U.S. Central Command commander addresses International Symposium on Air Defense in Saudi Arabia

Release No: UNRELEASED April 17, 2011 PRINT | E-MAIL

International Symposium on Air Defense (ISAD) 2020+ Remarks by General James N. Mattis, Commander, U.S. Central Command

17 April 2011

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Sultan, General al-Hussein, Secretary General-GCC Dr. Al Zayani, Excellencies, Fellow generals and officers, Colleagues, Friends…

It is an honor and privilege to be here. I thank the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, and especially their commander Lt Gen Al Hussein for the courtesy of inviting me. We all share strong interest in missile defense for we are all responsible for the protection of our populations. We have security challenges of mutual concern. I will speak about CENTCOM’s priorities.

If NATO and Russia can cooperate on missile defense, my challenge to the nations represented here today is: let’s do the same. Our shared objective is regional peace and stability in a new age when a missile fired from one country can fly over an international body of water, pass over another country, and land in a third country in this region all in less time than it takes for me to deliver my remarks this morning.

In this age - no nation can protect itself alone. Data sharing, mutual support and integrated systems must be built on trust and what Secretary General Al Zayani calls comprehensive co-operation. We can move toward this goal through collaboration and increasing our collective defensive posture among all of us who can partner together for security and stability.

This is why integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) continues to be one of my very top priorities in the theater while it is also a key pillar in the Secretary of Defense’s policy for protecting our partners in Middle East and Europe. As we enter this next decade, we need to build upon the cooperation that is already occurring and develop a more comprehensive, multi-lateral approach.

Again, Secretary General Al Zayani’s formula of security, innovation & resilience comes to mind. For we can reduce the desire for any nation to threaten our nations and our people, reminding adversaries that offensive plans with missiles cannot succeed, so don’t even try. IAMD serves as an important manifestation of our collective protection and deterrent posture, and increase deterrence by reducing vulnerabilities. This shows how political will to band together and military cooperation can help sustain stability. For as Dr. Al Zayani has wisely said, each of us needs each other.

I believe we are on the right track with the growing in-theater capabilities: Patriot batteries, coupled with THAAD and maritime platforms, linked together by shared early warning, and displayed on a common operational picture these capabilities – and more importantly our collective collaboration – will provide synergy and result in reduced reaction times to imminent threats close regional borders make closer coordination in air and missile defense an imperative.

As I mentioned earlier, it is quite possible that a missile would fly over multiple countries in the region before hitting its intended target. If there was ever a reason for collaboration among states, this is it and our industry colleagues can give us the tools to make this vision a reality, to bring comprehensive cooperation to life.

Effective multilateral air and missile defense requires the following: Collaborative planning and direction between the U.S. and regional partners; effective and interoperable command, control, and communications capabilities; planned integrated air and missile defense responses to enemy action; and common rules of engagement and missile defense firing doctrine.

By networking our sensors, everyone’s missile defense capabilities are increased even while each country will maintain total control of their own missile defense systems. The potential benefits are striking: cohesive strategy and defense posture amongst regional partners; increased readiness with deterrence of potential aggressors; increased situational awareness of theater ballistic missile, air breathing threats, and cruise missile threats; an opportunity to preserve scarce, high value air and missile defense assets for no one country can technologically undertake this mission alone; potential to reduce costs to individual nations by sharing over-lapping assets; proven method to counter fratricide because we will have visibility over the larger picture; and exercises will provide us practiced expertise.

In this regard I must mention several points:  I encourage full GCC participation in studies with CENTCOM and our missile defense agency on how we can maximize our combined missile defense capabilities. I need your input so I know what is important to you.

A completely defensive effort should only displease a nation with offensive designs. GCC has no offensive designs. IAMD is defensive only. The potential benefits of integration speak volumes. The integrated system is about protection. This is why I strongly support the continued development of the IAMD Center in the UAE as a place for professionals to meet, discuss, and exercise important regional air and missile defense principles, concepts, and procedures using academics, planning and simulation.

Interoperable weapon systems and C3 Capabilities within a multilateral construct are the future for this region. The U.S. can continue to play an integrating role in the development and deployment of regional air and missile defenses to the degree we can partner together.

Together we can increase stability preempting the desire for any nation to threaten our countries and our people who we are responsible to protect. Concerted, persistent efforts will be required to checkmate this modern threat. But they are worth the effort, assisting each other as we all enhance our ability to stand together against regional aggression and defend our national and shared interests.

Ideally, we want to isolate the challenges we face by working together. I greatly appreciate the work that so many of you are doing to further progress in these areas and developing trust and confidence among neighbors in a critically important region of the world.

I will close with an example from a different region, North America: the United States and Canada maintain a strong mil-to-mil relationship even during political divergence in the past. We have NORAD command, training, exercises, etc.

I thank you very much for your support of the common defense.