Strategic Air Command - 70 Years of Heritage

  • Published
  • By Gen. (Ret) Kevin Chilton
  • .

As part of a continuing series recognizing the 70th anniversary of Strategic Air Command, Gen. (Ret) Kevin Chilton,
test pilot, NASA astronaut, and former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, addressed
a gathering on May 20, 2016, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. 


General Chilton:  Thanks for the kind introduction.  General Rand, thank you for inviting me to come down.  I was really disappointed that I wasn't able to come here earlier in the year, and when you called, I thought, fantastic!

It's great to be back home, actually.  I stayed in the Harris House last night and when I walked in the door I remembered the last time I stayed there was with my wife, four kids and 2 dogs, as we prepared to depart 8th Air Force and Barksdale. It was much quieter last night! It is really a nice homecoming for me and it's nice to see so many familiar faces here.  So, thanks General Rand, for giving me the opportunity to come back and join you.

I want to recognize the civic leaders that are here.  I see some great friends from days of yore.  And I think it's fantastic that civic leaders from around the command have traveled in.  Throughout my career the relationships I was able to establish with the civic leaders in every community were just so important to the command and so important to the people in the command.  So thank you all for making the effort to be here today and to participate in this great celebration of the history of Strategic Air Command, and indeed, Global Strike Command's history.

And the Airman of the Year.  You will see them walking around today with red, white and blue ribbons around their neck sporting a big medallion.  It was fun to see them get "gonged" this morning.  Again, that brought back some great memories of the way our Air Force recognizes excellence.  So be sure and take the time, if you run into them today, to pat them on the back and shake their hand and ask them what they do.  I'm sure they will be proud to tell you!

Mr. Bohannon, are you here?  No.  Okay, so he works in the history office here at Barksdale, and he gave me some good gouge on the history of SAC, and I learned a lot from reading the material and references he sent. I want to extend my thanks to him as well. 

I want to start my remarks today by just going over that history of SAC because I learned some things that I want to share with you.  I know probably now most of this, let's see, I see Maj General Tom Deppe in the crowd, I think Tom was around when it was formed.  Tom knows all this stuff already.  [Laughter].  Tom, it's so good to see you. You've been a great mentor of mine. But I'm not far from the truth there when I say that.  Tom has a tremendous amount of experience with Strategic Air Command.

So, to begin, I think you have to go all the way back to the early theoreticians, if you will, the Douhets, the Trenchards, the Mitchells, in our history of air power, who dreamed of the promise of airpower and the missions that SAC would one day have to perform, even before we had the technology in hand to fulfill their dreams.  They were innovative.  That seems to be a popular word today.  They were thinking about possibilities, if only they had the right equipment to be able to do it.  That's pretty hard to do, to try to envision a dream about a capability and the impact it could have before it's even developed.  These were the days when airplanes were made of wood, paper and cloth.

And then in the 1920s, down at Maxwell Air Force Base, you had a group of young captains who later would become the general officers and leaders of our United States Army Air Corps, and ultimately our United States Air Force, who started to put pen to paper and outline theoretical targeting plans for a strategic bombardment campaign that might someday happen.  In 1925, they're writing this stuff down before we had strategic bombers in the inventory.  And they certainly had no thought of the notion or promise of inter-continental missiles.  Amazingly, some of those plans, some of those strategies, matured to the point that they were actually utilized for targeting in World War II.

I found it also interesting that one of the favorite instructors at the Air Force Tactical School at Maxwell in the 1920s, was a young captain named George Kenney, who would later become the first commander of Strategic Air Command.

Now, World War II put the theory to practice, the theory that these guys had been thinking and dreaming about, and the United States industrial might stood up and developed the capabilities that they actually needed to have to prosecute their dream.

It started out rough.  77% of the Americans who flew against Germany before D-Day in 1944 wound up as casualties.  And, by the end of the war, the 8th Air Force alone would suffer over 26,000 fatalities... more than the total number of Marines killed in World War II.  Devastating, very devastating.  But by the end of the war you saw this nascent idea and capability mature into 3,000-plane raids in a single day, with a train of a thousand bombers escorted by 2,000 fighters achieving the dream of daylight precision strategic bombardment, with minimal losses.  Achieving the dream that people had thought about in the 1920s.

When the war ended, the United States stood up a new command.  It was called Continental Command.  However, the mission of that command was not to fight wars.  It was to execute the "peace dividend".  It may not have been called a peace dividend then, but we know what that means today.

The mission of Continental Command was to disassemble the Army Air Forces and reduce the massive air power machine we had invented and built for both operations under 8th and 9th Air Force in England and 20th Air Force in the Far East. To what size?  Unknown.  But shrink it was the order of the day.  This notion of a peace dividend and the painful process of going through the shrinking of the force is not a foreign concept to our Air Force today. 

But by the late 1940's, observing the Russian behavior in Eastern Europe, the fact that they did not return to their own borders, their subsequent blockade of Berlin and their rapid development of their own nuclear program, it wasn't long before we recognized that we had to organize our Air Force, our Army Air Force at the time, for a new threat.

So, as General Rand pointed out, even before there was a United States Air Force, the Army Air Forces on March 21, 1946, split up Continental Command and established three new commands -- Tactical Air Command, Air Defense Command, and our heritage, Strategic Air Command.

Now, a few days before the War Department published the official directive creating SAC, General Spaatz, who was the Army Air Force's Commander, passed a short note to the commander of the Continental Air Forces.  It was just one paragraph describing SAC's mission. It said, "The Strategic Air Command will be prepared to conduct long-range offensive operations in any part of the world, either independently or in cooperation with land and naval forces; to conduct maximum range reconnaissance; to provide combat units; to train units and personnel in maintenance of the strategic forces in all parts of the world."   I want to highlight the words, "will be prepared to conduct long-range offensive operations in any part of the world, independently or in cooperation with others." Notably, that mission endures today.  It's a subset of the broader mission, but those initial charges that were passed on by the head of the Army Air Forces at that time to the first SAC Commander still endure.

As you read the history, or at least as I did of SAC, I found that many of the challenges that I know we are facing today in Global Strike Command, indeed throughout our Air Force, aren't really new.  Things go round and round the circle.

I remember when I returned to the line Air Force in 1998, having gone to NASA in 1987, I thought oh, my gosh, I'm so out of date, I'm not going to know how things work.  It turns out, I've determined, that the trip "around the circle" is about an 11-year cycle.  At one of my first meetings my new boss said, "we're changing the way we manage our maintenance programs ...we're going to start doing things a new way."  But after he described the "new" approach I thought to myself, of course that is the right way to do things....that's the way we did it back in 1987, and worked great then!  And so, the wheel turns, and in my experience it's about an 11-year cycle.

So, a lot of the stuff we're experiencing today, the members of SAC experienced long ago.  On 21 March 1946, when the command stood up, there were 36,000 Airmen in the command.  Roughly equivalent to today, I'd say.  Something a little different though, the Command had 600 aircraft! 250 of those were bombers.  There were quite a few other support aircraft, to include a large fighter force that, in the tradition of the way we fought in World War II, escorted the bombers.

Among the forces was the 509th Bomb Group, which still exists today, and that group was given what was then called the "tactical atomic mission".  The 509th stood up at Roswell New Mexico, which explained to me why, when I landed my NASA T-38 there years later, they had such a long runway at the tiny airport in Roswell New Mexico.  They had 27 atomic bomb capable B-29s in the Bomb Group.  That's all the Air Force had at the time, and only nine atomic bombs in the inventory.  Nine in the total inventory of the United States Air Force.

But in spite of this reorganization and the understanding of the changing environment in Europe, the cuts to resources continued.  And, by the end of 1947, we found that only two of 11 groups in the new Strategic Air Command were combat ready.

What were their issues?  These will sound a little familiar.  Not enough trained maintainers.  Not enough spare parts.  Poor supply pipelines.  Hundreds of grounded aircraft.  Low morale.  Non-current air crews, because they didn't have the airplanes to fly.  And on top of that, they'd been handed a new developing mission.  One that had to do with the nuclear deterrent.

In an attempt to increase the morale and improve the readiness of the aircrews and the maintainers, General Kenney established SAC's first bomb competition in 1948.  And even in this resource constrained environment, it met with pretty good success. But, as you can imagine, when you've got so few mission-ready Groups, the effect of such a competition can also highlight the shortcomings of the non-mission ready Group's capabilities. So, there were probably two sides to that coin when it came to improving morale.

The bomb comp was held at Castle Air Force Base, and it was determined to be highly successful.  General Clark, I would note that the 8th Air Force swept the first five places in the bomb competition.  And General Tibbets, if you're here, the 509th Bomb Group B-29 crew, took the top crew honors. So, a little linkage to our heritage there.  That was in June of 1948.

In October of 1948, SAC got a new commander; one we've heard of and talk about to this today.  General Curtis LeMay.  And from the history we learn that... "when LeMay took over command of SAC in October of '48, it consisted of little more than a few understaffed B-29 bombardment groups left over from World War II.  Less than half of the available aircraft were operational and the crews were under-trained.  Base and aircraft security standards were minimal.  Upon inspecting a SAC hangar full of U.S. nuclear strategic bombers, LeMay found a single Air Force sentry on duty, and he was unarmed."

After ordering a mock bombing exercise on Dayton, Ohio, LeMay was shocked to learn that most of the strategic bombers assigned to the mission missed their target by at least a mile, if not more.  LeMay said, "we didn't have one crew, not one crew in the entire command who could do a professional job."

Now, over the course of the next decade Curtis LeMay, followed by Tom Powers, focused on, well,.... just about everything.  Everything that you could imagine.  But, the three main things he focused on and which endure today as a critical part of this great Command are the responsibilities to organize, train and equip forces to do the mission.

In the organize area, LeMay established a strict and effective command and control system that allowed commanders to actually command and control their forces, and ultimately enabled the SAC alert postures that would follow and enable us to do the deterrent mission that SAC and now Global Strike Command perform today.

On the training side, he set high performance standards.  And, it wasn't just for aircrew and maintainers, it was across all AFSC's:  Security forces, supply, weapons handling, support and administration. He instituted rigorous and realistic training.  He encouraged competition and he evaluated performance very strictly.

He knew first, if he was going to advocate for the equipment that he needed for this command to actually be able to do its mission, he had to establish SAC's credibility and perform with what he had at hand.  It is a lesson that endures.....before you go knocking on the doors of Congress and asking for money for something new, he knew you had to show them that you were maximizing performance with the resources you had, no matter how limited.  And, when he took command they were very limited.

From an equipment perspective, after establishing his readiness and working those problems really hard, the Congress rewarded him, with the dollars to buy the tools he needed -- B-36s, B-47s, B-52, KC-97s, and KC-135s, U-2s and more.  And following that, when missile technology matured there was Atlas, there was Titan, there was Minuteman. Just as importantly, LeMay focused on quality of life for everybody in Strategic Air Command.  Family housing, barracks, recreational facilities, educational facilities.  He beat on the doors of Congress and walked their halls and gave speeches demanding an improvement to the quality of life for the people who were doing what he felt was certainly the most important mission of the United States Air Force.

And all this was begun in difficult budget times.  And during a significant downturn.

Organize, train and equip.  This remains today the fundamental role of SAC's heirs to their heritage -- Global Strike Command.

In 1949, SAC got some additional guidance and began planning for doing a mission that has since been transferred to US Strategic Command; to develop war plans, nuclear war plans.  The first war plan was developed in 1949.  It was called Emergency War Plan 1-49.  Pretty creative, huh?  Then Secretary of the Air Force, Stewart Symington, besides reconfirming the basic mission of SAC, said, "The existence of this strategic atomic force is the greatest deterrent in the world today to the start of another global war."  And ladies and gentlemen, I firmly believe that remains true today.  Your Command does not serve just to deter a nuclear attack on the United States; you also provide a deterrent to global warfare.

So these two pieces of guidance at the very start-up of the command, to be able to do global strike and now this guidance in 1949 to deter, well, it's two of the three thing on this banner behind me.  The only thing missing was the assurance piece at that point, because we didn't really need to worry about assurance in those early days.

Another parallel I found to today that existed in the history of SAC is the tension between the nuclear and conventional missions of the command.  Both seemed to wax and wane over time.  Emphasis would swing to one area, then maybe back to the other when indeed, both were absolutely critical to the successful completion of SAC's mission.

In 1950, during the Korean War, SAC sent 10 nuclear-capable bombers to guess where?  Guam.  Sound familiar?  And they sent four bomb wings to Korea to conduct conventional strikes against North Korea.  LeMay famously said he feared that "too many splinters were being whittled off the deterrence stick".  He worried that SAC was taking its eye off of the nuclear mission and moving it to this conventional mission in Korea.  So even then there was tension, and LeMay felt it at the time.

On March 18, 1960, SAC's first intercontinental missiles began alert and guess where they were?  Presque Isle Air Force Base, Maine.  These were not the intercontinental ballistic missiles we are familiar with today.  The first were the SM-62 SNARK, an intercontinental range, ground launched cruise missile.  Now the SNARK was truly an intercontinental missile because about the only thing it could hit was another continent.  It wasn't particularly accurate with regard to where it would detonate.  But that was a start.  And it wasn't very long after that that Titan I came along and then Titan II and Minuteman.

What followed in missile community were some of the same traditions that we had in the bomber community with regard to competition.  A new competition for missile crews and maintainers called "Curtain Raiser" was started in 1966.  And another parallel happened shortly thereafter.  The debate was joined asking "...why do we need both bombers and ICBMs?"  Sound familiar?  Are we hearing that debate again today?  Oftentimes we're hearing "why do we need bombers and ICBMs, given that we have submarines?"  So this is not a new debate, not a new discussion.

LeMay, who was Chief of Staff of the Air Force at the time, wrote the following in a memorandum to the Joint Chiefs on this very subject.  And, I think his rationale holds true to today.  He said, "It is important to recognize that the ballistic missile forces represent both the U.S. and Soviet potential for strategic nuclear warfare at the highest, most indiscriminate level, and at a level least susceptible to control.  The employment of these weapons in lower level conflict would be likely to escalate the situation uncontrollably to an intensity which could be vastly disproportionate to the original aggravation.  The use of ICBMs and SLBMs is not, therefore, a rational or credible response to provocations which although serious, are still less than an immediate threat to national survival.  For this reason, among others, I consider that the national security will continue to require the flexibility, responsiveness and discrimination of manned strategic weapon systems throughout the range of cold, limited and general war."

So the debate that we are having today is not new. And, the rationale for having these weapon systems, both of these weapon systems, still exists.  The capabilities of the ICBM have matured a bit.  The ICBM is not as, as he described, as inaccurate as it was, but its use is still a threshold which is difficult thought not impossible to cross.

The ICBM today remains critical our deterrent posture. It is the most critical leg of the triad for strategic stability.  It is the weapon system which because of their readiness posture, their ability to respond to an attack before the attack reaches US airspace, the large numbers and the hardness of their silos, that the leaders of the nations that hold an existential threat over this country wake up every day and say..."not today, not ever."  It is the ICBM force that makes the notion of attacking the United States unacceptable every day.

On the other hand, the President of the United States today and in the future demands flexible response options that can deliver less destructive force than what the ICBM force, what I call the "sledge hammer" force, can deliver.  Hence, the continued need for the bomber leg of the triad.  Without the ICBM force, without the bomber force, and certainly without both of them, the three-legged stool of the triad falls over and deterrence is put at risk.  And that is a dangerous scenario for the United States of America.

The only piece that was missing as I read through the history of SAC was this notion of assurance, which you also see as the third imperative on the chart here.  What does that mean?  To assure.

Assurance is a key element of the US non-proliferation policy that came into being in the 1960s and continues today.  The intent is to discourage other nations from developing their own nuclear deterrent, not just adversarial nations but also friendly nations.  And so today, for example, we assure the Japanese that they do not need to develop their own nuclear capability.  We assure the South Koreans that they do not need to develop their own nuclear capability.  And we assure them by telling them that they will fall under the umbrella of our nuclear deterrent.

The interesting thing is, though, and it is an interesting trap that one can fall into, the US doesn't get to decide if another country is adequately assured.  The other country gets to decide if they're assured.

When the Nuclear Posture Review came out in 2010, I remember as part of that review we decided to retire a weapon system called the TLAM-N.  The TLAM is a cruise missile that could be launched from an attack submarine, and the N variant was equipped with a nuclear warhead. We retired them because they were kind of old and out of shape and it was going to cost the Navy a lot to refurbish them and put them back on alert status, and it seemed like a logical thing to do in a time period when, per the president's direction in the NPR, we were trying to deemphasize the importance of the nuclear deterrent in our broader strategy. 

We failed to tell this to the Japanese, though, and the Japanese got very upset.  Why?  In their mind, the number one and most credible weapon that the United States of America would employ in their defense would be the TLAM-N.  They didn't believe for a minute we would trade Washington, DC for Tokyo with an ICBM strike to support them in a theater war.  But they did believe we would use the TLAM-N and they believed it was a credible deterrent to their adversaries in the Western Pacific.  We miscalculated and it took a lot of dialogue to get them back in the box and understand that we still will be there for you and we have this other capability that you should firmly believe we would use, because we have used it, as you well know.  It's called the nuclear bomber force.

Again, this highlights how important the three legs of the triad are to the assurance mission and in particular, and even more so today, the bomber leg of the triad.

In 1992, and many in this room know it all too well, a great thing happened and, in my view two great miscalculations happened.  The great thing was the United States of America won the Cold War.  The American/Western idea of individual freedom, capitalistic economies, and governments elected by the people defeated the Marxist Soviet Communist model of oppression and centralized control.  So the end of the Cold War was a great victory.

As in every victory and after every war, there came another peace dividend.  And it was during this time period, I believe, we made two mistakes that guided us for almost the next 15 years.

First, we made the mistake of thinking that somehow or another because of the end of the Cold War human nature had changed.  Other country's nuclear capabilities were all still out there, but somehow we calculated that since we won the Cold War and were the de-facto sole "super power", everybody would change and understand the futility of ever threatening the United States again with nuclear weapons or for that matter threatening anyone else in the world.  I firmly believe some folks in their mind thought the last Adolf Hitler had been born and died, and I think that was a terrible miscalculation.  I don't think the last Hitler has been born.  I don't think the last Stalin has been born, or the last Mao, or Saddam Hussein, or Ayatollah Khomeini.  I don't think the last Kim Jong, you fill in the blank, has been born either.  Human nature has not changed for thousands of years and I do not expect it to change in the future.  That was a mistake that we made, I believe.  Whether we thought about it consciously or not, this idealistic assumption clearly underpinned our actions going forward.

We also made the miscalculation of thinking that if we weakened ourselves, others would follow.  Surely they would, we thought.  After all, we were the global leader.  But, surely they didn't.  We forgot that nation states will always act, always act in their own interests first and not in the interests of the United States of America.  We should never forget that.  The notion that human beings have moved on and surely they will see the logic in our disarmament and follow us doesn't hold water.  We've seen that demonstrably with the development and fielding of nuclear weapons in the 1990s in India and Pakistan, and in the 2000s in North Korea (who by the way pledged not to build nuclear weapons in the 1990s) and now as we observe the rapid growth and modernization of the nuclear capabilities in China and Russia.  Every nuclear power in the world is modernizing and strengthening their nuclear delivery forces and their weapons, with one exception -- the United States of America.  These are serious mistakes and serious miscalculations that need to be amended, in my view.

For 15 years we ignored the deterrent.  We forgot why we needed it.  We emphasized the conventional role, and man, did we get good at the conventional mission.  In fact, we got spectacular at it and remain so today.  And that's not a trivial accomplishment.  Our conventional might is absolutely important to our national security.  But we took our eye off the most critical ball.

Some dreamt of a world and still dream of a world without nuclear weapons.  I'll tell you today folks, I'm not one of them.  It's hard for me to say that because I fear these things.  Indeed, I hate them.  I truly hate nuclear weapons.  On the other hand, I'm reminded that for those who dream of a world without nuclear weapons, they don't have to dream.  They just have to read history.  Because before August 1945 we lived in a world without nuclear weapons.  And what did that world look like?  We had worked for centuries to perfect more and more lethal conventional methods to kill each other.  In the six years that spanned World War II it is estimated that 60 to 80 million people died.  That doesn't count wounded.  It doesn't count second order effects like starvation. That's 60 - 80 million killed at the hands of other human beings.  And I'll just pick a middle number in that range so I can do the math in public.  I'll choose 72 million dead.  So, over the six years of World War II from Sep 1939, to Aug 1945, on average, 12 million died every year, and over 12 months 1 million died every month, divided by 30 days in a month leaves, on average, 33,000 human beings killed every day of the year for six years. 

When I think of a world without nuclear weapons I think of Verdun, I think of the Somme, I think of Belleau Wood, I think of Pearl Harbor, I think of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Okinawa, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, Stalingrad, St Petersburg, Tokyo, Dresden, London, Berlin.....  That's what a world without nuclear weapons looks like, folks.  And since 1945, August '45, it all stopped.

Sure there have been regional wars, but not global wars.  33,000 dead in a day!  That's close to the total number of Americans killed in the entire Korean War.  We estimate there were 47,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War.  That's a day and a half of killing in World War II.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is what a world without nuclear weapons looks like.

Today Global Strike Command, as heirs to the legacy of SAC, has several missions in front of it.  Clearly, to organize, train and equip; but I would add a few more.

Number one; to educate the ignorant. I used to count myself among the ignorant.  Roger Berg and I were remembering those days earlier this morning.  There's no one more strident than a former smoker that's quit, or a convert late to a religion.  And that would be me when it comes to understanding the importance of the nuclear deterrent. I came late to understanding the nuclear deterrent, having grown up as a reconnaissance and fighter pilot with no connection at all to the nuclear force.  But with the help of many folks, like Roger Berg, Tom Deppe, and Don Alston among them, I learned the importance of the US nuclear deterrent. In my view, not knowing the importance, indeed criticality of the nuclear deterrent to our National Security, is not the fault of the ignorant.  It's the fault of the teacher.  If you don't know something and I do, that's not your fault.  It's my fault for not teaching you the right way.  So the responsibility to eliminate ignorance in these debates falls on this command and the people at every level in this Command.  It is your duty to know and understand your mission and to be able to articulate it at all levels.  To turn the ship of state in the right direction, back to understanding the fundamental requirement for the deterrent and the need for global strike capabilities and the need to assure our allies.  We must all be able to tell that story.  We must fix ignorance.  We cannot fix stupidity, so don't waste your time on stupid people.  Okay?  But we can help those who want to listen and will hear the arguments that you can present.

Tell them why we need nuclear weapons, why we need a triad.  Explain to them that there are indeed two existential threats and only two existential threats on the planet to the United States of America today and they are Russia and China.  And then ask them who's in charge of those countries? Our friends?  Men who see the world as we see it? And ask them then how comfortable they feel about going forward with those people controlling existential threats against this country?  Human nature has not changed.  Remind them of that.  And remind them that it will not change in our lifetimes.

Remind them also, loud and often, that every dollar spent on a conventional weapon in this country is wasted without an adequate nuclear deterrent.  You might as well flush those dollars down the toilet. 

And here's an example that I'll give to you to support that argument.  Who was in the Air Force or in the military in the 1980s during the Reagan buildup?  Put your hand up, and you're going to show your age.  All right.  In the '80s Reagan was turning around a weakened, post-Vietnam, post peace dividend Air Force and military, and was going to strengthen it in the '80s to bring it back to where it needed to be.  He promised a 600-ship Navy.  600 ships of the line, combat ships.  His goal was a 40 combat wing Air Force and an 18 armored division Army.  Today we have less than 300 ships in the Navy that are combat ships; today we have less than 20 combat wings in the United States Air Force; and the Army doesn't even have divisions anymore, but the equivalent would be about eight.

So today we are securing our Nation with less than 50 percent of what Reagan's goal was in the 1980s. Oh, by the way, in parallel to his conventional build up, Peacekeeper was being deployed, B-1s were being deployed and the B-2s and Trident submarines and missiles were being developed.

So here's the scenario I'll give you.  Tomorrow, I will give our Air Force, every one of those combat wings that Reagan promised.  Not only that, I will give you all the beans, bullets, bandages, fuel, spare parts, personnel, practice bombs, range time that you could possibly ever want.  Your air crews, your maintainers, everybody will go to the range every day, twice a day, and be just the best at what they are supposed to be able to do.  It would be bliss.  It's heaven on earth for every Airman! And, I'll give the Reagan build up to the United States Navy and US Army as well. That would surely give the US the most powerful conventional force in the history of the world!  But,.... In this imaginary world, I will take away the US nuclear deterrent.  And, I will give 20, just 20 nuclear weapons and 20 missiles that can range 20 different cities in the United States to the President of Venezuela.  That's it.  That's the world.  Now, who kowtows to whom when there is a dust up in the Western hemisphere?  How about at the negotiating tables over economic issues?  Who fears whom?  Who can draw a red line and say don't cross it?  It would be Venezuela with its 20 nuclear weapons and 20 missiles holding 20 major US cities at risk of annihilation.  It would not be us.

If you don't get the nuclear deterrent right first and always, you're wasting every dime you spend on a conventional force and we've forgotten that.  It truly is foundational.  It truly underpins the entire Department of Defense.  It underpins the State Department when they sit down for diplomatic negotiations.  It underpins Treasury when they sit down for economic negotiations around the world.  We don't even have to bring it up...that's how powerful it is.  The other side of the table just knows.  And if they ever doubt our strength..... that power goes away.

So educate. 

Secondly, you must fight for equipment.  There are big fights ahead of us.  The B-21's been approved.  There are people out there that want to kill it.  Fight for it.  Fight for the ground-based strategic deterrent replacement for the ICBM.  Fight for it.  We need that leg of the triad.  Fight for the LRSO.  I think it's one of the most powerful elements of the bomber force.  It allows us to hedge against technical failure in the force and against the uncertain geopolitical futures we might face.  In other words, it allows us to react to strategic surprise.  And it also strikes fear in the heart of the enemy because it's nigh impossible to defend against.  And fight for the tools you need to operate the Air Force legs of the deterrent in a safe and secure fashion.....for example, fight for the proper helicopter to support our missileers.

And, fight for our brothers and sisters in the Department of Energy.  They're the ones that have to advocate for monies for our nuclear weapons.  And for monies to rebuild the infrastructure in our nuclear enterprise that even today still relies on facilities built in haste during the Manhattan project.  You have to help advocate for them.  The nuclear weapon enterprise is in desperate need of investment.

So educate, fight for equipment, and lastly, but certainly just as important, continue to train toward perfection.  Demonstrate your readiness through exercises, through evaluations, and competitions.  Peace still is your profession, but to achieve it you must strike fear in the heart of potential adversaries.  And to do that, you must demonstrate your might -- publicly, in the open, and frequently.

Ladies and gentlemen, the mission of our great Global Strike Command is as important as ever.  As important as any day in the existence of Strategic Air Command.  And today the world is a more dangerous place, in my view, than it was in the era of Strategic Air Command.

Now is the time for resolve.

You live the highest calling, in my view, of anyone in our Department of Defense.  I actually have a little problem with the Air Force model -- to fly, fight and win. Don't get me wrong, I like to do all three of those things, but in my view that motto does not capture our first and most important mission.  Fly, fight and win is what we do when we fail at our first mission, which is to deter.  Those of you who are in this business, the deterrence business, wear the noblest cloth of your country.  To prevent war from happening, and for the United States to have its way on our terms at the same time that you do that....well that is perfection according to Sun Tsu.  

Spilling American blood is not success, in my view.  We have to be prepared for it, but deterrence is the highest calling of any military person, and I firmly believe that.

I thank you for your dedication.

And General Rand, thanks for inviting me back to this great celebration, the 70th Anniversary of a great command that we should be proud of and speak of; and the 7th Anniversary of another great command, the heir to its legacy, Global Strike Command.

God bless you all.