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STRATCOM now doing daily deterrence risk analysis for all combatant commands

WASHINGTON — In the last six months, U.S. Strategic Command has begun doing a new form of daily analysis on the state of nuclear deterrence in each of the regional combatant commands, STRATCOM commander Adm. Charles Richard said Thursday.

Richard described the Risk of Strategic Deterrence Failure effort as a “new type of analysis” that allows STRATCOM to present, on a day by day basis, “a formal estimate of the risks that deterrence is gonna fail” around the globe.

“I acknowledge this is an analytic process getting after something that is fundamentally subjective,” Richard said at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute. “But the assertion here is, this risk carries so much consequence that I need to be able to describe to the secretary and the chairman at all times, under all conditions, what risks we’re taking with regard to deterrence failing, and then inside that, nuclear deterrence failing.”

The new analysis pulls in information from the Joint Staff and other combatant commands. Richard added that the threat of deterrence failure is “currently low.”

“We have some great formal mechanisms with all the combatant commands to pull in what they see and what they’re doing, put it into my best possible emulation of the other guys decision calculus, and then be able to provide the department, ‘Alright, here’s where we sit. Here’s the risk here’s the margin,’” Richard explained.

David Deptula, the retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. who now leads the Mitchell Institute, said the day-to-day assessment design described by Richard is “unique,” but could have great value going forward.

“He is applying an outcome-oriented assessment to strategic deterrence that may have been implied in the past, but he is making a concerted effort to identify the impact of strategic deterrence in a much more qualitative and quantitative fashion,” Deptula said.

“‘Deterrence’ is challenging to quantify, but by committing to assessing the impact of deterrent effects” Richard is creating a more deliberate process, Deptula added. “I really think he is establishing a process of how to best determine the impact of actions that STRATCOM is taking in the decisions that it is making.”

Richard also stressed that defining deterrence in 2020 can be difficult, noting “strategic deterrence is more than just nuclear deterrence particularly now today. It is non-kinetic space, cyber, it is your conventional piece of this.”

“All of this has to be integrated together. It’s not just a STRATCOM job, it is all combatant commands, and we have to be able to rethink the way we do business,” he said. “We’re gonna have to change the way we think about deterrence.”

One of the commands giving input on a daily basis is U.S. Space Command, which until its creation as a stand-alone command fell under STRATCOM control.

Richard described the relationship between the two as “closely coupled,” noting that SPACECOM still has a major role to play in ensuring nuclear command and control and adding that STRATCOM continues to handle some bureaucratic functions for the newest command.

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