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WASHINGTON, DC.  Today U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, participated in the committee’s nomination hearing for Air Force Gen. Anthony J. Cotton to serve as the next Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM). Sen. Fischer’s questions focused on the diversity of STRATCOM's missions and their importance to deterring 21st century threats.

Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s remarks

An edited transcript of Senator Fischer’s exchange with Gen. Cotton is copied below. 

Senator Fischer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman…General Cotton – a lot of times, in this Committee and on the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces – our main focus is on modernization of our Triad.

We also try to gain a fuller understanding of the future needs that our military must have to provide for national security. We talk about things like SLCM-N and the need that commanders such as yourself will have to have to provide options to the President when or if you are ever in that position. The more options you can present, the better for the security of this country and the better for the people of this country.  

But also, under the duties and responsibilities of the STRATCOM combatant commander, we need to look at the importance of NC3 (nuclear command, control and communications), and we have to look at the NNSA’s (National Nuclear Safety Administration) supporting infrastructure as well.

So General, I think that when we talk about nuclear modernization, and we have that focus on the Triad, on the weapons systems and the warheads, we should not forget about NC3 - the architecture - as well as the scientific and production infrastructure of NNSA. Can you talk about how important these elements are to the deterrent, and the modernization challenge that we're seeing in these areas as well? 

Gen. Cotton: Senator, I'd love to. You know, I'll start with NC3. I know there's members of the Committee that say that it's the fourth [part] of the triad, right, -- that it's the quad. I've heard folks say that. I call it the tapestry. In my opening statement, you heard me discuss and talk about how it is just as important as the platforms that we're talking about modernizing. And that is absolutely true. The good news is that it is still a resilient system today. What I like, having over 36 years in this business, is the conversations that people like yourself and others also see it as just as important as the weapon systems that we often talk about. If confirmed, I'd use my authorities. As everyone's aware, the “NEC” or the NC3 Enterprise Center that is located within Strategic Command, and the commander of Strategic Command having delegated oversight authorities to be able to make sure that we as a department are modernizing with next-gen technologies. I call it NC2 over assured comms – to ensure that we have the state-of-the-art NC3 systems that we need for not only today, not only for the midterm, but for the future. 

And that is going to be absolutely critical for us because I guarantee you that I want to ensure that we always outpace our adversaries who are also paying attention to our NC3 systems.

Sen. Fischer: STRATCOM also has significant responsibilities for the electromagnetic spectrum operations. Can you describe some of the challenges in this mission area, and what STRATCOM is doing to help rebuild the force structure and the capabilities that we need?

Gen. Cotton: Yes, ma'am. So from my vantage point, as a Joint Forces Air Component Commander, I can only give my vantage of what I have from the Air Force side of the House.

If confirmed, I would like to make an assessment on the entire portfolio. But from our vantage point, I think we're a little behind.

And I don't think, I know we're behind. But the good news is I know that we're working to try to close the gap on us not paying attention to EMS (Electromagnetic spectrum) for decades. 

So if confirmed, that would be one of the things that would be on the plate that I would absolutely want to assess and be the greatest advocate that could be as the commander of STRATCOM in ensuring that we have not just the pace of our adversaries, but lead our adversaries in that domain.

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