2 years, and we are working towards that, the ultimate piece, where we have one operating picture that has those sensors fused into it. And that really kind of pulls in some of the work that the Department of the Air Force is doing with JADC2 and some of those ABMS efforts that are going on right now.
And as you can imagine, Chairman, that has a massive data burden, if you will, that has to be properly synthesized, properly organized, making sure that it is cyber protected so that you have a database and you have information that is authoritative and available at the speed of relevance.
Chairman Reed: The backbone of this is constant, uninterrupted, encrypted communication between all your assets. Is that one way to look at it?
General Dickinson: That is one way to look at it, yes, Chairman.
Chairman Reed: And are we getting there?
General Dickinson: We are getting there. We are getting there, and like I said, those are sensors, many of those sensors, TPY-2s, BMD, Aegis BMD ships, those sensors traditionally were not required or expected to have a capability looking up in the space domain, but what we are finding out is those exquisite radars do have capability. And what capability we need to add to that we are identifying those gaps in requirements now at U.S. Space Command, and then putting that demand signal back onto those specific assets.
Chairman Reed: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Senator Wicker, please.
Senator Wicker: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and General Dickinson and Admiral Richard, thank you very much for your service on a very, very vital part of our national defense strategy.
Admiral Richard, the United States is currently engaged in negotiations with Iran on the Iran nuclear deal. Can you tell me, are you being consulted about those negotiations?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I am not, and that is appropriate. My forces do not play a role in terms of where that treaty and our overall desire to avoid Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Senator Wicker: So your experience in making our nuclear policy work is not deemed important to those who are negotiating how we go forward with Iran?
Admiral Richard: Senator, as you know I do not enter into treaties or agreements. That is a Department of State function. What I do is provide technical expertise. For example, I had my deputy commander as a part of the New START Treaty negotiation team so that that team had immediate access to any operational implications of what they were doing. While I am certainly available to do the same thing for those negotiations, currently that is not needed.
Senator Wicker: Okay. Well, I may not get an answer to this question but it is a question that is on the minds of Americans today. We are told, with relative certainty, that the talks are going on and that Russia is a part of the nuclear discussions between the United States and Iran about reentering this nuclear deal.
Let me just say, Russia is led by the dictatorship and the kleptocracy of Vladimir Putin, a serial international war criminal. And it is astonishing to me that they would be anywhere near the negotiating room in a process that might lead us to making concessions to Iran that we would not otherwise have made. You probably do not want to comment on that, I guess, Admiral.
Admiral Richard: Senator, what I would look forward to commenting in the closed session, is an overall assessment of threats to the nation and how we are going to defend and deter against those.
Senator Wicker: Okay. Let me leave it at that, but I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, and to my colleagues and to my fellow Americans that it is highly troubling, I think to most Americans, that Vladimir Putin would have anything at all to say about any decision the United States would make about what is best for our people and our national security, considering the fact that he is, without a doubt, a serial war criminal.
The distinguished ranking member of this committee, Mr. Chairman, has suggested a question or two, which I would like to submit on his behalf.
Russia has a nuclear arsenal larger and more modern than the United States, and currently threatened nuclear escalation during the invasion of Ukraine. Admiral Richard, we have heard for a long time how critical it is that we rebuild our nation's nuclear deterrent, but we are still years away from fielding any new systems. How important is it that we accelerate the U.S. nuclear modernization plan as quickly as possible?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would offer three points on that, and again can go into more detail in the closed session. It is very clear that the absolute minimum that we need to do is to recapitalize the triad, the nuclear command and control, and the nuclear weapons complex.
But there are two other questions we need to be asking ourselves along the way with that. The threats are changing in a way that we have not seen in 30 years. We do not know the endpoints of where either of those other two are going, either in capability or capacity. We are just now starting to work out what three-party stability looks like, what three-party deterrence dynamics works out.
On top of that, we are learning a number of lessons in real time on how actual crisis deterrence works. It is different from steady-state deterrence that most of us have experience in.
Those two questions, I think, need to be asked much more frequently than we have needed to in the past, followed with what is the capability, capacity, and posture we require from our strategic forces moving forward.
Senator Wicker: And, Mr. Chairman, if you would indulge me for another moment with regard to a question that the ranking member has asked repeatedly and which deserves to be asked today.
Admiral Richard, you have testified that you do not believe it is in the national interest of the United States to change our policy with regard to no-first-use or sole purpose nuclear declaratory policy. Would you explain why that has been, and is it still your position?
Admiral Richard: Well, Senator, I have testified to that and my position is unchanged. That, of course, will be decided along with a number of other factors and we will see what the answer is in the Nuclear Posture Review. But fundamentally I can go into a lot longer answer, but is, one, your adversaries will not believe you so it does not enhance deterrence in any way, but your allies will believe you and it is highly corrosive to your extended deterrence and assurance commitments.
Senator Wicker: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Wicker.
Senator Gillibrand, please.
Senator Gillibrand: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Dickinson, I am concerned that our lack of international agreements barring conventional weapons in space has led to a space arms race that threatens our civil and commercial systems in space. How much of a role is SPACECOM playing in developing international norms about the use of weapons in space?
General Dickinson: Thank you, Senator, for the question. In my job as the SPACECOM Commander I work very closely with the Department of Defense, and in particular the policy folks in the Department of Defense in terms of working through those types of issues. What I have been charged to do, by the Secretary of Defense back in July, was he gave me a memo that outlined the five tenets of responsible behavior for the Department of Defense. And so right now we are working through how we implement that within the department.
But to your point is that with those tenets become our base plate, if you will, that we talk with the Department of Defense, and then subsequently they would start talking with Department of State.
So we have kind of an indirect role that we start kind of from the combatant command up through the department in that regard. But those tenets of responsible behavior, there are five of them, and I think they are very good in terms of outlining what we would expect not only for the Department of Defense in terms of responsible behavior but for our allies and partners. We have had a lot of good discussions on that in several different forms.
Senator Gillibrand: Given the lack of codified norms in space, what, in your view, constitutes an armed attack in the domain and how would you deal with a proportionate response?
General Dickinson: Well, Senator, I would say that, you know, these tenets, I think, outline kind of what we would think as responsible behavior in space, and as we look through that, how do we make sure that we are able to understand that. I think the first thing we have to look at is how well can we understand what is happening in the space domain.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, my number one priority for the command, or top priorities is to be able to increase my space domain awareness so I can interpret and understand what those norms of behavior or those tenets are in space.
Senator Gillibrand: The "valley of death" in acquisition references the transition from innovative, small-scale projects to full-scale funded programs, which is often stunted with budget challenges, risk mitigation, and integration problems leading to immense waste. Innovative technology and the ability to quickly field the warfighter in space is critical to matching China's competencies.
In your view, is the use of other transaction agreements or OTAs by the DoD being effectively implemented, and do we need more emphasis on non-Federal acquisition regulation contracting solutions?
General Dickinson: So Senator, in my role right now I am a customer, if you will, for the United States Space Force and some other agencies, and I would categorize myself as a demanding customer. And I think we have to move very quickly in terms of building new and better capabilities for the space domain. And so I know that the Space Force and the Department of the Air Force are looking right now in terms of how do they streamline those processes in order to deliver capabilities to me on a much faster timeline.
Senator Gillibrand: Thank you. Admiral Richard, JADC2, over the past several years DoD has worked on developing JADC2 architecture to speed sensor to shooter responses and integrate communications across the services. In your view, how should DoD prioritize competing communications requirements for its future work, and what role, if any, will artificial intelligence play in future non-nuclear command and control decision-making systems?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would like to point out that, one, I am responsible for nuclear command and control from an operations requirements and systems integration piece, and in that responsibility I am very familiar with what JADC2 is doing in conventional command and control, and in fact was very pleased that a subset of what JADC2 is doing is for nuclear command and control. The two systems have to be overlapped to a great extent, so that we can have integration.
So we are headed in the right path to make sure we take full advantage of the investments we are making in conventional command and control, while recognizing that certain portions of nuclear command and control have to serve at a higher standard than we ask regular command and control, and making sure we identify those and meet those requirements.
Senator Gillibrand: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you very much, Senator Gillibrand.
Senator Tuberville, please.
Senator Tuberville: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for being here today with all the problems going on.
General Dickinson, Space Command is designated a geopolitical command. How do you plan to synchronize efforts with other geographic commands in a time of conflict? I mean, I am sure you have worked on that?
General Dickinson: Thank you, Senator. Absolutely. We do that every day. In particular, we have exercised it through many different exercises over the last couple of years. I think we have had five major exercises.
But to your point, we do that each and every day, and the way we do that is when the U.S. Space Command was stood up in 2019, we identified a gap, if you will, within each of the combatant commands in terms of space expertise. And so one of the first things we did as we stood up was we immediately started putting what we call joint integrated space teams, or JISTs, within each of the combatant commands, and we kind of started that with INDOPACOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, and we are working through the other 10 combatant commands now.
But these elements, at the beginning we thought would have a planning-only function within these commands. What we found out, through day-to-day operations and through exercises and real-world events, is that it is more than just planning. It is planning. It is operations. It is intelligence. It is the integration of those capabilities within each of the combatant commands that provides that regional combatant commander space expertise and the ability to leverage the space domain in order to meet their requirements for their either day-to-day operations or their op plans.
Senator Tuberville: Thank you. Pretty complex, especially being new.
Admiral, last year you said, quote, "For the first time in history the nation is facing two potential strategic peer, nuclear-capable adversaries at the same time." But our nuclear posture, my understanding, has been not about two threats. So in your best military advice, should the U.S. consider changes to the size of its nuclear force in order to account for having now two peer threats?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first, I have already repostured it, and I will be happy to give you some details of what we have done in the closed session. The answer is yes. We do not necessarily have to match weapon for weapon, right. The key is do you have enough capability to execute your strategy. But it is clear what we have today is the absolute minimum, and we are going to have to ask ourselves what additional capability, capacity, and posture do we need to do, based on where the threat is going. It is not all strategic. There is a significant class of theater threats that we are going to have to rethink potentially how we deter that.
You have to deter them all the time. I do not get the luxury of having a priority to one and lesser to the other. You have to do them all at the same time. And we are learning a number of lessons in crisis dynamics, because we have had so few times in our history we have been in that, that those will need to be applied too, sir.
Senator Tuberville: How does the hypersonic missile, now that we are seeing online, how does that change us in terms of your thoughts on the time frame of a threat, how quick we have to respond?
Admiral Richard: I look at hypersonics in two ways. One is the threat that it presents to us, and that fundamentally is a warning problem. In fact, the chairman mentioned seams opening up with the establishment of Space Command. Actually, it has worked the exact opposite of that. We mentioned the sensor commander, which is what I like to call it. Technically in DoD it is sensor manager, but sensor commander sounds better.
The way Jim is integrating across missile defense, missile warning, and space situational awareness, he is producing a better outcome than what we had in the past, and I am actually getting a better service because of his efforts in that. That is defensive.
Offensive, I will be ready to put online the first day any service makes it available a hypersonic capability. I have work for it right now. We have had requirements dating back to 2016 and earlier, and I will put that to good use the first day any service makes it available in defense of the nation.
Senator Tuberville: Thank you. Now that we do have hypersonics, just from my information, I am sure were changing protocol for our President, because it takes a pretty good while to get all the factors done to get to a point where a President can make a decision. Please tell me we are changing those protocols to answer a first attack.
Admiral Richard: Senator, one, I think it will be important that as a hypersonic capability comes into the Department of Defense that we not label it as strategic or theater or tactical. We already have examples of platform. My bombers are an example. I can use it strategically down one command and control decision path that you talked about. I can use them conventionally down another. I can give them to a geographic combatant commander for that commander's use. And I think we are going to want an equivalent, flexible, command and control structure for hypersonics.
Senator Tuberville: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Tuberville.
Senator King, please.
Senator King: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Before beginning my questions I wanted to respond to Senator Wicker. We have a national interest in Iran not obtaining a nuclear weapon. Russia has a national interest in Iran not obtaining a nuclear weapon. If, in this particular case, we have an identity of interest it would seem to me to make sense to have both parties at the table. We are not negotiating with Russia. We are negotiating with Iran. And if they can add weight to those negotiations, as they did in the initial negotiations, it seems to me that serves our national interest.
Let me turn to General Dickinson. ISR is very important generally, but I want to talk about a war that is not Ukraine. It is the war that is killing our people in Maine, two a day, and I refer to the international trade of narcotics. The question is, do we have sufficient space assets that can provide ISR and monitoring of drug shipments that can assist us in interdicting those drug shipments and preventing the death of our people? This is a war that is killing Americans in a large number every single day, and to say we cannot afford to watch what is going on with those shipments, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean, it seems to me is a dereliction of our duty to defend the country.
General Dickinson: Senator, up front I would say that is a little bit maybe out of my purview as a combatant commander in the Department of Defense. However, I would say to you that watching the -- to answer your question, I think when you look at the explosion in the commercial market in terms of ISR, and quite frankly some of the things that we have just seen in the Ukraine situation over the last couple of weeks with regards to -- we are all watching TV and we see those images, you know, many of those, if not all of those are coming from a commercial company.
And so what is interesting is how much that commercial market has expanded, exploded if you will, to provide us additional capabilities. And so, in other words, I think we have a big enough commercial market that can satisfy that demand signal, and really for us, in U.S. Space Command, with that augmentation we are able to use our military type of ISR assets to do some other things.
Senator King: I hope you are right, but the word that disturbed me in your answer was one of your first words, which was "not in my purview." That is my problem. It does not seem to be in anybody's purview. We have got DEA, we have got DHS, we have got the military, and we have got people dying. And I would hope that you would consider discussing this question to me. If this were an attack by another adversary on our country that was killing thousands of people a day, it would be within your purview. I am suggesting it is within your purview, and I hope that you will review that.
Let me ask a second question on your satellite capability. There has been a lot of discussion about resilience and redundancy. How are we in terms of cyber resilience, in terms of our space assets, blocking of signals, stealing of information coming from satellites?
General Dickinson: Senator, so when we stood up the Command in 2019, we made a very deliberate effort to make sure that we did not add cyber onto the equation as we grew. We built it in from the very beginning as we looked at our organization. And so from an organizational perspective we have got cyber expertise and capabilities built within the Command that is in particular in the headquarters.
So in the headquarters that I mentioned I have got about 1,000 people now. Within that headquarters itself I have got -- I just established my joint cyber cell within the Command that is under my J3 operations directorate. We have got an integrated planning element from Paul Nakasone, CYBERCOM, embedded with us. And two of my five service components are dual-hatted as not only Space Command but also CYBERCOM. So that is kind of the structural piece.
Senator King: I would urge you to add to that structure a red team. Ask Paul Nakasone to attack you and see how it goes. Admiral Richard, I would make the same suggestion.
Admiral Richard, in the view seconds I have left, a major sort of strategic question. How would we respond, under our current nuclear posture, to a Russian use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would be happy to answer that question in closed session.
Senator King: I thought that might be your answer, and I will ask the question in closed session. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Reed. Thank you, Senator King.
Senator Rounds, please.
Senator Rounds: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, gentlemen, first of all let me begin by saying thank you for your service to our country.
Admiral Richard, I would like a clarification if I could with regard to Senator Gillibrand had asked a question concerning command and control, and specifically command and control between conventional weapon systems versus command and control for nuclear weapon systems. And you mentioned an overlay of the two with regard to JADC2. Could you clarify a little bit the separation between the two that I think we always try to keep, between command and control of conventional versus nuclear weapon systems?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first, we do not always try to keep separation between conventional and nuclear command and control. You cannot. We never have and we will never be able to achieve that. Strategic platforms are still platforms. They have to interoperate with other platforms to accomplish their mission, even for simple deconfliction purposes. So one, we have to be able to tell an airplane where the other airplanes are, even if they are not on a similar mission. So you have to have some overlap to do that.
Two, it is to our benefit, where appropriate, to use our conventional command and control to add redundancy and resiliency to our nuclear command and control. You could not afford to build two completely separate systems if we tried to achieve that in the real world.
The final piece, though, there is always a piece of nuclear command and control that has to go to a higher standard. Nuclear command and control has to be able to withstand the worst threats that we can postulate against it. Regular command and control does not, and that is why we separate it out. We have always done that, and we are going to do it to an appropriate degree going into the future.
Senator Rounds: The reason for my question, with regard to clarification, is that I know that we are very sensitive to where other nations may try to impact our ability to command and control our nuclear weapons systems. We have the same concern about interacting with other nations' command and control.
Can you talk a little bit about the clarification between the two in terms of the interest in making sure that others are not put on alert because it appears that we are impacting theirs, and the same reason that we would have a concern about them impacting our ability, and what that does with regard to stability?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first I think it is important that I say here -- and I would be happy to go into a lot more detail in closed session -- the cause of, I would call it apprehension and valid concern over the security of our nuclear command and control, particularly the cybersecurity, is our nation's nuclear command and control has never been in a stronger, more protected, more resilient lineup than it is today, based on some very good work operationally done over the last 6 to 8 months, and I would love to go into more detail as to why I say that.
As to your concerns about the strategic implications of threatening another nation's nuclear command and control, and vice versa, that is very well understood. That is very well factored in as we think through the overall effects that we are trying to achieve.
And I do want to put one more caution out in terms of, we tend to use terms, at least back at STRATCOM, in strategic stability. Our basic definitions of strategic stability are probably out of date. They date back to the Cold War. They are two-party dynamics pieces. They tend to think of nuclear as the only major effect that has to be considered. When you move this into a three-party problem it is a completely different set of effects dynamics that I think we need a lot of work to get into to understand how that works.
Senator Rounds: Thank you, sir. General Dickinson, in our ability to achieve and maintain a competitive edge in space relies heavily on a rapid capability and development in eliminating acquisition bottlenecks. Can you discuss how you are partnering with commercial and interagency organizations to expand our space capabilities at the pace that we need them to be expanded, and what steps have you taken to improve your acquisition process in order to onboard new capabilities at a faster pace?
General Dickinson: So that has really been one of the highlights with the Command over the last couple of years is really the partnership we have with the commercial industry. Two examples of that. One is the two main areas that we work closest with the commercial partners right now, but we are expanding that, is satellite communications and the other one is space domain awareness. Satellite communications capability with our commercial industry has really been out at Vandenberg Space Force Base for years, but has expanded. We have got 10 commercial partners right now as part of our commercial integration cell out at Vandenberg Space Force Base, and that is a great relationship in terms of how do we expand our capabilities and capacity in the satellite communications domain or enterprise and how we do that.
The second one is space domain awareness, and really that has been a rather new, about a year and a half or two years old. We have got a cell in Colorado Springs that works for my Joint Task Force Space Defense and a commercial integration cell that really what it does is it provides to us what commercial space domain awareness capabilities can see around the world. So they are looking up, looking in the space domain for us, telling us what they see, and we utilize that in addition to what we are doing with our exquisite sensors.
So the integration of those two enterprises, space domain awareness and SATCOM, has been very, very powerful. It is growing so much now that we have had to develop a new commercial framework by which we can bring those partners on board and expand it even more.
Senator Rounds: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Rounds.
Senator Kaine, please.
Senator Kaine: Thank you to each of you for your service, and Admiral Richard, let me begin with you. You talked about how some of our defense concepts are a little bit outdated in your realm because they were based upon kind of a two-party dynamic and now we have to grapple with a three-party dynamic. I think it is even more complicated than that because two of the three parties are now cooperating in ways that they had not.
I have often asked questions in this committee and in the Foreign Relations Committee about growing cooperation between Russia and China, and usually folks on your side of the table tell me that I do not need to worry about it much because there is so much historical animosity between Russia and China that they are not likely to cooperate. I think we are finding that actually not to be the case. Whatever the past is, they are cooperating a lot more now.
So I would like you to each tell the committee in your domain how are you planning to take into account the increasing cooperation between Russia and China in either the STRATCOM or SPACECOM areas?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first I would say I am not going to tell you that I am not concerned about that. I am very concerned about what opportunistic aggression looks like. I am worried about what cooperative aggression looks like. And so, one, this gets back to I have to deter all of them, all of the time, which means every day we are thinking about their decision calculus and what we have to do to influence so that basically they say, "Not today."
And so right now you have to look at what is happening in one place and then walk over and see what that does to change decision calculus and change your messaging potentially, change your posture, and that is just in the opportunistic frame. And then do you have the plans ready to understand what cooperative looks like? So we do that every day, Senator.
Senator Kaine: Great. General Dickinson?
General Dickinson: Senator, we look at it each and every day, just as Admiral Richard does, but in the space domain we just have to look and see how much more capability development that they have done just on orbit. We can go back to November to look at the Nudol tests, and then as I mentioned in my opening statements, the SJ-21, in particular.
So just individually, the growth of their capabilities on orbit is of concern. And then when you look at from the civil perspective, the Chinese and the Russians have entered into a lunar station agreement that they are going to build a station on the moon. So it is not just the military that we are looking at carefully. It is also kind of their civil piece as well, by both those nations.
Senator Kaine: General Dickinson, you have segued into my next question, the civil dimension. There has been news recently that was sort of interesting news, kind of in a way positive news. Elon Musk has been getting some press for his role in providing ground stations and internet coverage to Ukraine with the Starlink satellite connection. So that is positive. Russia has been trying to jam the signals and block coverage. That has made me wonder, hmm, there are non-state actors in space too that can enter into contested environments. Describe the legal framework for commercial capability in space, and the SPACECOM war game scenarios where private actors become involved in contested situations.
General Dickinson: We do look at that, Senator, and really, to begin with, I think what we are seeing with Elon Musk and the Starlink capability he is providing is really kind of showing us what a mega-constellation or proliferated architecture can provide in terms of redundancy and capability. But to your point, we work very closely in our commercial integration cells with that very issue.
Senator Kaine: Admiral Richard, one last question for you. I met last week with General Von Ovost of TRANSCOM, and we talked about future tanker requirements. It is my understanding that the airborne tankers that support the bomber leg of the triad have a varying degree of EMP, electromagnetic pulse hardening, to include the KC-46. So talk to us about STRATCOM's role in shaping requirements for future tanker programs to ensure that EMP hardening is part of the DNA.
Admiral Richard: Senator, you hit on a key point, as I am one of the customers of the tanker fleet, and in that I have certain requirements, EMP protection, electromagnetic pulse, being one of those. So one is to clearly articulate the requirements. Two is go see what we can do in terms of employment of our force to reduce that demand signal. A great example I would point to, and I would give credit to the Air Force, is the re-engining of the B-52s. The engines on those date back to the '60s and they burn a lot of gas. Re-engine, less fuel required, less tanker demand. And then what other efficiencies can we achieve while still maintaining the flexibility and the signaling capability of the air leg, which is one of its prized attributes.
Senator Kaine: Thank you. I appreciate. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Kaine.
Since a quorum is present I would now ask the committee to consider the following civilian nominations: the Honorable Robert P. Storch to be Inspector General of the Department of Defense, Dr. Lester Martinez Lopez to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Mr. Christopher J. Lowman to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, Mr. Peter Beshar to be General Counsel, Department of the Air Force, the Honorable Frank R. Parker to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Dr. Agnes G. Schaefer to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Mr. Frank Calvelli to be Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition.
We have reviewed these nominations with Senator Inhofe and he concurs. Is there a motion to favorably report these seven nominations to the Senate?
Senator Wicker: So moved.
Chairman Reed: Is there a second?
Chairman Reed: All those in favor, say aye.
[Chorus of ayes.]
Chairman Reed: The motion carries. Thank you very much.
And now let me recognize Senator Tillis, please.
Senator Tillis: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for being here and for your service.
Admiral Richard, have you recognized any tangible operational changes resulting from Putin's announcement that they need to increase nuclear readiness, and have you seen any posture changes on the part of Russia or the PRC with respect to that?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would like to go into detail in answer to that question inside the closed session, but if you will allow me to make a broader point that I think relates.
The scenarios that we are seeing right now, potential escalation, limited unclear use in a conventional aggression scenario, STRATCOM has been preparing for this for years, along with other combatant commands. General Dickinson's command has been doing that. And so we have rewritten deterrence dynamics theory over the years. We have new analysis that we are using. We got criticized for that. We got told that it was highly improbable or somehow self-serving for us to think our way through this, but we ignored that such that to this point nothing has happened that we did not anticipate, we had not thought about, and had not prepared for.
Senator Tillis: Thank you for that. With Belarus indicating their willingness to have nuclear assets deployed within their territory, how does that rethink our forward-deployed capabilities in Europe?
Admiral Richard: Senator, again I respect your indulgence to allow me to answer that in closed session.
Senator Tillis: Thank you. General Dickinson, I want to talk a little bit about end strength. I think you are somewhere around 45 percent of goal, augmented by Reserves, civilians, and Guard, but you are relatively new. So what is right timeline to get up to the desired end strength, and what kind of strategies are you putting together to make sure that we get there?
General Dickinson: Yeah, thank you for the question, Senator. You are correct. We are at 45, 50 percent strength with an augmentation of contractors that get us over, like I said in my opening statement, to about 1,000. So our strategy, quite frankly, is to get to the end strength as quickly as I can. We have worked with the Department very carefully in terms of how do we bring manpower from certain fiscal years back to the left so that I can be at a reasonable strength here in a couple of years.
But that is where we are going, and what we are trying to do right now is attract that talent that we need in the command, and that is both a balance between civilian as well as military. And the civilian force that I have is Department of the Air Force civilians, and we are working very closely right now in how to attract them. We have got some programs out there in terms of internship programs, to bring young adults into the command with STEM technical type of degrees.
And I have been very pleased with the military presence that we have had within the commands from all the services. The two biggest services that I have represented in the command right now is, quite frankly, as you would expect, the Space Force and the Army. And so bringing them into a joint command, building them to full operational capability, utilizing exercises, and, quite frankly, real-world operations. So we have had a couple of events over the last couple three years, if you will, that have really driven us to be very proficient in what we do.
I will just take the Nudol event, for example, back in November. That, for us, when I declared initial operational capability last August, was a direct result of having that talent and expertise within the command, rehearsed through processes and procedures and techniques that the joint world knows and recognizes, to the point where we can actually provide a strategic effect for our national-level leaders. That is really the strategy going forward. And right now we have got an initial operational capability which means we can provide those effects, but we are building out the capacity within the command so that I can do that more robustly.
Senator Tillis: Do you have sufficient authorities to be able to get to where you need to be with end strength or resources?
General Dickinson: I do. I have the right authorities right now.
Senator Tillis: Admiral Richard, just really quickly, with advances, particularly with respect to China and hypersonics and other capabilities, is our current strategy mapping up against their emerging threats, or do we need to rethink maybe how we counter threats 10 years, 20 years from now, differently?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I am conscious of the fact that the Nuclear Posture Review and national defense strategies have not been promulgated, but I am confident that we are going to have a good strategy. The question is going to be capability, capacity, and posture, and to acknowledge those will not be static and we are going to have to think through those much more frequently than we have needed to in the past because of the very threats you are referring to.
Senator Tillis: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Tillis.
Senator Kelly, please.
Senator Kelly: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral Richard -- and good morning to you both. Thank you for being here, Admiral and General. Admiral Richard, we have all been following reports of Russian attacks on Ukrainian nuclear plants and other very concerning developments in this conflict, and Russia is now targeting civilians, probably out of frustration. This should be -- you know, I think is viewed as escalatory. It is clearly a war crime.
I am concerned about further escalation, and I understand the U.S. military has established a hotline or direct communication channel with the Russian military, particularly because Russia media and cyber actors have sought to spread disinformation, making reliable information hard to assess in real time. It is my view that this direct military-to-military communication is critical to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to a dangerous military escalation between two nuclear powers.
As this committee knows well, in a crisis decision time, time to respond to a nuclear threat is only a matter of minutes. Admiral Richard, I understand the hotline will be run out of U.S. European Command. Can you elaborate on how STRATCOM will remain in the communication loop of this hotline?
Admiral Richard: Senator, a couple of points if I could. Actually, you do not have to respond to threats, nuclear or otherwise, in minutes. In fact, I am not allowed to put the President in the position that he only has -- or her -- minutes to respond. So I want to make sure everybody understands, this nation always has the time to make a fully informed decision on any action that it takes.
Second, for strategic purposes, we have long had hotlines between the United States and Russia. They date back to the Cold War. They are still there, they are tested every day, and those are still available to us. We are a long way from needing to use anything like that right now. And I will go into more detail on the rest of your questions in closed session, sir.
Senator Kelly: All right. Thank you.
General Dickinson, we are currently seeing reports of commercial satellite systems, you know, very effectively being used, you know, information for the Ukrainians, also for us, and these satellite systems are likely to be of interest to Russia too and how should they ultimately counter them in the context of this invasion. And Russia's and China's anti-satellite capabilities have received a lot of attention in years with a couple of anti-satellite tests, one before one of my space shuttle launches in around 2008.
But I want to spend a little time today discussing Iranian and North Korean anti-satellite capabilities that tend to get less airtime, especially North Korea, who obviously has an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. Iran hopes to develop one. One concern is that ICBMs can be used to create a debris cloud in low-Earth orbit, and that could impact U.S. satellites.
General Dickinson, can you expand on how U.S. Space Command is viewing both the North Korean and the Iran capabilities, and how do you assess their willingness to target and impact U.S. satellites in space?
General Dickinson: Thank you, Senator. First of all I would just say that you identify a big problem, if you will, within the space domain. We just saw it a couple of months ago when the Russians destroyed -- they had conducted their Nudol test that left about 1,500 pieces of debris in low-Earth orbit that, quite frankly, we are tracking every day now and we will continue to track that for years to come.
To your example, back before your flight, when the Chinese did that test, we still track objects today from that very test that, quite frankly -- and sir, you are an expert on this -- could be threatening to the International Space Station. And we do a lot of work each and every day very closely with NASA to make sure that we look at that and make sure that the astronauts on the International Space Station are safe.
With regard to both Iran and North Korea, I would like to expand on that, if I could, in the closed session.
Senator Kelly: All right. Thank you, and I yield back the remainder of my time.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Kelly.
Senator Blackburn, please.
Senator Blackburn: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and to each of you I thank you for your service and thank you for being here today with our questions.
Admiral Richard, I do want to come to you first. I fully understand that there are sensitive matters that affect our government and STRATCOM, and we all understand that many times public comment is not appropriate or productive. However, we have to keep in mind that silence is also a message, and a very strong one, and you have been an excellent, outspoken commander of STRATCOM, and you have been a wonderful advocate in the public venue for why we need to modernize our nuclear forces. And I think you have been the commander we need at the time that we need him, and we thank you for that.
So I am disappointed by the lack of clarity on answers that you have today, and many of these are appropriate in an unclassified sphere, and I was disappointed in the weekend's cancellation of the Minuteman-III test, because we only have four of those a year, and I was disappointed to learn that STRATCOM has put out a schedule of tests to consider others for cancellation.
And I appreciate -- I think we all do -- that you have to be careful, especially at a time like this, because of the message that our actions could send to Moscow. But this message of silence coupled with inaction, in my opinion, does not project one of strength. It is not a message of deterrence. And I would probably venture to guess in your opinion, your professional opinion, it would question the judgment of such actions.
We have to be ready to respond to any threat, any place, any time, and I think that we are facing two nuclear-capable adversaries at this point. So let us say speaking hypothetically, entirely hypothetically, what message does cancellation of a prescheduled, routine test send to our adversaries?
Admiral Richard: Senator, let me offer first that the test has been rescheduled, not cancelled, and it will be important for us to go do that test. I want to acknowledge up front that is an Air Force service weapons test. It is done under their authorities.
But it is very important to me, and to the Air Force. That is a 50-year-old rocket that we are talking about, and as it ages, our ability to understand its performance is very important both for my operational planning as well as the effort the Air Force has to have to sustain it until we can get a replacement system.
My fundamental recommendation is that we maintain our normal set of operations. Day-to-day we very carefully craft a series of operations, activities, and other evolutions that are designed to show our readiness, it is designed to maintain that readiness, and it is designed to give us confidence in our forces. And so, in general, that is my recommendation under these conditions.
Senator Blackburn: Okay. Then let me take it this way with you. Then what impact does delay or reduction in funding, how does that affect the modernization and the implementation efforts that you need?
Admiral Richard: Ma'am, any delay or interruption in funding is one of the most corrosive things that we can do in order to enable those programs to stay on schedule such that we do not have a diminishment in the capabilities required to execute our strategy. So not only does it have a practical effect in terms of potential delays and the dates that we can have these systems, it is also a signal of a lack of will on our part, fundamentally to defend ourselves.
Senator Blackburn: So you would see that as diminishing and not improving our abilities, capabilities?
Admiral Richard: Yes, ma'am.
Senator Blackburn: Okay. General Dickinson, I do have some questions for you but I am running out of time. I am going to send these to you for answer, because I want to explore a little bit more the commercial opportunities that you have and how we can build off of some of the commercial advancements that are going to affect the space and your command.
So thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Blackburn.
Senator Warren, please.
Senator Warren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Admiral Richard and General Dickinson for being here.
So Admiral Richard, last year you testified before this committee that you hope the nuclear policy review would include looking at the wide array of capabilities we have in our arsenal, including space and cyber. In other words, our ability to deter adversaries is not only about nuclear weapons that we have, it is also about conventional weapons and other areas of strength. And it sounds like the adoption of integrated deterrence that will be part of this review does precisely that.
Was Strategic Command fully consulted and able to fully participate in the Nuclear Posture Review process?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first I want to endorse the idea of integrated deterrence, that STRATCOM and previous commanders have been calling for this, the idea that you use every available instrument, beyond the military, to best deter your opponent and resolve political issues at the lowest possible level of violence. So we are strongly in support of that.
Second is to understand, though, that nuclear deterrence, in particular, is a part of integrated deterrence. They are not different things. In fact, if you do not have the nuclear piece inside of it the rest of integrated deterrence does not work because your opponent might be able to --
Senator Warren: Excuse me for interrupting, Admiral. I understand this. I am just asking a question about process. Was Strategic Command fully consulted and able to fully participate in the Nuclear Posture Review process?
Admiral Richard: STRATCOM was fully involved in the Nuclear Posture Review process up through the Secretary of Defense. I had plenty of opportunity to tell the Secretary personally. We led portions of the Nuclear Posture Review. But beyond that, ma'am, I do not know.
Senator Warren: Okay. Now as we discussed last year, the nation's nuclear policy is up to the President and the Secretary, and the goal of the Nuclear Posture Review is to rigorously examine options to determine the proper role for nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. So, Admiral Richard, do you agree that the Nuclear Posture Review benefits -- let me put it this way, from hearing a wide variety of views to make sure that we are developing the smartest possible policy?
Admiral Richard: Senator, yes, and my responsibility inside that is to offer the operational implications to each of those wide range of views.
Senator Warren: Okay. And do you think our nuclear policy should be informed by objective technical analysis?
Admiral Richard: Ma'am, we provide a lot of that objective technical analysis.
Senator Warren: So you think it should be informed by technical analysis and a broad variety of views. We are in agreement on that.
Admiral Richard: Yes, ma'am.
Senator Warren: Good. You know, I am looking forward to reviewing the Nuclear Posture Review when it is released, but the reason I am focused on this is because I have concerns about the process that produced it. Over the past year, the Pentagon has repeatedly pushed out and obstructed efforts to have more rigorous debates and analysis to support this review, and I just want to give one example of this.
The ground-based strategic deterrent is a $264 billion program. I requested that DoD contract with a respected group of outside experts to determine the technical feasibility of extending the Minuteman-III program instead of just buying expensive new weapons. I was then told that the DoD did not have the contract authority to do so, and that is just simply not true. It appears DoD simply did not want to do a study that might show that a massively expensive nuclear spending program was not actually necessary.
Now my view on this is no secret. We must reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our defense strategy. It is dangerous and it results in a staggering amount of spending, more than $630 billion over the next decade. But no matter what you believe about these weapons, our nuclear policy should be developed by asking tough questions, not formulated in an echo chamber.
So thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral Richard: Senator, can I suggest that I look forward to the Nuclear Posture Review being published so you can see exactly how and what it concluded. But I will add, thank goodness we have ICBMs right now. I will explain more in closed testimony.
Senator Warren: So I am glad that you are looking forward to seeing the report. As I said, I am as well. But my whole point is that if we do not have a process that includes alternative points of view, a widespread point of view, then the product that comes from it is too likely to come from an echo chamber instead of being fully informed, and that is what troubles me.
Admiral Richard: Yes, ma'am.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Warren.
Senator Ernst, please.
Senator Ernst: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, gentlemen, very much for being here today.
Unfortunately, Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has really reminded us of the threat that is posed by our adversaries and threat to our own international stability. We certainly cannot take peace for granted, so again, thank you very much for your service to our nation.
If we could go back a little bit, you know, I understand some of the discussion that is here, but if you could again, Admiral Richard, just please reiterate why we cannot extend the life of the Minuteman-III.
Admiral Richard: Senator, there are a couple of reasons and there is one that I probably have not emphasized enough in my previous testimony. Any of our deterrence systems have to be able to operate in the threat environment that they face. Fundamentally, they have to be able to pace the threat. Minuteman-III, because it has been extended so long, has basically no margin left to be able to pace improvements in other nations' defensive systems. That is on top of the cost benefit that we would achieve by changing to a new system, modern, well-designed, lower operating cost.
But I want to come back to, for any of these weapons systems, with Minuteman-III being the best example, it has to be able to pace the threat in order for it to deter anybody.
Senator Ernst: And pacing that threat but then also safety implications as well. You mentioned that the Minuteman-III is 50 years old, but certainly there are ways that we can modernize and not only impact safety implications going forward but also workforce implications. Maybe could you speak a little bit to that as we are going through modernization efforts and how we would be able to, as well, keep pace with the technology necessary to upgrade and modernize?
Admiral Richard: Senator, a common issue here is, it is not just about modernizing a rocket. It is the entire weapon system. So a key attribute the GBSD will bring is a much-improved nuclear command and control system for that particular piece. That alone is another significant reason that we have to go do that.
You mentioned workforce. The GBSD -- and I will defer to the Air Force for the specifics -- GBSD requires a lot less number of people to operate it because it has modern methods of maintenance and sustainment. Remember, Minuteman-III was not designed to be modernized at all. The Air Force did heroics to reverse-engineer the ability to do that on a weapon system only designed to be in service for 10 years. So there are a number of these benefits the nation will achieve if we modernization the intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Senator Ernst: I appreciate that. And you have also spoken to the fact that not having a stable appropriation, stable budget, how that has impacted negatively the modernization effort. So I just wanted to reemphasize that, that we really need to do our work as Congress and make sure that we get back into regular order.
So, Admiral, what is your assessment of the capability and ability of our domestic supply and production chains to produce our nuclear cores?
Admiral Richard: Senator, one, it would be best for me to defer the specifics of an answer to that to the people that actually buy this stuff. That is the services and the agencies. But bottom line is that is a very big concern that we have let, across the board, our industrial base atrophy, and we will need to take steps to restore capability and capacity in any number of areas -- weapons complex, nuclear command and control, delivery systems -- such that we have a robust, resilient defense industrial base that is able to produce the capabilities that commanders like I will have to use to defend us.
Senator Ernst: And just in the remaining time, I really appreciate that, the need to really modernize out there. I know there are a number of different opinions on this committee as we come to nuclear strategic deterrence, but the fact that we should have regular order in the way we do appropriations so that we can continue to modernize, if that is the directive that comes from this committee and from the Administration. But then also the workforce that goes with that as well. I think there are a lot of issues that comes to this discussion today. We are just very grateful to have you there and working on these issues with us.
So with that I will yield back. Thank you.
Chairman Reed: Thank you very much, Senator Ernst.
Senator Shaheen, please.
Senator Shaheen: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Admiral Richard, General Dickinson, thank you both for your testimony this morning.
General Dickinson, I want to follow up on the conversation that has come up in several questions around the proliferation of debris in space. It is my understanding that the current collision screening notification criteria were developed over a decade ago. Is there an effort underway now to update that criteria, and who is in charge of that, and when do you expect that to happen?
General Dickinson: Thank you for the question. Just to the, right up front, if I could just talk about the size of the debris and how much that is growing, just to give you a statistic or a feel for that. Back in 2019, when the Command stood up, we tracked on a daily basis about 25,000 objects in space. Today, in 2022, it is almost 44,000. So we have seen, obviously, a tremendous growth in things that we have to track each and every day around the globe. And really, you know, we have seen, with the Nudol test, for example, back in November, how that can expand quite quickly.
So the process that we use today to do that is done out at Vandenberg Space Force Base by the 18th Space Control Identification Unit out there. And the algorithms and the C2 that they use has been upgraded. And so we look at that each and every day in terms of how we are able to identify and work with NASA to make sure that we are able to identify potential issues with the International Space Station and its safety.
Senator Shaheen: But you are looking only at the International Space Station?
General Dickinson: No. Ma'am, we are looking at all the debris up there in terms of being able to provide that information out. That is just one area that I highlight, because it has such visibility on it.
Senator Shaheen: And am I correct that there is specific collision screening and notification criteria that you are looking at?
General Dickinson: Yes, ma'am. So there is, and we work very closely with not only NASA but we also work very closely with our commercial partners as well. We have agreements with over 100 companies right now, what we call a space situational awareness agreement, and that agreement allows us to share that information with them. So for example, if you are a commercial company that has satellites on orbit, we will let you know, or we will let them know if there is an issue that we project with potential debris.
Senator Shaheen: Well, I guess what I am trying to figure out is this criterion that is updated on a regular basis, do you all do that? Does somebody else do that? How are other companies and other countries notified about that?
General Dickinson: So we do that. That is on a website that we have that is called spacetrack.org, where that unit at Vandenberg Space Force Base updates that routinely with information that we have that we are gathering from our sensors and through our analysis process.
Senator Shaheen: Okay. I want to switch to a more mundane topic, because I certainly share the urgency with which both of you talked about the challenges we are facing from both China and Russia. And we have had a number of conversations on this committee about whether our decision-making process should be more efficient, should we address procurement. How do we address what we are seeing happening in China and Russia with respect to their increasing military capability, although we may want to raise questions about Russia after Ukraine?
But I raise this in the context of the proposed relocation of SPACECOM headquarters from Colorado to Alabama, because I am puzzled, given the urgency, given the challenges of setting up this new command of the fact that you are still only in about 50 percent capacity in terms of the staffing that you need, why we are going to spend several years now trying to move SPACECOM to a new location that is going to take us, as I understand, a year and a half before we actually even know whether Redstone is potentially an appropriate location because of environmental concerns. Are we reassessing that decision? And my understanding also is that it will take us until 2026 to actually move SPACECOM to that location, if the assessment proves to be that that is an appropriate location.
So help me understand why given all of our urgency and all of the decisions that we need to make we are going to spend the money and the time to relocate Space Command to a totally different place?
General Dickinson: So, ma'am, Senator, there are two long-going efforts. I am sure you are probably aware the DoD IG is conducting their evaluation along with the GAO. Both of those are moving along, and I am looking forward to the completion of those two efforts.
For me, it is not necessarily about the location. It is about the decision. So, in other words, I need a decision as soon as I can possibly get one so that I can build to full operational capability as quickly as possible.
We do have competitors that are moving very quickly. Those competitors are not necessarily waiting for me to reach FOC, or full operational capability. So I need a decision, and based on that decision I will do whatever I need to do to make sure that I can achieve my mission.
Senator Shaheen: Okay. I am out of time but I just want to follow up one point on that. If you were going to stay in your current location, do you have any sense of how long it would take to settle in to do any renovations that you need to do there versus moving to a new location in Alabama, and how long that would take and the cost of that?
General Dickinson: So we are in the process right now of building the infrastructure that we need to do the mission that I have been given today, and we are moving in that direction. I would say we are a couple three years away from full operational capability.
Senator Shaheen: Wherever you are located.
General Dickinson: Wherever I am located.
Senator Shaheen: And is that based on the number of personnel you have to hire?
General Dickinson: It is based on many things, Senator. One is personnel. The other has to do with expertise within the command, attracting the right expertise within the command, and making sure that I have trained those processes and procedures within the command to be able to do the entire mission set that I have been given.
Senator Shaheen: Thank you.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Shaheen.
Senator Fischer, please.
Senator Fischer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Admiral and General, for being here today.
One of the reasons we have never adopted a no-first-use policy or made a sole purpose declaration is the real threat of a strategic non-nuclear attack. President Obama's 2010 Nuclear Posture Review states the following: "There remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a convention or CBW attack against the United States or its allies and partners. The United States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that deterring nuclear attack is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons."
Admiral Richard, chemical and biological threats are sometimes treated as an afterthought. How has the risk of major non-nuclear attack changed since 2010, and has it decreased?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first it has certainly not decreased. You are correct that often gets overlooked, at least in public discourse. I will tell you, as a part of the Nuclear Posture Review that was looked at very closely, and I look forward to the publishing of the Nuclear Posture Review to show you what the result of that analysis was.
Senator Fischer: Thank you. Also, those who favor reducing the size of our nuclear forces often argue that non-nuclear capabilities such as space and cyber capabilities can be substituted for nuclear weapons without diminishing our ability to credibly hold targets at risk, deter adversaries, and assure our allies. What are your views on this idea?
Admiral Richard: Senator, what I would offer is, one, I applaud efforts -- that is fundamentally you are getting after some of the capabilities that are used inside integrated deterrence, and we applaud that effort.
But I need to be clear about something here, which is there is no other capability or combination of capabilities that gets anywhere close to the demonstrated destructive potential of a nuclear weapon. That is why it is integral to integrated deterrence. And then with that foundation, with that backstop, you then use every other capability in our disposal to deter the opponent.
An important point here, Senator, if I could. When we are talking about issues between nuclear-capable great powers, it quickly becomes less about an order of battle comparison and who wins the fight and quickly becomes more about who judges greater stake and who is willing to take greater risks to get it. Integrated deterrence sets us up very well to resolve issues like that.
Senator Fischer: And our threats are only increasing. We have already brought up that we have two peer competitors when it comes to the threats that we face now. How do you think we can get that message across to the people of this country so that they have a more complete understanding of the threats we face and what we must do to protect this homeland and also to offer assurances to our allies?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would offer that our opponents' actions are speaking to us much better than anything I can say in words. I think it is important for us to understand we do not know how far China is going to go, and Russia is also expanding. But also we are seeing demonstrations of how you can use these capabilities coercively.
We are so trained in thinking that all we do is deter. I do not think that we fully understand or have thought about, in a long time, what the coercive use of these capabilities looks like, and we are getting real-world demonstrations of that right now.
Senator Fischer: Administration, you quote China's strategic breakout in your opening statement and you note that, quote, "The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, greatly exceeding previous DoD estimates." As concerning as that is, it only captures, I think, part of the problem.
I know there is not a lot you can say in this environment, but do you believe it is wise to assume that China's nuclear forces will stop expanding when they reach that point?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I will tell you, I told my staff that whatever the time estimate that the intelligence community gives you on anything from China, divide it by 2 and maybe by 4 and you will get closer to the right answer. So no, I do not know that we have any idea of what the end point and/or speed. When I first testified here we were questioning whether or not China would be able to double that stockpile by the end of the decade. They are actually very close to doing it on my watch, and I think we need to factor that into our calculations as we think through what we need to defend ourselves.
Senator Fischer: And as we look at China's breakout, or we look at the continued growth of Russia's non-strategic arsenal, obviously nuclear threats are still growing. We are not trying to match any adversary system for system, but at the same time, an imbalance in forces does undermine our strategic stability. Isn't that right?
Admiral Richard: Yes, ma'am, and said another way I think it emboldens coercion and aggression.
Senator Fischer: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Fischer.
Senator Rosen, please.
Senator Rosen: Thank you, Chairman Reed, for holding this important hearing. I would also like to thank Admiral Richard and General Dickinson for testifying today and for your service to our country. Thank you.
I want to return now to the major role that Nevada plays in the capabilities and safety of our nuclear arsenal, specifically at the Nevada National Security Site, because we need some infrastructure upgrades in order to continue to complete and do our mission.
And so, Admiral Richard, since 1993, the Nevada National Security Site, or we call it NNSS, has overseen the nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program, principally at the U1a facility. It is an underground laboratory where scientists conduct those subcritical experiments to verify the reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear stockpile. This is the only facility in the country where this is done, and U1a is undergoing major construction projects that will soon host our most capable weapons radiographic system in the world. Of course, I have visited NNSS a few times. I am very proud of it, that it contributes to the certification of our nuclear stockpile.
However, the NNSA faces several challenges as we have seen and you have testified to, to its modernization programs, including significant infrastructure delays which you note in your testimony dates back to the Manhattan Project era. And the Nevada National Security Site is no exception. Unfortunately, Chairman Reed, the Nevada National Security Site is larger than all NSA sites combined and is the equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island, I might add.
Chairman Reed: Thank you.
Senator Rosen: So we have a vast amount of infrastructure to build and maintain.
So Admiral Richard, can you please speak to how upgrades to the Stockpile Stewardship Program like the U1a affect STRATCOM's certification of our nuclear stockpile, and how do these delays impact your ability to fulfill your responsibilities?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first I would put the Stockpile Stewardship Program on the list of things that make me proud to be an American that we actually figured out how to do that such that we relieved ourselves of the need to actually conduct nuclear weapons testing.
But what I think is important to understand is that alone will not give us the confidence that we have to have in our weapons. That is what this fundamentally comes back to. Are you confident in your stockpile and your deterrent because that underpins credibility which is needed to deter?
There are two other things we have to do in addition to the good work in the Stockpile Stewardship Program. One of them is you have to have a flexible and modern stockpile, which means we need to move past life extensions, which we have been doing for 30 years, and move into refurbishments, which is where NNSA is about to go. And the second one goes back to the infrastructure you are talking about. You have to have a modern, responsive, and resilient infrastructure, and we have delayed too long, in my opinion, giving NNSA the resources necessary to do that piece. All three of those are necessary for us to have the confidence we need to conduct my mission.
Senator Rosen: Thank you. Speaking of mission, we have cyber mission and space, and cyber, I could talk all about workforce, the workforce challenges that we have with developing that. Senator Ernst brought that up. But as we see what is happening particularly in the Ukraine, are you concerned, General Dickinson that the increasing threats of cyberattack from Russia could jeopardize our U.S. space operations? Maybe you cannot speak of it here. We will talk later about space cyber aggression as the war in Ukraine continues to go forward.
General Dickinson: Well, thank you, and I will provide more in the closed session. But I will say here, this morning, is just to echo what Admiral Richard said in terms of posture at this particular point. I support Admiral Richard in a lot of things that he does in terms of his nuclear command and control, and I am very satisfied in the posture that we have today with respect to space as well as cyber. We have taken a lot of effort to ensure that we are cyber hardened and that we have got the right types of experts looking at our systems, our vital space systems. But I can provide more to you in the closed session.
Senator Rosen: Thank you. I appreciate that. I know my time is almost up. I do want to talk about workforce development. I have been lucky enough to have a Junior ROTC STEM bill passed, which means our youngest kids, kids in high school, they have a track for joining Junior ROTC to put them into STEM professions in the military. It is really important. We will talk later about developing that workforce. I will submit them for the record. But we really need to up our game there as well, to be nimble and modernize.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Rosen.
Senator Cramer, please.
Senator Cramer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to both of you for your service and for being here. Admiral Richard, let me just say as others have said, one of your strongest qualities, since I have known you anyway, has been your forthrightness and your clarity. But I have to say, in the moment that we are in right now, I have especially appreciated your boldness and clarity. We need to hear it. The people we work for need to hear it.
I also have to compliment you on your composure, being able to sit through some of this. The suggestion that there has not been enough variables or enough varying opinions to commit $630 billion over 10 years to the most important deterrence to aggression in the world is frightening enough, but it is galling in the context that around here some people think nothing of spending trillions of dollars over the course of 10 months or 10 weeks or even 10 days, based on the opinion of one person at HHS. And I will leave it at that. So congratulations on having composure as well.
I do want to get back to an issue that Senator Blackburn raised with regard to the postponement of that ICBM watch. As you can imagine, those of us in North Dakota pay close attention to those things. I appreciate your answer, particularly your commitment that it is only a postponement, that it is now rescheduled. Did you agree with postponing that, if I might ask?
General Dickinson: Senator, I had an opportunity to directly advise the Secretary of Defense, among others. I think it would be best if I left that advice private between him and I.
Senator Cramer: I understand and I appreciate that, because it seems to me that reality is now clashing with some people's fantasies. And I appreciate you raising the reality of the moment. You said it well a little bit ago when you said opponents' actions are speaking as loudly as anything that we could probably say.
General, I want to talk a little bit about -- I want to bring it home a little bit as well. You, of course, are very familiar. You and I visited the very old PARCS radar station, the Cavalier Radar Station, now the Cavalier Space Force Station, it seems like last month but I think it was probably a year or two ago. As you know, we had this very important early warning system designed to, of course, warn us early in case something is coming over the Arctic. Now, of course, it has been monitoring space as well. You have talked about the need for decision superiority. That was, I think, something you referenced or talked quite a bit about over the last couple of years.
I am just wondering if the PARCS array at Cavalier Space Station that relies on this very old technology, if there is modernization opportunities for our decision superiority as well that we should be talking about.
General Dickinson: Senator, thank you, and I did enjoy my trip up there. I think it was over a year ago, maybe 2 years ago now. But certainly that particular sensor, and all of those early warning radars, are very critical to our overall architecture, to be able to provide that missile warning, missile defense, and space domain awareness. So critical to provide that very decision space to our national-level leaders.
So in terms of what that capability is today, we continue to look at that through a lifecycle management, and really I work very closely with the Space Force, because they are ultimately in charge of those upgrades and the modernization of those assets. What I do is identify whether or not we have a gap or a requirement that would need that. So we are working very closely with them and we are looking at the entire architecture, not just necessarily one asset. Because as we look to the future, it will not only be a terrestrial-based type of capability that is up there right now but we will look at a space capability too, that augments that, so we have a layered warning capability globally.
Senator Cramer: I think, Admiral, you had mentioned earlier, maybe both of you have talked about, throughout this hearing, the delay or interruption in funding of modernization, what that means, the kind of signal that that sends, the practical, functional consequences of that.
Let me ask this. If we were, in this place, able to get our act together, if we were able to have enough consensus and realization that modernization is not just important but critical, and if we were to have the political will, would it even be possible to not only not delay but even accelerate any part of modernization if we were able to make that case?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would defer to the services to give you the specifics of that. But I think you are hitting at, we need to ask questions differently. We used to ask what is it going to take, and we have gotten into the habit of saying how are we going to mitigate our assumed delay or failure. We used to ask the question the other way around. That is how we got to the moon by 1969. We need to get back to understanding the operational risk is on par with programmatic and technical risk, reverse the way we ask questions, and get back to producing capabilities to way we used to.
Senator Cramer: I appreciate it. Thank you both. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Cramer.
Let me recognize Senator Tuberville for the purpose of a unanimous consent request.
Senator Tuberville: Oh, thank you very much. Just really quickly, you know, I would like to correct for the record the remarks of my colleague from New Hampshire, and I appreciate General Dickinson being a bipartisan approach here on the movement of Space Command from Vandenberg to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
The recently released draft environmental study found, quote, "significant impact on socioeconomic conditions and environmental justice," end quote, at Vandenberg. By contrast, the study found no significant environmental concerns at Redstone.
So, Mr. Chairman, I would just like to submit this study to you for the record and correct that as we go along.
Chairman Reed: Without objection.
[The information follows:]
Senator Tuberville: Thank you.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Tuberville.
Senator Peters, please.
Senator Peters: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen, thank you for being here today, for your testimony, and thank you for your service.
General Dickinson, your posture statement provided a very detailed account of the significant progress that SPACECOM has made with some partners and allies all over the world. The illegal and unjust Russian invasion of Ukraine has certainly renewed NATO's sense of purpose. I think we would all agree on that. It is very encouraging to see, and it has driven some of our key allies to make some sorely needed changes, I think, in their security posture.
My question for you, sir, is with this increased appetite for defense cooperation around the free world, what should we be doing in the coming years to expand on this even more in the space domain?
General Dickinson: Thank you. That is one of the highlights in the Command, I think, over the last 2, 2 1/2 years, is our ability to work with our allies and partners. It has really, quite frankly, exploded in terms of our partners coming to the table and wanting to be part of the efforts that we are working around the world. An example is our Combined Space Operations group that we have called CSpOC, just signed a vision statement that came out a couple of weeks ago. But that is an example of the growing, if you will, the expansion of our partnership.
Just as an example, there are three different countries right now that have actually stood up their own version of U.S. Space Command. So the enterprise itself is growing, and the willingness to work is just like we have seen in other domains, for example, so air, land, and sea. But they are really coming and we are working closely together, and it is probably, when you look at our integrated deterrence strategy, one of the pillars of that is being able to leverage our allies and partners in not only situations we are seeing today but ones that we do each and every day.
Senator Peters: Great. Great. General Dickinson, as you know, on March 3rd, Russia stated that they will hold delivery of the RD-180 engines that are used by some U.S. defense industries as part of the Atlas V launch system. And while it certainly appears that this development will not significantly hinder any launching operations, I think it certainly underscores the importance of supply chain integrity. Semiconductors, for example, are a known liability all across the many domains.
So my question for you, sir, is are there additional space-specific material or technologies supplied by either Russia or China that could result in degraded military readiness, if withheld?
General Dickinson: Not that I am aware of.
Senator Peters: Great. Admiral Richard, you indicated in your posture statement that while STRATCOM academic alliance is an excellent asset, with over 70 academic and industrial partners, quote, "It is only a fraction of what is needed to reinvigorate research and analysis for deterrence concepts," end of quote.
My question for you, sir, is what additional ways can we leverage the power of American and allied defense industry and academia to maintain our strategic edge?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first, beyond the academic alliance what we did at STRATCOM was put together an analytic agenda. What are the key questions that we need research done on -- three-party deterrence dynamics would be an excellent example of that -- so that we can harness the power of the Department of Defense, and the nation more broadly? Think your UARCs, your FFRDCs, other places where we can do that.
But even that, this is bigger than one combatant command. I think this is a broader Department of Defense or national issue. I am reminded, this nation invented the entire Rand Corporation to do not much more than think through deterrence back in the Cold War. We face an even bigger problem. I think it is going to need an equivalent national-level response.
Senator Peters: Great. Great. Well, I agree. Admiral Richard, you outlined how establishment of the Joint EMS Operation Center will facilitate joint electromagnetic spectrum operations throughout the Department of Defense and combatant commands. But as the electromagnetic spectrum is just as vital in terms of homeland security, how do you see the Joint EMS Operation Center working with non-DoD agencies as well?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first, I applaud where my Department is going in understanding the importance of electromagnetic spectrum and the fact that we cannot take it for granted anymore. It is a contested, congested space. And there is an EMS superiority strategy that our Secretary just signed out. We are responsible for a piece of it. You are hitting on that. We are the operational proponent, and so first we work to make sure that the standards and certification inside the Department in our forces are sufficient. We are moving out on that. We provide support, and we are doing that right now, in electromagnetic spectrum operations.
But fundamentally what I do is come back in and provide the operational consequence of programmatic decisions. Those changes those decisions to our benefit.
Senator Peters: Great. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Peters.
Senator Scott, please.
Senator Scott: Thank you, Chairman. First of all I want to thank both of you for your clarity and for your commitment to the freedoms of this country.
So Admiral Richard, as we all know we are in a position where we have to deter two nuclear-armed, great power adversaries, Russia and China. First off, based on the funding you received and based on how the Congress has been acting since you have had this job, do you feel comfortable that Congress has your back that we are going to provide you the resources that you are going to be able to deter both Russia and Communist China?
Admiral Richard: Senator, first, I would applaud my Department because over the course of my tour we are now able to say, and I expect this in the next budget, but the last one was one of the first ones we could say not only was the strategic deterrent forces fully funded, so was the nuclear command and control, which are the two pieces inside the Department of Defense. We are going to need to continue to do that. And additionally, Senator, continue to ask ourselves the question, what additional capability, capacity, and posture might we need to do?
So yes, I think Congress, as you said, "has my back" if we would pass a budget. The budgets are adequate. We just need them enacted.
Senator Scott: So right now do you think we have enough capability to prevent Russia and Communist China from intimidating us and our allies?
Admiral Richard: Sir, my forces are ready right now to do anything the President asks us to do.
Senator Scott: Admiral Richard, you have been watching Putin's statements, and you might not be able to answer all these questions, about his potential use of nuclear weapons. So I have got a couple of questions. The first one is, have you seen any tangible operational changes following Putin's order to increase the readiness of his nuclear forces?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would like to answer that question in closed session, but I will say we have been thinking through this class of problem for years.
Senator Scott: Second, given your experience of observing foreign leaders, which would be part of your job, in your personal opinion do you believe America and our allies, especially other nuclear powers, should treat Putin's words and actions as a legitimate indication that he is crazy enough and willing to employ nuclear weapons of any kind?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I will go into more detail in the closed session, but I would look to his previous actions to give us a clue as to what his future ones might be.
Senator Scott: I see. The things that he said outside his nuclear capability, has he basically followed through?
Admiral Richard: Senator, again, I would prefer to answer that in closed session.
Senator Scott: Thank you. General Dickinson, is the U.S. fully treating our outer space as a warfighting domain, and are we developing systems consistent with that policy to combat and be able to defeat Russia and Communist China in their space capabilities?
General Dickinson: We certainly have seen some activity by both Russia and China over the last few years, going back to 2007 and 2008, when the Chinese destroyed a satellite on orbit, and then just as recently as November, with the Russian Nudol event that occurred. So we can see, at least from our competitor standpoint, they are, in fact, doing testing and development in that domain.
Senator Scott: It seems like there are people who are trying to talk about we ought to cooperate with these adversaries, but don't they need to know that we are going to deter and defeat them in space and we have to be willing to do everything we can to be able to beat them?
General Dickinson: Well, I think, Senator, that each and every day that we are operating in space we are doing that very thing in terms of deterrence.
Senator Scott: Do you feel like you have been given the resources to be able to do that?
General Dickinson: I have the resources that I need to perform my mission today.
Senator Scott: So I believe that Communist China and Russia plan to use outer space against us. So what is your biggest concern about their plans, and what do we need to do that we are not doing?
General Dickinson: Well, it is fundamental, Senator, back to my opening statement when I said in order to be able to articulate what is happening I have got to have exquisite domain awareness, exquisite domain awareness. I need to be able to tell you what I see in the space domain, in terms of space domain awareness, as a critical function of that to be able to interpret what is happening so that I can make recommendations and take actions that I need to.
Senator Scott: General Dickinson, I know that Space Force was recently created, but do you feel like you have had sufficient progress toward integrating these capabilities all across the Pentagon?
General Dickinson: Senator that is a great question. Our relationship with the Space Force is as you would expect it to be. We have got a very close relationship with General Raymond and his team in terms of being the service that provides most of my capability to the combatant command. We are also working with the other services because they, in fact, have capabilities that I can use in the space domain as well.
So it is really not just the relationship and integration with Space Force. It is across the Department to each one of the services.
Senator Scott: Thank you. Thank you, Chairman Reed.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Scott.
Senator Cotton, please.
Senator Cotton: Admiral Richard, last fall, and again today in your opening statement, you referred to a Chinese breakout -- "breakout" was your term -- of nuclear weapons and capabilities. Could you please explain a little bit more, just in plain English? I am not sure a normal American watching would understand what a "breakout" means. Explain a little more in plain English what you mean and its implications for our security.
Admiral Richard: Senator, so first that is not a talking point. I formally informed the Secretary of Defense of that fact last year. There are two components that I can talk about here. I would be happy to go into more detail in closed session.
First is it signals a significant shift in their capability and fundamentally their strategy. China has long been in a minimum deterrence posture, which was consistent with their stated no-first-use policy. They now have significantly more capability than is necessary to execute a minimum deterrence strategy, and enables them now to execute any plausible nuclear employment strategy.
Second is on our side. It drove me to have to take operational actions in response to a dramatic change in the threat, and I will go into more detail as to what those were in closed session.
Senator Cotton: So despite their so-called no-first-use policy, they are building a nuclear arsenal capable of executing a first strike.
Admiral Richard: One, Senator, they have plenty of capability that have no role in a true minimum deterrence strategy, and, in fact, there is no technical difference between a system that is designed to go first or to go second. There are attributes that enable that, but we need to be very conscious of what they could do with it, not what they say they are going to do with it.
Senator Cotton: So I think we should focus on what they are spending and what they are building than rather on what they are saying, because they could change their no-first-use policy like that, could they not?
Admiral Richard: Senator, yes, and I put no more credence in that than I did in the Soviet Union's no-first-use policy.
Senator Cotton: All right, Admiral. Earlier this year, media reports suggested that the Biden administration wanted to cut two nuclear systems from America's arsenal. These were so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons, weapons with smaller explosive yields, designed often to be used against military formations. It this reporting accurate? Were there discussions to cut the Whiskey 76-2 and the sea-launched cruise missile, also known as the SLCM?
Admiral Richard: Senator, all the capabilities in our deterrence portfolio were examined inside the Nuclear Posture Review. Those are included in that, and I look forward to the results of the NPR to see what the decisions were.
Senator Cotton: When is the NPR going to be released?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would have to defer you to OSD for that answer. But I do want to make a point about those capabilities in particular, which is every capability that is in the U.S. arsenal is therefore a reason. It is designed to produce an effect against an assessed threat. If we do not have a capability, the threat that drove it to be there still exists. And so we either as a nation have to choose to take the risk that we can achieve that effect or we have to go find another way to go do that, and that is something we are going to continue to have to do, even after we finish the Nuclear Posture Review. I can give you more details, sir, in closed session.
Senator Cotton: Thank you. I agree with that, and I agree that we are, to a degree, self-deterring while we are letting Russia run wild on non-strategic nuclear weapons, yet we are considering cutting our own.
I want to turn to the cancelled test in recent days. Admiral, it is correct that we have routinely conducted unarmed tests for our Minutemen-III missiles and that we give Russia advance notice to those tests. Correct?
Admiral Richard: Senator, that is correct, for a long time.
Senator Cotton: And they are routine. They are scheduled well in advance. Correct?
Admiral Richard: Yes, they are, sir.
Senator Cotton: We cancelled one of those in the last week. Correct?
Admiral Richard: Senator, we rescheduled it.
Senator Cotton: So let me ask you this. These tests are a critical part of keeping our nuclear deterrent healthy and viable. Right?
Admiral Richard: Senator that is a 50-year-old weapon we are talking about. I need those tests, and actually I want to acknowledge they are Air Force tests, for us to maintain confidence in the reliability.
Senator Cotton: And so you can say we rescheduled it, but there is a detailed and longstanding testing schedule. So what we really did was cancel it. Did we cancel that test because we did not want to, quote/unquote, "escalate with Russia"?
Admiral Richard: Senator, we are trying very hard not to send any escalatory signals at this point. My recommendation, in general, has been to maintain our routine, normal, scheduled operations. I think we are all very familiar, and that is the best posture for us to be in. We very carefully think through those to maintain our readiness and to maintain our training, and demonstrate that. So my recommendation overall is that we maintain that cadence.
Senator Cotton: I am glad you recommended that. Do you know who, above your rank, decided not to accept that recommendation of this test?
Admiral Richard: Senator, I would like --
Senator Cotton: Was it the Secretary or --
Admiral Richard: -- to maintain private my specific recommendations in this case.
Senator Cotton: Okay. I will just say that there is nothing escalatory about longstanding, long-scheduled, routine tests that Russia knows about in advance, and it is just another example of how we have mistaken actions that would have de-escalated this situation rather than escalated it. This is not within your combatant command, but if we had been sending all the missiles to Ukraine over the last five months that we had been sending on an emergency basis for the last two weeks, I know that some people fear that that might cause Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, but how foolish does that look now? And I think it also is a bad signal not to continue our routine nuclear testing.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Senator Cotton.
Senator Hawley, please.
Senator Hawley: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, gentlemen, both for being here. Thank you for your service as always. Admiral, if I could start with you, just a basic question here. You were just testifying to Senator Cotton. China is a nuclear power, right?
Admiral Richard: A near-peer.
Senator Hawley: Russia is a nuclear power.
Admiral Richard: Yes, sir.
Senator Hawley: You were just amplifying to Senator Cotton your testimony about China being in the midst of a strategic breakout. We see Vladimir Putin making now explicit nuclear threats. Is this a good time to weaken our own nuclear deterrent?
Admiral Richard: Senator, recapitalization of what we have today is the absolutely minimum that we need to do, and we are going to need to further ask ourselves if any else in posture capability and capacity is warranted based on change in threat and what we are learning out of crisis deterrence dynamics right now.
Senator Hawley: Absolutely minimum, you testified. I think that is very important. Am I right in thinking that our nuclear forces remain the bedrock of our strategic deterrent?
Admiral Richard: Not only our strategic deterrent, Senator, but it is integral and foundational to integrated deterrence.
Senator Hawley: Including our ability to project power and to manage escalation beneath the nuclear threshold. That is what you are talking about, I think.
Admiral Richard: Senator, no other plan or no other capability in the Department of Defense is going to work if I cannot maintain strategic and nuclear deterrence.
Senator Hawley: Very good. Let me ask your about something you wrote in your testimony. You said prioritizing the crucial NNSA infrastructure modernization programs is the best and only option to pace projected threats and sustain strategic deterrence. We have got, in my state, in the state of Missouri, we have got the Kansas City National Security Campus which supports the nuclear deterrent. We are very proud of that.
Can you explain why it is important for us to fully fund NNSA infrastructure modernization?
Admiral Richard: Senator, we have reached the point where we can no longer deter with the leftovers of the Cold War. We have life-extended them to the maximum extent possible. We must now start to recapitalize, remanufacture those. That requires a very robust infrastructure. We are 10 years behind the point where we needed to start recapitalizing the infrastructure, and that is NNSA and actually the rest of the complex. And the consequence is we simply will not have the capabilities that we are going to have to have to deter the threat environment we are in.
Senator Hawley: Very good. Thank you for that. You told me -- switching back to China, Admiral, you said during an appearance before this committee in 2019, to me, that China had the capabilities required to threaten or to actually use nuclear strikes to compel the United States to surrender in a potential war over Taiwan. We know that since then China has continued, and you just testified to this, China has continued to develop its nuclear forces in theater, and Chinese strategists are showing interest in changing their doctrine and also in the need for lower-yield nuclear weapons in order to increase the deterrence value of China's force.
Is it fair to say that China's ability to engage in limited nuclear employment at the theater level is growing?
Admiral Richard: Senator, not only yes, if you will ask me that in closed session I will give you a very vivid example of what that could do to us.
Senator Hawley: Very good. If you could just explain for us, why are limited nuclear options like, for instance, the supplemental capabilities endorsed by the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, why are those so important for deterring China or, for that matter, any other adversary that wants to use non-strategic nuclear weapons to coerce us?
Admiral Richard: Limited nuclear use is deterred differently than the way you deter the classic large attack, and it is designed to make sure that the opponent does not think that there is some threshold below which they could use the nuclear effect, leaving us with a disproportionate response that ultimately winds up self-deterring us.
Senator Hawley: Very good. General, let me switch to you, just in the time I have remaining here. Thomas Shugart, an analyst, and others have shown that the PLA is preparing to engage in a large-scale, pre-emptive strike operation at the outside, or would be prepared to engage at the outset of any conflict over Taiwan that we may find ourselves in, in an attempt to cripple our ability to project power in the Western Pacific.
It seems to me we have got to assume Beijing may be incentivized to strike pre-emptively in space as well, which brings me to my question. What are the most important things that Congress can do this year to support SPACECOM's efforts to bolster the resilience of our architecture in space over the next 5 years?
General Dickinson: Thank you, Senator. So it boils down to, and Admiral Richard touched on it, is that predictable funding. So when I look at the size of the enterprise and the requirements and capabilities that we need, it all boils down to having a consistent stream of funding that will allow the Space Force and the other services to provide the capabilities that I will need.
Senator Hawley: Very good. My time has expired. Gentlemen, thank you both again for your testimony. Thank you for your service to this country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed: Thank you, Admiral. Thank you, General. The open portion of this hearing will adjourn, and we will reconvene in SVC-217, in approximately 15 minutes, and that would be 11:50 by my watch, roughly.
This portion is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:36 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
OMMANDER GLEN VANHERCK