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Stratcom Conference Focuses on 21st-century Deterrence

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • DoD News, Defense Media Activity
How strategic deterrence has changed and whether the United States is equipped for deterrence in the 21st century are among the questions that will be debated at the U.S. Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in Omaha, Nebraska, Stratcom's commander said today.

Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney kicked off the two-day symposium this morning.

"At the heart of any deterrence analysis is the understanding of the strategic landscape," the admiral said.

Today's world is a complicated place, Haney said, and he listed some of the concerns that America must address. He noted the continuing threat from North Korea and Iran. He talked about the ongoing threat in Syria and Iraq posed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists. The Russia-Ukraine situation, transnational criminal groups, Israel and Palestine, frictions in the Western Pacific, terrorism and threats in the cyber realm all are concerns and all must be addressed, he said.

"Despite the unrest around the globe," he added, "I firmly believe that strategic deterrence is relevant and is working."

At its base, deterrence means adversaries understand that the response to actions they take would be unacceptably costly, so they refrain from taking those actions.

But deterrence has changed since the last half of the 20th century, when mutually assured destruction served as its basis, Haney said. Today, he said, it is about deterring strategic attack on the United States and its allies, dissuading adversaries from actions that would counter stability and peace, and partnering with other combatant commands so all can work together to demonstrate U.S. resolve.

Nuclear deterrence has its place, Haney said, and Stratcom must ensure these weapons remain viable. But the nuclear triad, global conventional strike capabilities, defense in space and the cyber realms are just a part of deterrence, he added. It also includes robust intelligence capabilities, a credible missile defense system and a robust communications and ground infrastructure, he said.

But rogue states, terror networks and transnational criminal networks, the admiral said, are willing to pay to develop capabilities that threaten America and this changes the deterrence calculus.

"Threats are evolving at an incredible pace in this complex world," he said. "We must look at each one differently, but in an integrated manner, to make sure we get the deterrence solution right."

The United States, allies and partners must ensure adversaries understand that "restraint is always the better course," he said.

Haney stressed that recapitalization is needed to maintain effective deterrence in this century. He mentioned the Ohio-class submarine replacement program, upgraded radars and survivable communications systems, missile defense investments and investments in people as the most pressing needs.

"We should not overlook the value to the nation of a credible strategic deterrent now and into the future," the admiral said.