General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM): Thanks, Tony [U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony Calabrese], it’s good to see you again. Chaplain [Tomas] Kelly, thanks for the invocation, well done. Well done with the weather as well. I tell you, it’s a beautiful day at Vandenberg, and it’s an honor to share the stage with three friends of mine — [U.S. Air Force] Gen. [John] Raymond, [U.S. Air Force Lt.] Gen. [David] Buck, [U.S. Air Force Maj.] Gen. [Stephen] Whiting. All four of us, well, we have one thing in common today. We all wish we were going to be the 14th Air Force commander. Only one of us gets to do that, and that’s Stephen Whiting.
It is an amazing place, it’s an amazing job. If you look at the people that came before Gen. Buck, when you look at the names that are on there. You look at Willy Shelton, Mike Hammill, Larry James, Susan Helms, Jay Raymond, Dave Buck, it’s kind of the Hall of Fame of the space business. It’s the legends of the space business.
Dave, you’ve done a spectacular job. I want to spend a few minutes explaining why we’re going to do what we’re going to do, because I think there’s many people in Air Force Space Command, many people in JFCC [Joint Functional Component Command] Space, many people in a number of places that don’t understand why today is important and how simple today is in the overall scheme of things.
You have to look at history, and when you study the history of this command you’re going to see a pattern. That pattern is we adapt, we adjust and we evolve. That’s all we’re doing here today.
The evolution of the space enterprise began in the late 1950s when many of the early systems were developed to meet SAC’s [Strategic Air Command], my predecessor command’s, early need for surveillance, warning, communications and weather. And I got to watch rockets, in my earliest days, because I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, and I got to watch the Saturn V. I got to watch the rockets in the ‘60s, but by September 1985, space activity had grown to the point the Pentagon created a Joint Command for Space called U.S. Space Command, three years after the Air Force had created Air Force Space Command in 1982. But that establishment of a joint combatant command for space in 1985 was a huge step, and that was just really the beginning of the evolution.
The space systems were first seen on the battlefield, really, in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and they changed warfare forever. How we applied space on the battlefield.
As STRATCOM neared its 10th anniversary in 2002, an old idea surfaced about merging Space Command with STRATCOM, and that eventually ended up with the STRATCOM that we have today. Then in 2005, we went through a series of changes to adapt to a strategic environment, and that led to the standup of JFCC Space. Just another attempt to adapt to a changing world. So if we’re honest, the question in everybody’s mind today is, why are we changing again? And the answer is the same reason for all the previous iterations. The threat changed, and we have to change with the threat.
Some might ask why we’re standing up a Joint Force Space Component Command when we already have a JFCC Space. What’s the difference? I think it’s important for you to understand the reason. We just didn’t decide it overnight. I didn’t decide it overnight. It’s the final phase of really a four-phase program that started phase one in July 1993 when 14th Air Force transferred from AMC, Air Mobility Command, into Air Force Space Command in order to provide space capabilities to the warfighter.
Phase two was when we needed an operations center to do that, so we stood up a Joint Space Operations Center [JSpOC] in JFCC Space in 2005 and 2006, but we were still deficient in really integrating the full national security space enterprise in the intelligence community. So phase three was remedied when we stood up the Joint Interagency Space Operation Center -- Joint Air Readiness and Combined Space Operations. The reason I get that screwed up every time, is that everybody got it screwed up every time. So we renamed it the National Space Defense Center, which is what everybody could understand. Because what is it about? National space defense. That was where all the national security space community would come together to figure out how do we fight a war that extends into space, and conflict will extend into space. It’s already extending into space and we have to be ready.
Now here we are, phase four, standing up a Joint Force Space Component Command. A four-star command under Gen. Jay Raymond, built upon the hard work and lessons that we’ve learned over the years.
So, for those of you who study doctrine, I’m sorry for you. But if you noticed in the joint doctrine and the joint pubs, there’s no such thing as a joint force space component commander. You have a joint force air component commander, a joint force maritime component commander, a joint force land component commander, but no joint force space component commander. That doesn’t seem quite right to me. If space is a warfighting domain, then we should have a joint force space component commander.
So, the first thing you need to know is that we’re going to work the doctrine to fix that and we will have a space component command in joint doctrine. So the first person it had to go through was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying, sir, it needs to be a four-star, it needs to be focused on warfighting, and it needs to be called the same thing every other domain component is called, which is a joint force commander. So we’re going to have a joint force space component commander.
By the way, the enemy gets a vote and they voted when they deployed certain capabilities that we have to respond to, and we have to respond to it with a warfighting organization.
And then I had a personal epiphany, and that personal epiphany came on November 3rd of 2016, because on November 3rd of 2016, it was an amazing day for my family. Because I tell you what, a blind kid from Alabama who’s never flown an airplane in his life in the United States Air Force should never grow up and be the commander of U.S. Strategic Command. It’s impossible. It can’t happen. But it happened on November the 3rd, and it was awesome, because my mom and dad are there, my entire family’s there, friends from every assignment back when — to see the impossible happen, because they don’t believe it, and it’s a glorious day. The chairman’s there, the secretary of defense, congressmen, senators, the governor, everybody’s there, and it’s glorious for about an hour.
And after an hour it’s over, and everybody leaves, and we walk over to the Dougherty Conference Center at Offutt [Air Force Base, Nebraska] and we sit down in a conference room with all my component commanders so I can tell them what I want them to do. And as I sit down with all the component commanders, to my left are two Navy four-star admirals, to my right are two Air Force four-star generals, and around the table, 18 component commanders of U.S. Strategic Command.
Each of the commands, as I look at the agenda, has a speaking role. Each of the commanders has a chance to tell me what is wrong and what is right with what they do, except for the four-stars to my left and right, because they’re not operational commanders of U.S. Strategic Command. All of the other components around the table are operational components to me. Eighteen of them. But not the four-stars. And the other thing that’s funny is that each one of those commanders in their administrative chain works for one of those four-stars sitting to my right and left. And I look to my right and left, and what did I see? I basically saw an air component, a land component, a maritime component, and I saw a space component.
So I asked myself, if we’re really a warfighting command, which U.S. Strategic Command is – It’s the most powerful, incredible warfighting command of our nation – why aren’t we organized for warfighting? Why can’t I just turn to the four-star component commands when I need an effect or when I need something from that domain and say I want this created. Why do I have to go to 18 other subordinate commands to create the effect? That’s not a warfighting organization. And we’re going to create a warfighting organization, because that’s what the vision for Strategic Command is. A single STRATCOM team providing integrated effects across all our domains, organized under warfighting components.
The landscape has changed since the early days of Strategic Air Command. STRATCOM is not SAC. If you want to see SAC, you have to go to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, because that’s where you’ll find the bombers and the ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles]. But if you want to find the strategic capabilities of our nation, which is not just the bombers, the ICBMs, but the submarines, space, cyberspace, missile defense, electronic warfare, intelligence, targeting, analysis, missile defense, if you want to find those integrated capabilities, come to Omaha, [Nebraska]. Come to U.S. Strategic Command, and it is a warfighting command and will be organized for warfighting under normal component structures. It’s really not that complicated.
But oh my gosh, when you read the news you’d think this was the most radical thing in the history of warfare. It’s actually the simplest thing from a warfighting experience. And if you want to know how I know that, ask a soldier or a Marine that works in STRATCOM. Why ask a soldier or Marine? Well that’s because when the soldier or Marine that comes to STRATCOM to work walks into the most powerful combatant command in the world, a warfighting combatant command. When they walk in, they expect to see a warfighting organization and they find 18 components and they wonder, “who do I talk to, to get anything done?” And in many cases, who you talk to is, I guess you have to talk to the commander because that’s the only place integration happens.
Well, if integration is only happening in my head, that’s a problem. So that’s why we’re going to have a Joint Force Space Component Command focused on the warfighting domain of space. It will be a four-star general, it will be Gen. Jay Raymond. And it doesn’t diminish the legacy of JFCC Space, because JFCC Space took us into the warfighting domain. And during the past 11 years, this command has done some amazing things. And just to highlight a few, 2007, just a couple of years after the JSpOC was formed, planned for and responded to the Chinese ASAT [anti-satellite missile] test, creating significant debris and significant hazards and creating a threat condition that changed the world’s view of space forever.
When you look at 2008, we did the opposite because we had Operation Burnt Frost where we had a dying NRO [National Reconnaissance Office] satellite that had very hazardous cargo on board, and it was dying and it was going to risk the population. So we came up with a very innovative way to shoot down that satellite in a way that didn’t create massive amounts of debris like the Chinese did, but caused the planet to be safe.
When you think about what it took in order to do that, in almost no time, it was truly remarkable, and that work was done out of here.
We deployed space control units supporting six current CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] deployments with over 100 people supporting 2,000 blue force signal protection taskings. Space operators supported over 570 joint operation missions with precision GPS and protected SATCOM [satellite communications]. I’m proud of all the men and women of JFCC Space for what you do and you continue to do in the fight.
And oh by the way, the mission is not going to change here at Vandenberg. It’s just who is at the top of the chain changes. The JSpOC, I’ve asked the leadership to change the JSpOC to a Combined Space Operation Center by the end of next year. I don’t just want liaison officers, and I see a number of them here, I just don’t want liaison officers integrated here, I want our allied capabilities integrated together here.
When you look at a Combined Air Operation Center, what do you see? You see allies come in and they bring their capabilities and we integrate them together, and it’s our allies that provide us strength. We can do the same thing in space. So I think, I want, I demand that the JSpOC become a Combined Space Operation Center within the year. We have to do that. We have to move forward.
If you look at all the other domains, somehow it’s not a problem. It has been a challenge in the space domain. When I was deployed in the Air Operation Center in the Middle East, we had no trouble integrating the United Kingdom, Canada, all of our partners. We had no trouble integrating Singapore, or Japan, or France. We had no trouble integrating any of those. Why do we have trouble when it comes to space? We have trouble because we’ve over-classified things that actually make no sense. We have to change the classification structure to protect what is important to this country, but not protect us from ourselves, but protect us from our adversaries. What a concept.
You know, personally, I don’t think the word inactivation is the right word for this ceremony. But that’s what we’re going to do because we are going to inactivate JFCC Space and stand up the Joint Force Space Component Command. But the capabilities you bring don’t go away. They become even more relevant, more integrated and now you’re part of a structurally sound warfighting organization that will provide me with the solutions I need when our nation calls. And like those who have come before us, we adapt, we adjust, we evolve and we meet the threat.
So Dave Buck, when we furl that flag and we say job well done, we just start a new chapter in STRATCOM’s history, and I look forward to the continuing success stories under Jay Raymond and Stephen Whiting as the remarkable men and women who are here — military, civilian, United States allies — continue our mission as a global warfighting command, because that’s who we are.
And one final thing. And it’s about Lt. Gen. Dave Buck and Stella. And he asked me not to do this, but guess what? I’m the boss. So Dave Buck, one of our nation’s greatest airmen, our longest-serving airman today. Dave and Stella Buck, an even greater couple. I’m sad to see such a great team leave the United States Air Force. I’m sad to see such a great airman retire. But I’m also excited for Dave and Stella as they begin the next chapter of their lives, because you’ve earned it. You’ve earned it 10 times over.
Dave, you led at all levels of command and you led with distinction. You led our airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines, our allies, in combat, in a difficult situation around the world. I hope that you look up at what you’ve done with pride. I hope you look at the people gathered here today and you look at the faces of the friends, and I know there’s many friends here today, and all the memories just come rushing back because it’s remarkable.
So I’m proud of you, Dave. But I’m more proud to call you and Stella friends, and I wish you and Stella all the best in your next chapter. And Laura and I will see you down the road, hopefully in Colorado someday.
Thank you very much.