“I hate the stuff that shows up in the press,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, at a congressional hearing on nuclear deterrence last March, the record of which has just been published.
Gen. Hyten was responding to a question from Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) about the volume of unclassified information that gets released concerning the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).
“General Hyten, we have seen a lot of GBSD acquisition details loaded into unclassified acquisition databases and run by the Air Force,” said Rep. Scott. “We all know that Russia, China, and others scoop all this stuff up to the best of their abilities and analyze it intensively.”
“Why is all of this put out in the open? Should we reassess what is unclassified in these acquisition documents?” Rep. Scott wanted to know.
“I hate the stuff that shows up in the press,” Gen. Hyten replied. “I think we should reassess that.”
“Just to complete that thought, I hate the fact that cost estimates show up in the press as well,” he added. “So I would really like to figure out a different way to do business than that. I hate seeing that kind of information in the newspaper.”
See Military Assessment of Nuclear Deterrence Requirements, hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, March 8, 2017.
In answer to another question at the hearing, Gen. Hyten denied that US nuclear forces are on “hair trigger alert.”
“Our nuclear command and control system is constantly exercised to ensure that only the President, after consultations with his senior advisors and military leaders, can authorize any employment of our nuclear forces,” he said.
On the other hand, Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the time available for a President to make a decision about a nuclear strike could be highly compressed depending on the scenario.
“The launch-on-warning criteria basically are driven by physics,” he said at the hearing. “The amount of time the President has to make a decision is based on when we can detect a launch [and] what it takes to physically characterize the launch.”
“I don’t believe the physics let us give him much more time,” Gen. Selva said.