StratCom’s bigger role will add jobs at Offutt, commander Gen. John Hyten says

StratCom’s bigger role will add jobs at Offutt, commander Gen. John Hyten says
Gen. John Hyten said Wednesday that Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered centralization of nuclear command, control and communication at the Offutt-based U.S. Strategic Command. (World-Herald News Service)

More money and more jobs will be coming to Offutt Air Force Base as a result of an order by the secretary of defense to centralize nuclear command, control and communication at the Offutt-based U.S. Strategic Command, said Gen. John Hyten, the StratCom commander, during a media event Wednesday in La Vista.

Hyten said he’s been asked to deliver a plan to overhaul the nation’s antiquated nuclear command and control structure — called NC3 — by the end of August. Because the plan isn’t finished, details aren’t being released.

“We will have new functions and new responsibilities here at Offutt. That means we’ll have new capabilities,” he said. “Some of it will be virtual, some of it will be here in Omaha.”

Hyten’s comments came during a two-day symposium at the La Vista Conference Center focused on deterrence, a military strategy that uses military threats to prevent war or international crises. StratCom sponsors the conference each year, bringing in some of the world’s leading military and academic theorists on the subject. About 700 people are attending.

StratCom is a joint command made up of service members from all branches of the military. It has been part of NC3, but this change puts it completely in charge. NC3 oversees daily readiness and security of the command and control system, not the highly structured — and highly classified — launch orders that would be used in a crisis.

Hyten laid out his rationale for focusing NC3 at StratCom in a speech last month at Kings Bay, Georgia. In that speech, he said Defense Secretary James Mattis was alarmed about a committee-like structure that has controlled nuclear weapons. Some elements, for example, are managed by the Louisiana-based Air Force Global Strike Command. Other parts fall under the Navy, which operates submarines that carry nuclear missiles.

The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in February, noted problems with aging components in NC3 warning satellites and radars, communications satellites, aircraft, ground stations, and nuclear control centers. It said some of these systems haven’t been updated for several decades.

Hyten said Mattis signed an order earlier this summer putting the StratCom commander solely in charge of NC3, including operations, requirements, system engineering and integration.

“That is a new mission for us, so we will have new people, but I won’t get into specifics,” Hyten said. “Whether that’s a small number of people, or a large number, that depends on perspective.”

But, he added, “There has to be additional resources to carry out the mission.”

It’s not clear when or from where the necessary personnel would come to Offutt, or whether they would be military or civilian employees.

But Hyten indicated that the restructuring is a high priority for Mattis, and that the defense secretary told him to “make sure we get nuclear command and control right.”

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