Employing Strategic Deterrence to Promote Conflict Resolution

Vice Admiral David M. Kriete
Deputy Commander
U.S. Strategic Command

From Armor & Mobility, May/June 2019 Issue

Vice Admiral Dave Kriete is a native of Brooklyn, New York. He is a 1984 graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he majored in general engineering. He holds a master’s in engineering management from Old Dominion University.

His flag assignments include command of Submarine Group 9 in Silverdale, Washington; deputy director of Plans and Policy, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; and deputy director, force employment at U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF). Most recently, he served as director, Strategic Capabilities Policy, National Security Council where he was responsible for presidential policy on nuclear weapons related issues.

His operational assignments include command of USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740). He also served aboard USS Kentucky (SSBN 737), USS Flying Fish (SSN 673) and USS Finback (SSN 670).

His shore and staff assignments include chief of staff, Submarine Force Atlantic; Navy Staff, Undersea Warfare Division; of Submarine Force Atlantic Tactical Readiness Team and Prospective Commanding Officer Instructor; staff officer, Joint Staff Nuclear Operations Division; Atlantic Fleet Nuclear Propulsion Examining Board member; and assistant force special operations officer, Submarine Force Atlantic Special Operations Division.

Vice Adm. Kriete played an integral role in the two most recent Nuclear Posture Reviews. He assumed the duties and responsibilities as deputy commander, United States Strategic Command in June 2018.

Armor & Mobility had the opportunity to speak with Vice Admiral David Kriete regarding U.S. Strategic Command’s efforts to maximize capabilities in nuclear, space, cyber, and conventional force readiness to protect U.S. and allied interests across a global battlespace.

A&M: With the reality of today’s multi-domain attack threats to U.S. national security from conventional, nuclear, space, and cyber, what is STRATCOM’s vision of deterrence through advanced capabilities integration?

Vice Adm. Kriete: To effectively deter and if necessary respond, in this multi-polar, all domain world, we must out-think, out-maneuver, out-partner, and out-innovate our adversaries. Deterrence in the 21st century requires the integration of all our capabilities across all domains.

In order to get after advanced capabilities, the commander, Gen. John Hyten, USSTRATCOM commander, issued a challenge to the command: go fast; break down the bureaucracy; take smart, informed risks; but do this within the left and right limits, which were established in the commander’s intent. We have to move fast–it’s critical if we’re to stay ahead of our adversaries.

A&M: As U.S. strategic interests in building and maintaining global security particularly where nations adversarial to American ideals are concerned, can you speak to some ways STRATCOM is creating a sustainable balance?

Vice Adm. Kriete: The difference in today’s global security environment – as opposed to the Cold War – is we have multiple potential adversaries, and everything we do can have global impacts. Strategic goes beyond nuclear. Strategic means we must look at all the capabilities we have — nuclear, space, cyber and conventional — and the strategic effects they have. All of these pieces come together as we work with our allies to create an environment where peace can take hold in the world.

We pursue this global security based on the commander’s three priorities for USSTRATCOM: number one, above all else, we will provide a strategic deterrent for ourselves and for our allies; number two, if deterrence fails, we’ll employ strategic forces to provide a decisive response; and number three, we’ll do it with a combat-ready force of trained and resilient warriors equipped to do the job.

A&M: From a nuclear strike capabilities advantage, what today are some of STRATCOM’s priorities for deterring a global arms race while maintaining U.S. nuclear strike readiness?

Vice Adm. Kriete: A world with fewer nuclear weapons is a better world, but we must be able to defend ourselves, our allies and our partners. One of the goals we have as a country is to eliminate the proliferation of nuclear weapons, not just in our adversaries, but around the world.

Strategic deterrence is our most active mission, we will continue to provide credible deterrence while complying with our obligations in accordance with the New START Treaty. Deterrence, however, is not simply about nuclear weapons. USSTRATCOM’s ability to provide credible deterrence is a direct result of our integrated capabilities and the men and women in the command doing this mission every day, a mission they are proud to do.

In the end, nuclear war cannot be won and therefore must never be fought. To prevent war, we must be ready for war. Success means we’ve lived up to our motto, coined over 60 years ago in Strategic Air Command: Peace is our Profession…

A&M: In terms of current and evolving cyber threats to U.S. defense intelligence and data collection management, how is STRATCOM prioritizing to sustain open data flow while increasing security?

Vice Adm. Kriete: Effective command and control that supports global integration is a necessary and critical element of strategic deterrence. During the Cold War, we were focused on one adversary. In today’s environment we are facing multiple adversaries in multiple domains. Recently, the commander of USSTRATCOM was assigned the enterprise lead for the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications (NC3) mission. This is an effort to integrate command, control and communication systems across the nuclear enterprise and break down stovepipes.

It’s critical to sustain the certainty that critical messages will always get through from our senior leaders to our forces. We’re working on the best way to do this in the future and I am looking forward to having the means to do that.

General Hyten has visited industry, the federally funded research and development corporations and asked them to come in with ideas to get after this very topic and they’ve delivered. We’re now evaluating those ideas and developing a broad based set of mission needs that we will explore and in turn work with industry to figure out how to do that.

A&M: With force modernization critical to protecting U.S. land, sea, and air domains, what are some STRATCOM efforts to maximize national defense while newer capabilities evolve?

Vice Adm. Kriete: To be successful at everything we do, we must recapture our ability to go fast, faster than all our potential adversaries, and that’s the biggest concern these days. That means we must return the dynamic that made us the strongest, most technologically advanced military in the world.

We must keep in mind strategic competitors are investing significant resources to develop offensive and defensive capabilities with the purpose of countering our entire deterrence strategy. To maintain peace through deterrence, the United States must continue to invest in technological innovation and development of survivable, long-range strike systems able to hold a variety of targets that threaten us at risk.

The FY 2020 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget invests heavily in game-changing technologies, increases funds for modernization of our nuclear triad, continues the development of future space assets and re-profiles funding to advance the most promising capabilities. Funding continues the development and operational fielding of hypersonics, unmanned autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and machine learning systems, and algorithmic warfare. Additionally, the FY 2020 budget continues the development of Next- Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) sensor, and funds GPS-III follow-on satellite, furthering our efforts to move to a defendable space posture.

We are looking forward to an on-time budget this upcoming fiscal year so we can sustain the momentum invigorating this department and our best-in-the-world people, and our best-in-the-world commercial sector to go faster and innovate, to bring more timely and affordable solutions to our most pressing deterrence challenges.

A&M: As the challenge of maintaining a priority in information assurance amidst veritable mountains of collected data, how is STRATCOM working to facilitate greater efficiency?

Vice Adm. Kriete: Commercial innovation has already adapted to exploit faster and faster technology discovery and information assurance in commercial competition; similarly we must adapt to leverage these accelerating opportunities as a key feature of strategic deterrence.
The challenge that Gen. Hyten has issued in the command is to break down the bureaucracy, take smart risks, informed risks, and perform this within the left and right limits set forth in the commander’s vision and intent. We have to move fast, it’s critical if we’re to stay ahead.

A&M: From a USSOCOM/STRATCOM partnership perspective, how is the command working to grow the relationship across domains critical to current operational tempo?

Vice Adm. Kriete: There are similarities between USSOCOM and USSTRATCOM. Both are global warfighting commands and greatly dependent on intelligence information.

USSTRATCOM’s mission to deter major power conflict, dictates we field ready, capable, and lethal forces, tailored to adaptable adversaries. Continued success means integrating the full range of missions in all domains without geographic boundaries, from USSOCOM to USCYBERCOM.

We are increasingly integrating our planning and Tier 1 exercises to remove seams between global and geographic combatant commands. We are pursuing approaches to enhance real-world planning and execution of globally integrated fires to best deliver the most effective capabilities and effects when and where needed.

We need to fundamentally relook at the way that we’re maintaining our domain awareness, and that can’t be done with one single widget, one single particular program. It’s going to have to be a family of systems. It’s going to have to include both terrestrial based capability, research and technology. It’s going to have to include some air domain advances in technology and capability.

Success in the future is going to be when we apply capabilities through whatever domain we have to, through whatever means we have to, and we don’t care where it comes from or where it goes to as long as it dominates the adversary.

A&M: What efforts are STRATCOM undertaking to promote extended deterrence to U.S. allies globally?

Vice Adm. Kriete: USSTRATCOM cannot accomplish its mission without integrating allies and partners across the globe. Allies are critical to responding to mutual threats and preserving shared interests.

USSTRATCOM’s engagements with allies and partners are critical in shaping the strategic environment, strengthening relationships and building trust. Our efforts in this arena increase military interoperability, improve alliance capability and capacity, and integrate our critical defense missions. The command’s engagements assure allies and partners of the United States’ extended deterrence commitments and reinforce non-proliferation goals and objectives.

A top priority for the United States is to eliminate the proliferation of nuclear weapons, not just with our adversaries but globally. Our allies understand that we can defend them too and that’s what extended deterrence is all about-meaning you can support your allies’ contingencies, as well. Through a strong nuclear triad we’re able to provide a critical operational capability to our allies. We exercise these capabilities regularly to assure our allies and deter potential adversaries.

A&M: With the New U.S./Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) going into its eighth year, can you talk about your perspective on the value of its renewal?

Vice Adm. Kriete: New START gives the commander of USSTRATCOM two things: first, it provides a cap on Russia’s strategic base line nuclear weapons and their ballistic missiles, both submarine and ICBM, as well as their bombers. Secondly, it gives us insight into Russian capabilities through the verification process. Those are hugely beneficial to USSTRATCOM. They just have to be balanced against all the other things Russia is doing outside of the treaty. Ideally, in the command’s view, all nuclear weapons should be part of the next phase of New START, and not just the identified weapons that are in the current treaty.

A&M: As challenges in sustaining effective missile defense and electronic warfare capability have grown, how is STRATCOM working with the Joint Services to ensure readiness?

Vice Adm. Kriete: The Missile Defense Review outlines a more comprehensive approach to missile defense. As a combatant command we lead the warfighter involvement process, which outlines the roles and responsibilities for everyone involved and establishes a structure for collaboration and support for desired missile defense capabilities.

We routinely train with other combatant commands to exercise our integration and communication training to enhance force readiness.

Missile defense ensures a critical component of comprehensive U.S. strategic and tailored regional deterrence strategies. Paired with offensive capabilities, this combination sends a strong message to adversaries.

We do the same thing with electronic warfare, but we need to do it more. Nuclear is the back stop. It is the benchmark. If you want to be good at anything, you better practice it each and every day, and we practice the nuclear mission every day. We have to do that with electronic warfare. We have to do that with space warfare. We have to do that with everything that we have, and we have to have the right kind of tools. That’s who we are and that’s what we do.