“STRATCOM, you are singularly the most important command in the United States military.”
- Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
In a change-of-command ceremony, Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard assumed command of U.S. Strategic Command from Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Nov 18.
Hyten has been confirmed by the Senate to become the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva.
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the ceremony.
"Today we offer our gratitude to Gen. Hyten for leadership of this command and we wish him well in his new role as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Norquist said. "And we welcome Adm. Charles Richard as he steps up to lead a monumental mission: strategic deterrence across all domains."
Norquist talked about the importance of STRATCOM.
"The priorities of U.S. Strategic Command range from global strikes to missile defense. From the ability to deter, to the ability to deliver a decisive response, should one ever be needed," Norquist said.
The 150,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who serve this mission are an extraordinary responsibility. As leaders of the nuclear enterprise, they know better than anyone that deterrence is an active mission that requires vigilance every day 24 hours a day, he added.
"The men and women of this command have been entrusted with the world's most dangerous weapons — ones that you keep safe, secure, ready and reliable for a nation that hopes to never need to use them," the deputy secretary said. "The stakes are far too high and the costs [are] far too great. From mistakes and miscalculations in your stewardship of the [nuclear] triad, you have embraced that responsibility with the sense of duty that has made your mission a no-fail mission. We rely on you to meet the changing demands of the 21st century with the same spirit."
We are no longer in the Cold War era of deterrence that cultivated the legacy of this command, he added.
"Today's multipolar, multidomain challenges include a rising China that has expanded its second-strike capabilities in pursuit of regional dominance, and an increasingly aggressive Russia trying to reassert itself as a global power by making major investments in strategic modernization and expanding its focus to include cyber and space," Norquist said.
Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles, destabilize the Middle East and introduce its own threats to the space and cyber realms, he noted. North Korea is testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and threatening its neighbors as well as the United States with its nuclear program.
And of course, with the ongoing threat of nonstate actors like ISIS, our [counter weapons of mass destruction] are all the more important than ever to secure the homeland. These challenges required an integrated approach between STRATCOM, our other combatant commands and our allies, he said.
"Gen. Hyten recognized this and during his tenure as commander since 2016, he helped expand Stratcom's focus from nuclear weapons into global warfighting and strategic deterrence," the deputy said. "Thanks to his leadership, we have a clear vision for the future of deterrence as outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, as well as for the U.S. Space Command, with each of you leading the way to ensure we dominate in space."
The deputy defense secretary presented the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to Hyten for exceptional service.
Milley said STRATCOM's motto is, "peace is our profession," and emphasized the command has always delivered on that motto. "Peace through strength is a day-to-day reality at this command."