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Nominee for Top Stratcom Post Details Threats at Confirmation Hearing

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2016 — Russia and China are America’s biggest threats, but North Korea and Iran are the most likely threats, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next commander of U.S. Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee today in his confirmation hearing.

If the Senate confirms his nomination, Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, now the commander of Air Force Space Command, would succeed Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney as the commander of Stratcom, which is responsible for the nuclear command and control mission; space operations; global strike; global missile defense; and global command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as combating weapons of mass destruction.

“The way I look at the threats across the world, … I think Russia is the most dangerous threat, China is a close second, but the most likely threats and most concerning are North Korea and then Iran,” Hyten said.

North Korea is unpredictable, the general said. “It’s hard to tell exactly what they are going to do,” he added.

Nuclear Capabilities

North Korea is building a capability that could mean a nuclear strike on the United States. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is developing a rocket that could launch a nuclear warhead at the United States, Hyten said.

But all potential adversaries are investing in their militaries, the general told the senators.

“As our potential adversaries upgrade their own capabilities, it is essential that we move forward to update and modernize the three elements of the nuclear triad and also ensure our plans are fully integrated with the other combatant commands,” he said.

U.S. Cyber Command also comes under the aegis of Stratcom, and Hyten said if confirmed he would participate in “extensive and intensive” cooperation across the government and with allies to prepare for, defend against and answer cyberattacks.

Space a Concern

Space also is a concern, and Hyten said Russia and China are building capabilities targeting U.S. assets in space – assets that are key to the military advantage America currently enjoys.

“We must not only be ready to respond, but we must build a more resilient national security space enterprise,” he said.

DoD has developed responses to the threats foreseen in space from China and Russia, Hyten said. “I believe it is essential that we go faster with our responses,” he added. “We’ve worked with the National Reconnaissance Office, and all our joint space forces and developed … a joint space vision that looks out and says,’ This is the kind of capability we need to operate in a world where conflict extends into space.’” 

Speed Essential

Speed is essential, the general said. “We are moving much slower in certain areas than our adversaries,” he told the Senate panel. “We need our industries and our acquisition process to move faster.” 

Russia is modernizing its military and its nuclear capabilities, and the United States must be aware of this process and keep pace, the general said. “The second piece of this is they’ve watched the power of our alliances – the power of our partnerships,” he said. “They are challenging the status quo across Europe and in Crimea and a number of areas, pushing and creating tension within our partnerships and alliances.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Distribution channels: Military