WASHINGTON — Adm. Cecil Haney took an important step Tuesday toward becoming the next commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
The Senate Armed Services Committee forwarded his nomination to the full Senate, and he could be confirmed before the week is over.
Located at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha, StratCom has a diverse mission that includes overseeing the nation's nuclear arsenal.
Committee members on Tuesday questioned Haney about his views on U.S. missile defense, potential reductions in the country's stockpile of nuclear warheads, the need to ramp up cyber defenses and other areas.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., a committee member, brought up the new headquarters that is being constructed at Offutt to replace the aging facility StratCom currently uses.
Haney described the new command-and-control complex as key for all of StratCom's missions, particularly strategic deterrence.
“Without the command and control that connects the relevant information to our leadership, the decisions cannot be made in a prompt time, and that's such an important part of our infrastructure and capability going forward,” Haney said.
Haney was deputy commander of StratCom before taking over the Navy's Pacific Fleet Command about three years ago. If confirmed, he would replace Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, who has been StratCom commander since January 2011.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman, is hoping to get Haney and other pending nominees through the confirmation process before the Senate leaves for its August recess at the end of this week. The Senate does not return until mid-September.
Haney, 57, weighed in on a range of issues during Tuesday's hearing.
For example, he said, the United States needs to continue delivering the message to Russia that U.S. missile defense systems are not intended to undermine that country's deterrence options.
He also was asked several times about his position on potential reductions to U.S. nuclear warheads.
President Barack Obama has called for a one-third reduction of U.S.- and Russian- deployed nuclear weapons.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., asked Haney what his advice would be if the president sought to accomplish such a stockpile reduction unilaterally, without negotiating with Russia.
Haney said he opposes unilateral reduction.
“My advice would be that we negotiate a bilateral agreement that also has verifiable components to it,” he said.