WASHINGTON — The U.S. cannot fall into the trap of focusing on warfighting domains when debating responses to an adversary, Gen. John Hyten, the head of United States Strategic Command, said Tuesday.
Speaking at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala., Hyten also called for a change in how the U.S. conducts missile defense tests, which he believes needs to emphasize lessons learned over pure tactical success.
United States Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, is the lead organization for America’s nuclear arsenal but also has dominion over space and cyber operations. Hyten himself comes from the U.S. Air Force space community, giving him a clear sense of how other nations are improving their capabilities in those areas.
“There’s no such thing as war in space; there’s just war. There’s no such thing as war in cyber; there’s just war,” Hyten said. “We have to figure out how to defeat our adversaries, not to defeat the domains where they operate.”
The general, who has led STRATCOM since November 2016, circled back on that point later in the speech, warning that America’s assured dominance in air and space over the past 15 years could lead the Pentagon into bad habits.
“You can’t fall into the trap of saying ‘There’s a space problem, so I’ll ask the space guy to go fix the space problem,’” he said. “It’s a problem with an adversary. I may not want to [direct] a response to a space problem in space. ... I may go a different direction. So it has to be from an adversary perspective, not a domain perspective.”
Hyten also digressed into a question about tests of America’s strategic systems with a bit of self-flagellation about how the Pentagon views such events.
Every time a missile defense system or intercontinental ballistic missile is tested, Hyten said, he calls up the commander in charge, asking, “Did it work? Did it work?” He recently realized that’s the wrong question, as sometimes more important information can be pulled from a failure than a success.
“I should be calling and saying, ‘Did you have a good test?’” rather than a successful one, Hyten said. “Success is about the success of the test, not the success of the mission.”