By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Securing continued civil, military and commercial access to cyberspace and space-based domains will be a major challenge to the next commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton said during his confirmation hearing today.
Increased U.S. dependence on cyberspace and space-based capabilities makes securing these domains “crucial to our national security,” President Bush’s nominee to lead STRATCOM told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Cyberspace and space have become “global commons” that Chilton called “vitally important to our daily way of life and the economic well-being of our nation and the world.” As a result,” he said in a written response to the committee’s questions, “attacks impacting our freedom to operate in space and cyberspace pose serious strategic threats.”
Meanwhile, the threat of state-terrorist groups gaining control of and using weapons of mass destruction against the homeland looms as the largest strategic threat confronting the country, he said.
Chilton, who currently serves as commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., said that if he’s confirmed, he will address these challenges as STRATCOM commander by identifying capability gaps within the organization and ensuring they’re corrected. The next step, he said, will be to ensure the command has the right organizational structure, command relations and tools in place to carry out its missions and support other combatant commands.
“I think we need to … make sure that we have the right command-and-control structures in place, the right information in place, the right command relationships in place, to provide the support that all our forces around the world have become dependent upon,” he said during testimony today.
If confirmed, Chilton said, he will pursue several priorities for the command, including the following: deliver space capabilities to support joint operations around the globe; provide a global deterrent capability and synchronize Defense Department efforts to prevent potential adversaries from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction; and maximize the application and use of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, space, cyberspace, global strike and other Defense Department resources to support decisive kinetic and non-kinetic combat effects.
These priorities are critical, he said, as potential adversaries have been able to leverage information and space technologies to threaten the United States and its interests.
President Bush named Chilton in July for appointment as STRATCOM commander. If confirmed, he will replace Air Force Lt. Gen. C. Robert Kehler, who has served as interim commander since August, when the former commander, Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, became the eighth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A former astronaut who flew three space shuttle missions, Chilton is a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. He conducted weapons testing in various models of the F-4 and F-15 aircraft before joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1987.
The nominee also served on the Air Force Space Command Staff, the Joint Staff and the Air Staff, and commanded the 9th Reconnaissance Wing. Immediately before taking on his current assignment, he commanded 8th Air Force and served as STRATCOM’s joint functional component commander for space and global strike.
By Donna Miles