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Transcript: Philip Breedlove, former NATO supreme allied commander, on "Intelligence Matters"

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld speaks with retired General Philip Breedlove, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command, about the trajectories of the United States' relationships with North Korea, China, Russia, Europe, and other adversaries and partners. Breedlove addresses the leadership characteristics and regional objectives of each nation and assesses U.S. engagement to date. He and Winnefeld also discuss the U.S. military's capabilities and readiness for potential confrontation with key adversaries. Breedlove reflects on his career at all levels of the U.S. Air Force. 

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Highlights

  • U.S. engagement with North Korea:  "It remains problematic. We have had people tell us for a long time that the Hermit Kingdom is going to implode and why are we worried about it. And I guess in a glib way, we should ask ourselves, 'How's that working out for us?' The North continues to pose a threat, not only in a conventional way, but now in a more growing nuclear way. And they're determined to use those advantages to try to build a political situation with South Korea and the rest of the world that would advantage them in their day-to-day operations."
  • Russia and Putin: "I think Mr. Putin is a man who has grown up a proud Russian. He grew up in the KGB. He did not like the way the Cold War ended. He felt like that Russia was not at the table when the post-Cold War order was sort of set. And he felt like Russia was snubbed and should've been at the table. And he's determined to get Russia back at the table on determining the path of Europe as well as other parts of the world, as we see now in Syria and in North Africa. [...]. Mr. Putin has never been paid officially more than an army or air force lieutenant colonel. He's been a public servant all his life. And yet he's one of the richest men in the world. This is a kleptocrat who has been extracting wealth from that nation and he doesn't want to lose that wealth stream. So I think you've got on one side, a proud Russian that believes Russia was snubbed and should be a major power. And on the other side, there's a man that really likes the stream of money that comes from his position."
  • Managing China: "China is very good at setting goals and sticking to those goals, investing. And they're really pushing ahead in some of these critical technologies that are going to challenge us. And if all we are going to do is just buy more of the same to try to address it, I think we're going to be on the losing end of that cost curve. Just like we applied that to Russia in its past, I think China's putting us on the wrong side of that cost curve now. [...]. We have to think about changing the cost curve in more than money, imposing on them issues and problems that they have to deal with like they're imposing on us. And so I do believe that we need to be thinking about new technologies of defense. We need to be thinking about the kind of technology that allows us to strike with precision at range and not cost us an arm and a leg to do it."

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INTELLIGENCE MATTERS – GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE
CORRESPONDENT: AMD. SANDY WINNEFELD
PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS, JAMIE BENSON

SANDY WINNEFELD: 
Welcome to Intelligence Matters with Michael Morell. I'm retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, filling in for Michael while he's on travel. Our guest today is retired Air Force General Phil Breedlove, who served as the 17th Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and as the Commander of U.S.-European Command.

Born in Georgia, he attended Georgia Tech and was commissioned through their ROTC program. He flew F-16s in both Europe and Asia and also served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. My close association with and deep admiration for Phil began when we were fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech.

I'm fond of saying that, at the time, people expected Phil to succeed. Phil is recognized as being one of our most effective, if not our most effective, Supreme Allied Commanders of NATO and has done a lot in his public and private life to point out the danger represented by Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation. Since he retired he's assumed a variety of roles in business and has also taught at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at his alma mater. Phil, welcome to Intelligence Matters.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Sandy, it's great to be here with you. And I look forward to our conversation.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Well, we have a lot to cover today. Before we get into talking a bit about Europe and Asia, the title of this program is, of course, Intelligence Matters. Can you give me a sense, as a long-serving Air Force officer, former four-star general in several key positions, of how you interacted with and depended on the world of intelligence?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Well, as you know, having also been a pilot in your career, in the early more tactical part of my career, it was all about, "How was I going to prepare for my mission? What was the intelligence required to get to a target, deliver a weapon, etcetera?" A very tactical look.

And that obviously, through the years, changed. As the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, begin to look at what intelligence told me about the requirements that we had to make to shape our Air Force. And then finally, I don't have to tell you that in my role as the SACEUR and as the Commander of U.S.-European Command, and trying to shape policy and the reactions of 28 nations in NATO, intelligence was key. And having not only an understanding of what U.S. intelligence was, but what the intelligence that was agreed to by all 28 nations, what that was, and the problems and opportunities it generated.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Phil, let's talk a little bit about Asia, starting with the Korean Peninsula. You did three tours on the Peninsula, including commanding a fighter wing at Kunsan Air Base in 2001. A lot has happened since then. How do you look at the current situation on the Peninsula and the way ahead?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
It remains problematic. We have had people tell us for a long time that the Hermit Kingdom is going to implode and why are we worried about it. And I guess in a glib way, we should ask ourselves, "How's that working out for us?" The North continues to pose a threat, not only in a conventional way, but now in a more growing nuclear way. And they're determined to use those advantages to try to build a political situation with South Korea and the rest of the world that would advantage them in their day-to-day operations.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
We have gone from yelling about "Little Rocket Man" to hugs at the demilitarized zone. How do you feel about President Trump's overtures to Kim Jong-un? Have they been productive? Do you agree with them? And do you think the North Koreans will ever give up their nuclear weapons?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, Sandy, I think that we want to talk to them. We don't want to fight them. We're sort of playing poker with someone else's chips. It would be the South Korean people that would really pay if we were to begin a conflict on that peninsula. And so I would applaud any president -- I don't want to zero in on what's going on now -- but any president that began a real conversation.

I think we have to understand that this is a nation and a set of leadership that is just going to be really hard to deal with. And they really haven't lived up to a lot of their promises in the past, so I think we all need to have a sober judgment of what we might accomplish.

But I would say it's better to try than not to try. And so I applaud any president that tries it. As far as giving up their nuclear weapons, I don't think so. The agreed framework in the early '90s under the Clinton years, we gave them tons of money, tons of fuel, tons of food, and we got, really, nothing in return for it. Unless we get persistent, pervasive inspection that allows us to completely understand what North Korea is actually doing, we're going to be at risk in any agreement I think we make with them.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Well, and it also seems that we have to be careful about mirror imaging on North Korea. You know, Kim Jong-un has to worry about both external threats, but also internal threats to the—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:

Absolutely.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--regime. Our relationship with South Korea has, like many of our allies, become a little more transactional lately. We're starting to ask the South Koreans to pay a little bit more for our presence there. Have you got any thoughts for us on U.S. basing of forces in South Korea?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So it's not going to surprise you, having served almost half of my military career oversees, that I am a proponent for our military being engaged overseas. I think that that ounce of provision is worth a whole lot more than the cure if we let the Peninsula go. The investment that we make by having a fairly modest force forward to keep peace on the Peninsula is absolutely worth it. And you're going to hear this again as we talk about forces in other places around the world.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Now this is going to be a tough fight, if it ever actually happens, a conventional fight on a peninsula. We have the tyranny of distance. Yes, we have sort of 'Fight Tonight' ethos on the peninsula. But how do you see this unfolding? Are we going to be able to stop the North Korean hoards with Seoul right on the border of—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, it's a great question. And really, some of those dynamics haven't changed for 20-plus years. The fact that North Korea can range the capital in that incredibly dense population, in the general Seoul area, can range it with dumb conventional firepower from the back side of the Kaesong Heights, at any moment's notice, it's a tough problem.

And how do you shut that down as a force in the South? This will be a fight that the world hasn't seen in a long time. And the loss of life, both civilian and conventional military on the ground, we are not ready for that, I think, in this world.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Yes, it's going to be tough to get our forces there in time to make a difference. It's—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Absolutely.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--going to be something that nobody can really accurately predict. 

Phil, we were just talking about Korea and Kim Jong-un and nuclear weapons. What do you think is the greatest impediment to him actually giving up those weapons?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, Sandy, I think it doesn't take a lot of looking into history to see what has happened to every despotic leader that has given up or had his nuclear weapons taken from them, to realize that the leaders in the North see this as their guarantee.

And I think one of the toughest things in my tour as the SACEUR, is what happened in Ukraine. Here, Ukraine in the early '90s had an agreement with four signatory nations, that if they gave up their nuclear weapons that their territorial integrity and sovereignty would be guaranteed by those nations. And so they gave up their nuclear weapons.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
And look—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
And what happened?

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--what happened.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
One of the signatories invaded them. And two of the other signatories did nothing about it.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Well, and that's to say nothing of Libya and, of course, Iraq. Phil, speaking of Asia, many view China as our most capable potential adversary. They've been closing previously existing gaps in conventional capability and opening new ones in asymmetrical capability.

This is making life very difficult for the Pacific Command Commander, as you might imagine. Do you think we can keep pace with the Chinese through only improvements in our capability? And if so, where do you see that heading? What kind of capabilities do we need in order to keep an advantage out there?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Actually, I don't think that's the right way to go. I've heard you talk about this. And I happen to agree with some of the thoughts you have about, we get locked into certain things. The ends aren't changing, so we have ways and means. We typically focus on those means because they are what we do as an industrial nation here in America.

And I think that changing the ways may be the end tack we have to take. The bottom line is, China is very good at setting goals and sticking to those goals, investing. And they're really pushing ahead in some of these critical technologies that are going to challenge us.

And if all we are going to do is just buy more of the same to try to address it, I think we're going to be on the losing end of that cost curve. Just like we applied that to Russia in its past, I think China's putting us on the wrong side of that cost curve now.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So you, I think, have a clear feel that just buying more stuff is not going to do the trick. There's sort of an intermediate step, maybe, between having to rethink the whole strategic challenge out there. And that is better stuff. Is there anything out there, any kind of breakthrough that could give us an advantage?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Yes, let me back up just a tiny bit. So we do have to fix readiness. The force needs to fix readiness. And some of that fixing readiness is investing in some of those capabilities that we need. So, I don't want to say we don't need to buy anything and we need to flip this, because we do.

We've got to recapitalize some fleets that have been rode hard and put up wet in all of our services. But in the meantime, I think that if all our imagination is captured in doing more of the same, we will lose in this proposition against China.

We have to think about changing the cost curve in more than money, imposing on them issues and problems that they have to deal with like they're imposing on us. And so I do believe that we need to be thinking about new technologies of defense. We need to be thinking about the kind of technology that allows us to strike with precision at range and not cost us an arm and a leg to do it.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So Phil, let's drill in a little bit more, beyond now the capacity piece and the technical capability piece.

If we actually bump up against the wall here and we have to think of a whole new strategic concept for China, do you have a sense for what that might look like? Is it about changing our ends and lowering our ambition in the Western Pacific? Or it's some different thing we can do that would present China with the dilemmas we've talked about?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, I don't know that it's all that easy to just change our ends. Our world and our societies expect certain things-- free passageway in the commons, free trade, etcetera, etcetera. And so I'm not sure that we are capable as a nation of really drastically changing the ends.

And as I said before, if all we're going to do is look at means, I think that we are going to be in-- on the back side of a real problem here. So, I do believe we have to look at different ways. And I think that they are at risk in-- if we do-- if we hold them at risk inside their mainland.

Right now we are not thinking about attacking the mainland, because this is a nuclear power. And frankly, they have done a pretty good job at holding us at bay and putting us at risk. But if we make them understand, through our investments and our new types of thinking about how to address this problem, that they are at risk in their homeland, I think it will change the calculus a bit.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So let's turn to your most recent work, where you served last in the military. And you're we'll known for your views on Vladimir Putin and Russia. You've been very outspoken on that. What do you think is motivating the Russian leader? And what do you see as the trajectory of our relationship with Russia, Phil?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, none of this will be terribly now because my views haven't changed. But let's just recoup. So, first of all, I think Mr. Putin is a man who has grown up a proud Russian. He grew up in the KGB. He did not like the way the Cold War ended. He felt like that Russia was not at the table when the post-Cold War order was sort of set.

And he felt like Russia was snubbed and should've been at the table. And he's determined to get Russia back at the table on determining the path of Europe as well as other parts of the world, as we see now in Syria and in North Africa. And frankly, it's a bit tough to say.

But remember, this is a kleptocrat. You know, Mr. Putin has never been paid officially more than an army or air force lieutenant colonel. He's been a public servant all his life. And yet he's one of the richest men in the world. This is a kleptocrat who has been extracting wealth from that nation and he doesn't want to lose that wealth stream. So I think you've got on one side, a proud Russian that believes Russia was snubbed and should be a major power. And on the other side, there's a man that really likes the stream of money that comes from his position.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Phil, to continue our discussion, I asked you about the trajectory of our relationship with Russia. Where do you see that heading?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
It's not good. If I was to imagine being in the room, having a cognac with Mr. Putin at this point, I would think he would be a very happy man. What he wants when he looks to his west is an E.U. that is fractured and disorganized, a NATO that is fractured and disorganized.

He wants to deal with individual nations, individually, on individual security and business matters. And I think that right now he's succeeding. Let's just look at the state of conversation in NATO. Let's look at the state of conversation in Brexit and E.U., etcetera, etcetera. And so I think that right now what we see from Mr. Putin is unlikely to change, because in his mind, I believe, he sees his path as working.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Well, and that's to say nothing of his interference in our elections. And it seems to me that he's not necessarily favoring a single candidate. He just wants to see chaos his way.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Exactly. And I think that's a point that this particular city we're sitting in, seems to gloss over. Everybody wants to make this an election issue on one side or the other. And I couldn't agree with you more. What he wants is chaos. He wants to drag Western democracy down to the level of Russian democracy. And, of course, in some ways, he's having some success there.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Yes, which helps him set the expectations of his own people. Now Phil, you had a Russian counterpart, a very interesting guy, Valery Gerasimov, who's the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces. He's very active, to say the least, and has very strongly-held views on the competition between Russia and NATO. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with him and how you perceive his views?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Let me just first start with, this is an intelligent man, a thinking man. And I believe he does a lot of his own writing-- maybe not the final products, but you can see what he thinks reflected in his speeches and his writing. So this is a learning, adaptive leader. And I think we need to respect him for that.

I started off trying to build a relationship with him. And he and I began meeting on a series of video teleconferences and so forth. But sadly, I won't argue with why, but sadly when the Russians invaded Crimea and then when they went in and invaded Donbass and set up the radicals there, the SACEUR, first, was told, no longer to speak to Mr. Gerasimov. And then the U.S. European Command commander was also told to stop conversations with Mr. Gerasimov.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
And I'd draw a contrast there, not to interrupt, that when Russia invaded Georgia, the only contact between our two governments was between the chief of the general staff, Makarov, and Admiral Mike Mullen.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
I must tell you that --it's-- you're right, and that was right, in my opinion. I believe when conflict is happening, you step up your conversation. You don't shut it off. And I had offered my opinion about what we should do, but I was given direction from my leadership. And I followed that direction.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Well, and look what's happened. So, now looking at the big picture, end of the Cold War, the declaration of a peace dividend, do you think we went too far in drawing down from Europe? How do you feel about the ability now of the alliance to respond to Russian aggression? And let's start with how it might actually start and how you see it playing out and our ability to carry the day?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, I do believe we overcorrected. All of us, all the nations of NATO and our partner nations as well, we all took big peace dividends. And we in the U.S. removed so much capability from Europe. We don't have time to describe how big we were when Captain Phil Breedlove was in 2nd Brigade 3rd Infantry Division, standing with the Army as a TACP or an ALO in the early '80s.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
That's an air liaison officer for—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
The early--
(OVERTALK)

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--the un-anointed.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Yes, so a forward air controller, Army associated. And so I think we have overreacted. And now we are having to sort of rethink about how we can do that. But again, not only did we withdraw our troops from Europe, but we downsized all of our militaries.

And probably more damaging-- you could speak better to the Navy-- but probably more damaging, we have put such a strain on the military that we have, that our readiness is well below where it was when we faced the Soviet Union across the border. So I do believe that we have correction that needs to be made.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So let's drill a little bit more deeply into that. What do you see as the advantages, operational military advantages that Russia has if they decide to get a little feisty vis-à-vis the NATO alliance?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So the NATO alliance is on their backdoor. And it's a whole other subject to talk about the encroachment. But some of the nations that used to be Warsaw Pact are now NATO alliance members. And so if you remember Jomini, that great thinker, he talked about interior lines.

Russia has the ability to quickly move and mass their forces, where NATO has to respond to the area. And I know you understand this better than most because of your naval background, but in the Cold War we almost took-- we fought to maintain the lines of contact with the East Coast of America and Europe.

During the post-Cold War days, we have all but stopped worrying about fighting our way across the Atlantic. In fact, we assume safe passage across the Atlantic. And that's not the case anymore. And so Russia enjoys that ability to rapidly bring forces together. And if you've ever looked at Moscow and the spider network of roads and railroads from there, you understand how quickly they can do this. And then you have to look at what NATO has to do to respond. It's a physics problem.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
And that's not to mention a singularity of command and control—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Absolutely.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--twenty-eight nations having to decide versus one, and some of the advantages they have in artillery and tactical air defenses and the like. So do you see the need, as we talked about with China, for a new way? Or is it just sort of, "Get the stuff back over there so that we can be more prepared?"

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
The answer is yes. It's a little bit of all of that. So I think that we, again, have to address our readiness. We and our -- primarily or as well our allies -- need to bring forces to capability and readiness. And yes, we need to look a little bit about, "Do we have the appropriate forces over there?"

Frankly, I don't believe we'll ever permanently move another force to Europe. But we need to settle ourselves in a way with prepositioning and other tactics, to be able to rapidly reinforce. And then, as you know, we're-- with the 2nd Fleet, we're starting to now rethink how we defend our sea lines of contact with America. But as we talked about with China, we've got to think about different ways. It just can't be means anymore. We've got to change the paradigm a little bit in Europe.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
As one of the most important organizations that was put into place in the wake of World War II, with the intent of preventing such large wars from ever happening again, was NATO. And our relationship with NATO has always been up and down. Where do you see it now? How do you see President Trump's influence on—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--that relationship? How do you feel about your old buddies back in Europe?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, it's an interesting story. And as people sort of pick at me about this, I remind them that we were thrown out of a NATO country once, literally thrown out. And so yes, we've had some peaks and valleys in our relationship with NATO. I would tell you that I have watched every one of the last three presidents try to get NATO to invest more in itself. And while you and I may not agree with the tactics, techniques and procedures used, we actually now have NATO allies reinvesting in themselves. It's been a bit of a rocky road. And we'll just leave it at that.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So it may be that we don't necessarily like the tone, but the result seems to be maybe in a direction we want. 

Phil, much has been made of the fact that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, expires in 2021. The U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August 2019 because Russia failed to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its non-compliant missile system. Was pulling out of that treaty the right thing to do?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So this is now just my opinion. You got it right. We were the only one in the treaty. It's kind of hard to have a treaty with yourself. Russia had abrogated the treaty. So the question is, how do you move forward? How do you try to re-engage Russia?

The choice was to back out of the INF. If it had been me making that decision, I think I'd have done it differently. I would've tried to build from an existing treaty. I just think it's easier to do that than to renegotiate entirely a new treaty.

But let me throw one more curve ball into this calculus. And that is that we really need to have a treaty with more than just Russia. And it would be incredibly hard, but to get China into a treaty as well, because they are going to be an issue. And frankly, right now, I think Russia has more issues with China's capabilities than with ours, because we really don't have any in Europe right now.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
It could be one of the reasons why they violated the treaty, right, because they're more worried—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Absolutely.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--about China.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
We have to be intellectually honest.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
How do you feel about the Russian assertion that the missile defense system that's in Romania, which is a AEGIS system that not only can carry the SM-3 missile that's a ballistic missile defense thing, but could also theoretically carry the Tomahawk Missile and therefore we were also in violation of the INF treaty. What's your take on that?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
I think that's a convenient excuse for the Russian Federation to offer. I think it's hogwash.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So, the Russians have been developing some pretty exotic new strategic weapons, right? Nuclear cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons and even big transoceanic nuclear torpedoes, as we saw the strategic glance over Vladimir Putin's soldier looking-- or shoulder looking at a Power Point slide. But they've also talked about extending the START treaty. That almost seems to be at odds with each other. What do you see the trajectory of strategic arms control agreements with Russia?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
I will offer you my hope. I think we need to stay in the START. I think we need to grow from that to a new round of understandings. I think we need to wrap China into these conversations and try to bring that dynamic in. And I think we need to back in now and get a new INF-like treaty, even if it's only with Russia, but it would hopefully be with China. And I think that we want to do everything we can to slow this race to expanding the nuclear countries of the world.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So, one of the things that's always been a thorn in Russia's side in terms of arms control agreements, is ballistic missile defense. They firmly believe that our development-- or at least they say they believe that our development of ballistic missile defense was designed to negate their ability to respond to an attack, and therefore we would-- it would create strategic instability. Phil, do you think that they actually believe this? Or do you think they're using it as a convenient foil to try to just get us to get rid of ballistic missile defense?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
I think it's the latter. We all know that Russia has the ability to overwhelm our defenses. The only thing that a small defense that we have, if it's credible-- and I think ours is-- and gets more credible every day, the only thing that does is sort of take away the coercive value of small attacks to be-- to force us to think differently as we talk and negotiate with Russia.

But we can't build enough missiles to stop their attack. And frankly, I think they're more worried about our decapitation of their ability to launch an attack than they are about our missile defense. I think it's, again, a sort of convenient tool to try to shape us at the negotiating table.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Now Phil, the realization that I came to in the last couple years I was on active-duty, that our space command and control capability was a bit weak, was a very unforgettable moment for me. That's getting a lot better. The Department has tried to reorganize itself for space. As a career Air Force officer, can you give me a sense for what your thoughts are on the new space force? Getting beyond the grief, they've taken over logos and uniforms—

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Right, right.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
--and the like. Do you think that the Department's headed down a wise path here?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
I think we're on a path. And we're going to make it as wise as we can. I love the way that our current chief of Staff sort of said it a few years ago. He said, "We are currently an Air and Space Force. In 40 years, we're going to be a Space and Air Force."

We in this service, absolutely accept and acknowledge that that transition's going to happen. The real key here then is, how fast does that happen? It matters not now. The decision was to move out. And so I think you're going to see everybody that wears a blue uniform embrace that and move out.

And I'm actually happy about that. What I think we need to understand is, that since we have done this so abruptly and so suddenly, we've got some problems to take care of. And one of them starts with people, or in the commercial world the H.R. business, of the Air Force.

How do we manage these people that were formerly Air Force and dutifully became missileers because we told them they had to be missileers to get promoted. And now we've got this mixture of people that aren't purely space, some of them missileers. How do we not damage those highly-valued members of our services as we do this really abruptly into the future?

And so I embrace and am proud for the fact that we're going to create a space force. I don't want to leave dead and broken bodies along the way as we do that. And so we need to do it quickly. I believe in Star Wars. There are going to be X-wing fighters. I hope my grandchildren are flying them sometime in the future.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
That sounds like fun. Maybe we were born too early.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
That's right.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
So Phil, you-- I have just a little bit of time left. I've known you a long, long time.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Yes.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
You've had a fantastic career. You're one of the most highly regarded officers, let alone Air Force officers, that I know. Can you give me a sense for what the most valuable or the most rewarding part of your career was, whether it's NATO or your time in a blue uniform? What was the best part for you?

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
So, it changed, Sandy. I think you and I both agree, when we were ensigns and lieutenants and captains and majors and commanders, all I wanted to do is fly that F-16. I wanted to be the most effective, efficient killing machine out there. I wanted to be right for my nation.

And then along the way, I was asked to command. I commanded at a very small level in the Army. I commanded a squadron, a group, three fighter wings, a numbered air force, a MAJCOM and an alliance. And I will tell you that the most rewarding part of my career was working with the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that I got to command along the way. It is absolutely incredibly -- it is our number one resource -- are those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. And I would just tell you that even though I loved flying the F-16, being able to lead troops was a big deal to me.

SANDY WINNEFELD:
Well, and that's a great way to end. You have been listening to Intelligence Matters, hosted by Michael Morell. I'm your guest host, Sandy Winnefeld. And our guest has been General Phil Breedlove, former NATO supreme allied commander of Europe. Phil, thanks so much for spending time with our listeners today. It's been a great discussion.

GEN. PHIL BREEDLOVE:
Thanks, Sandy.
* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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