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STRATCOM Assumption of Command (Offutt AFB, NE)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Offutt Air Force Base, NE, Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here in Omaha and on Offutt Air Force Base. Of course, it’s always good to be at least 1,160 miles and at least one time zone away from Washington.
 
It is an honor and a pleasure to leave the beltway and come to a place where people truly deserve a pat on the back and much more.
 
I would like to welcome the family of Gen. Chilton, especially his wife, Col. Cathy Chilton, their four daughters, her parents, General and Mrs. Dreyer. Also, I’d like to thank Governor Heineman and our many distinguished guests for coming. Since I came to this job from the presidency of Texas A&M, the governor and I had a word or two about this coming Saturday. Both of us are proud, but not boastful. On behalf of the President and our colleagues in the Congress, I would also like to express my greetings and appreciation to the men and women of the U.S. Strategic Command.
 
Visiting this organization carries a special meaning for me, having spent most of my time as an Air Force lieutenant some 40 years ago, serving in the old Strategic Air Command – then responsible for America’s nuclear deterrent.  Though a good deal has changed in the decades since, the proud tradition of safeguarding our country from the most destructive threats continues in this organization today.
 
Your determination and skill have helped propel this vital mission forward. It is a young mission for the most part, particularly in the area of space and cyberspace. In addition to bringing with you the great traditions of your various Services, you add to the spirit of our nation’s parent pioneers. And we are grateful for your service.
 
General Kevin “Chili” Chilly Chilton is someone who has blazed new trails for much of his career:
 
·         As a test-pilot on the F-4 and F-15;
·         In a series of key staff and command assignments, including Air Force Space Command; and
·         Of course, as an astronaut who flew on three space shuttle missions.
 
I believe General Chilton has the right set of skills and experience to lead this Command at this time. 
 
Today, America faces a range of security challenges, including an unrelenting extremist enemy opposed to our way of life and determined to do us harm – an enemy not only found in Iraq and Afghanistan. The potential of such terrorist groups gaining control of weapons of mass destruction is arguably the greatest threat facing our nation today. 
 
In addition to stopping the proliferation of dangerous materials, a key part of our strategy for combating this threat – and a major responsibility of this Command – involves space-based capabilities.
 
It is through space that we can monitor the weapons we already know exist.
 
It is through space that we can track adversaries attempting to acquire these weapons, and then do something about it.
 
It is through space that our troops and our leadership monitor the battlefield and communicate with each other.
 
Therefore, it is space that we must protect, especially as we expand its use. 
 
The importance of maintaining unfettered access to space was reinforced earlier this year, when China successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon. This test and other developments show that our own near-earth satellites are vulnerable, and must be protected.
 
General Chilton, we look to you for the way ahead during these turbulent times. As former director of CIA, I understand the importance of strong intelligence-gathering systems, a space-based system often. I also understand the need to analyze that intelligence and to plan our response.
 
I am confident that you will be able to tackle the challenges ahead, and build on the accomplishments of this command under Gen. Cartwright.
 
During his 3-year stint, General Cartwright dramatically flattened the organization, which sped up the flow of information throughout STRATCOM. Another of his initiatives was the Global Innovation and Strategy Center which gathers a group of outside experts and brings them in to concentrate for a limited period of time on a specific issue. They zero in on the problem, brainstorm from their various professional points of view, develop recommendations, and then disperse, leaving STRATCOM leaders to do the rest. When I heard about these programs, not to mention all of his other accomplishments, I knew we needed Hoss Cartwright back at the Pentagon.
 
I also knew that it would be hard to find someone who could fill his shoes. And I believe we have found that person in General Chilton.
 
General, I look forward to seeing the great things you will do here with this able staff. 
 
As the great conductor Leonard Bernstein once said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” I’m sure both apply here.
 
Good luck to you, and I wish you and Cathy the best.