STRATCOM Commander “Hates” Some Press Reports

“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.

DoD: Cost of War Post-9/11 Exceeds $1.4 Trillion

The Department of Defense has spent more than $1.46 trillion for direct war-related costs since September 11, 2001, according to the latest Pentagon tabulation of war costs obtained by Secrecy News.

The 74-page DoD report provides extensive and detailed reporting on war-related appropriations and expenditures. See Cost of War Update as of June 30, 2017.

Some previous iterations of the cost of war report can be found here.

The current total includes $83 billion in classified spending, the new DoD report said. But it does not include “non-DoD classified programs” such as those conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency.

“War-related costs” are understood to refer to include military operational costs, support for deployed troops, and transportation of personnel and equipment. The term does not extend to indirect costs such as veterans’ benefits, long-term health care for injured personnel, reconstruction or post-conflict stabilization programs.

When such broader costs are included, the total expenditures surpassed $1.6 trillion in 2014, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. Others put total costs much higher.

The American Revolution cost the equivalent of $2.4 billion today, according to another CRS estimate, while World War II cost around $4 trillion.

Army Operations: The New Operational Environment

Other nations, including current and potential adversaries, possess military capabilities that now match or exceed those of the United States, according to a new US Army doctrinal publication.

“Today’s operational environment presents threats to the Army and joint force that are significantly more dangerous in terms of capability and magnitude than those we faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Major regional powers like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are actively seeking to gain strategic positional advantage. These nations, and other adversaries, are fielding capabilities to deny long-held U.S. freedom of action in the air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains and reduce U.S. influence in critical areas of the world.”

“In some contexts they already have overmatch or parity, a challenge the joint force has not faced in twenty-five years.”

That assessment appears in the Foreword to the newly updated US Army Field Manual 3.0 on Operations that was officially released today.

The Field Manual describes the conduct of operations in the new environment, with notably new material on the cyber and space domains.

“Threat operations [by adversaries] in cyberspace are often less encumbered by treaty, law, and policy restrictions than those imposed on U.S. forces, which may allow adversaries or enemies an initial advantage,” the manual states.

The unclassified field manual was released along with two supporting volumes:

ADP 3-0. Operations, Army Doctrine Publication, October 2017, and

ADRP 3-0. Operations, Army Doctrine Reference Publication, October 2017

Last week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued a memorandum to all military personnel and DoD employees warning against leaks of classified or otherwise restricted defense information.

“It is a violation of our oath to divulge, in any fashion, non-public DoD information, classified or unclassified, to anyone without the required security clearance as well as a specific need to know in performance of their duties,” he wrote. A copy of the memo was obtained by Military Times. (A security clearance is not required for unclassified information.)

Yet also last week, Secretary Mattis himself disclosed new information that about US rules of engagement that is normally not published, the New York Times reported. A Pentagon spokesman denied that the disclosure would place US forces at risk, or help the enemy. See “Mattis Discloses Part of Afghanistan Battle Plan, but It Hasn’t Yet Been Carried Out” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, October 6.

Defense Bill Requires Declassification of Toxic Releases

In an unusual assertion of congressional authority over national security classification policy, the Senate adopted a provision that would require the Secretary of Defense to declassify certain classified documents regarding military exposures to toxic releases.

The provision was authored by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and was included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 18 (HR 2810, sect. 1089), which was passed in the Senate on September 18.

The measure directs that “The Secretary of Defense shall declassify documents related to any known incident in which not fewer than 100 members of the Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one case of a disability.”

Though limited in scope and application, the provision is noteworthy because it does not simply declare a “sense of Congress” in favor of declassification or call for a “review” of classified records. It actually requires declassification to be performed.

The Moran legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), does allow for the possibility of exemption of some material from declassification, but only if it would “materially and immediately threaten the security of the United States.”

That is a far more stringent standard than is provided by the executive order on classification, which vaguely permits withholding of information whenever it “could be expected to cause damage to the national security.”

In effect, the Senate bill overrides the executive order with respect to the specified documents on toxic exposures by mandating declassification with new, narrower criteria for withholding.

This is not the first time that Congress has enacted such a legislative override of classification policy. It did so, most notably, in the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. Some other attempts to legislate a new standard for declassification were initiated but did not advance into law, as in the case of the Human Rights Information Act.

Though rare, successful legislative action of this kind demonstrates that Congress can be an effective participant in determining the scope and performance of the classification system. More than that, Congress has the power to help to correct errors and abuses in classification policy.

This is one of those cases where congressional intervention was necessary, according to Sen. Moran.

“Without declassification of these documents, many of our veterans are left without proof of the exposure they suffered, preventing them from being able to establish their service-connected conditions and secure a disability rating that makes them eligible to receive the care and benefits they deserve to help them cope with the residual health damage,” his office said in a news release.

Special Ops, Counter-Propaganda, Overclassification

The House Armed Services Committee took a retrospective look at US special operations forces earlier this year, thirty years after the establishment of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

“SOCOM has a lot of missions it is responsible for, and has had several new ones added to it,” said Rep. Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY) at a hearing earlier this year. “Are there any of those missions that should go away or be reassigned?”

SOCOM Commander Gen. Raymond A. Thomas was ready with the answer: “There are no missions that should go away or be reassigned.”

See Three Decades Later: A Review and Assessment of our Special Operations Forces 30 Years After the Creation of U.S. Special Operations Command, House Armed Services Committee, May 2, 2017.

Some other notable congressional hearing volumes that have recently been published include:

Crafting an Information Warfare and Counter-propaganda Strategy for the Emerging Security Environment, House Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2017

Examining the Costs of Overclassification on Transparency and Security, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, December 7, 2016

Some New DoD Directives and Instructions

Noteworthy new directives and instructions issued by the Department of Defense, of interest to some, include the following.

DoD Space Enterprise Governance and Principal DoD Space Advisor (PDSA), DOD Directive 5100.96, June 9, 2017

Global Health Engagement (GHE) Activities, DOD Instruction 2000.30, July 12, 2017

Assessment of Significant Long-Term Health Risks from Past Environmental Exposures on Military Installations, DOD Instruction 6055.20, June 6, 2017

Conscientious Objectors, DOD Instruction 1300.06, July 12, 2017

Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as of July 2017

Secretary of Defense Harold Brown: A Reassessment

The role of Secretary of Defense Harold Brown in managing the Pentagon, boosting the military and confronting the Soviet Union during the Jimmy Carter Administration is examined in a new Department of Defense historical volume that was declassified and published this month.

It was during Secretary Brown’s tenure that the Carter Administration reversed a decline in defense spending and began a military buildup that is usually associated with the Reagan Administration. Stealth aircraft, precision bombs, cruise missiles and other new weapons programs were championed by Brown, a physicist, and brought into production.

“Unlike previous secretaries of defense, Brown faced the Soviet Union at the apex of its Cold War military might,” wrote historian Edward Keefer in the new DoD volume. “Flush from new discoveries of oil and natural gas in an era of high energy prices, the Soviet Union of the Carter years came closer to matching the United States in strategic power than it had in any other period. By most reckonings, the Kremlin held advantages over the West in conventional weapons and forces in central Europe. Brown and his staff worked diligently and creatively to offset the formidable Soviet military challenge. Yet the achievements Brown amassed as secretary have been overshadowed by one horrendous failure, the Iran hostage rescue mission. As a result, history has paid scant attention to his successes. Similarly, it has ignored the foundation that the Carter administration built for the Reagan revolution in defense. This volume aims to remedy the oversight.”

“This is an authorized history, but not an official one,” wrote DoD Chief Historian Erin R. Mahan. “There is a distinction.” That is, it is based on authorized access to classified source materials and underwent internal peer review, but it represents the author’s own judgment.

Among other areas of friction and public controversy, Secretary Brown defended the nuclear weapon targeting policy set forth in Carter’s Presidential Directive 59. “To liberal arms control advocates, such as the Federation of American Scientists, PD 59 seemed warlike and dangerous,” the Pentagon history said.

See Harold Brown: Offsetting the Soviet Military Challenge, 1977-1981, Office of the Secretary of Defense, June 2017, 840 pages.

The new volume is the latest in a series of scholarly histories of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and one of several new publications from the OSD History Office.