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USSTRATCOM Commander talks deterrence at Whiteman

  • Published
  • By Capt. John Severns
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., visited Team Whiteman Friday and spoke about deterrence and the role Airmen here play in America's national security strategy.

The general, who is responsible for plans and operations for all U.S. forces conducting strategic deterrence around the world, was at the central Missouri bomber base to meet with 509th Bomb Wing leadership and the Airmen who operate the B-2 Spirit. The radar-evading plane is part of the bomber leg of the nuclear triad, and along with missiles and submarines provides a powerful deterrent force to nations that might wish America harm.

"Our ability to perform the kind of missions the 509th performs around the world, most recently in Libya, while at the same time maintaining the capability to be a nuclear deterrent is really the tremendous value the bomber force has today," General Kehler said, referring to the ability of the B-2 to conduct both conventional strike missions such as in Libya and Iraq, while also playing a role in our nation's nuclear triad.

The realignment of the Air Force's nuclear enterprise under Global Strike Command, returning deterrence to a place of prominence in the Department of Defense, has been a positive development for Strategic Command and the nation as a whole, the general said.

"I think that all the steps the Air Force took to enhance the nuclear enterprise have benefited us," he said. "It makes our nuclear force ultimately more safe, secure and effective, and that's Strategic Command's #1 priority: to make sure that we have a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent."

The bulk of the general's comments, however, focused on what he called the "entire range" of capabilities the U.S. military can use as a deterrent or bring to bear against its enemies. This spectrum of force extends from nuclear weapons at the highest end to cyber-warfare and information operations on the non-kinetic side, he said.

"There is tremendous deterrent value with our conventional capabilities," he said. "There is deterrent value with our space capabilities and there's deterrent value with our cyber capabilities."

This wide range of strategic capabilities allows the U.S. to effectively deter nation states with nuclear capabilities while simultaneously engaging in conflicts against non-state actors such as al Qaeda, he added.

"There's a recognition that deterrence is about more than nuclear weapons," he said. "We've been given a number of responsibilities that go far beyond that: space, cyberspace and global strike, which includes conventional kinetic and non-kinetic planning." The sum of those capabilities is what enables Strategic Command to deter attacks, and if deterrence fails, to defend against attacks, he said.

While he oversees command and control of the nation's most powerful weapons, the general said he is most concerned with taking care of the men and women who volunteered to serve.

"What keeps me up at night is whether we are adequately taking care of the magnificent young men and women who choose to serve with us," he said. "There is no operational issue that keeps me awake at night, and the reason is that the operations are in the hands of experts like you at the 509th."

"We've had some concerns with stress across the entire force; it's not just an Air Force problem though," he added. "That's what keeps me awake: are we doing everything we possibly can to take care of the people who volunteered to devote their time and energy to national security?"

The general's thoughts were not only on the importance of Whiteman's role in America's security strategy, but on the men and women who perform the mission every day. "I hope the men and women of the 509th and Team Whiteman across the board understand their importance," he said. "What they do every day is seen as a nationally important capability. Because it is so unique, its value continues to go up and will continue to go up as we look into the future."