The United States leads the way in space. But in recent years, it has become a contested environment, as China and Russia are investing in their own space capabilities, said the secretary of defense.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III made the remarks today at the Space Force change of responsibility ceremony as Gen. B. Chance Saltzman assumed the position of chief of space operations, the service's top office.
The post had been held by Space Force Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond since the service was created on Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond is retiring after a 38-year career in both the Air Force and Space Force.
"The United States is the preeminent power in space, and I know that our [Space Force] guardians will keep it that way. You are the bold ones who protect us from the threats from the heavens, the bold ones who will forge the way ahead, and the bold ones who will always be there, always above," Austin said.
As the 2022 National Defense Strategy outlines, China is the only competitor that intends to reshape the international order and increasingly has the power to do it, Austin said. That's why Beijing is the Defense Department's pacing challenge. In addition, an aggressive Russia is an acute threat to U.S. interests and values.
To defend our country and prevent conflict, the department will rely on integrated deterrence. Integrated deterrence means working seamlessly across all domains — air, land, sea, cyberspace and space — and across the full spectrum of conflict, he said.
This will be accomplished "in lockstep with our unparalleled network of allies and partners to make it clear to any potential adversary that the risk and the costs of aggression far outweigh any conceivable gains — and the United States Space Force is crucial to integrated deterrence," he added.
Austin said that means space systems must be ever-more resilient. It means there must be a relentless pursuit of innovation and technological advancements that will help the department maintain and expand its edge. It means making it more costly for any would-be aggressor to violate those rules of the road, and it means working together with allies and partners to build on the collective strength in space.
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall called Raymond the "father of the Space Force" and its first chief of space operations.
Raymond shaped guardian culture, created the guardian ideal, brought the department its newest service, and forged its unique identity, Kendall said.
Three years ago, Raymond was the first and only guardian for a few months. Today, the service consists of almost 15,000 guardians and civilians and growing, he said.
While the Space Force is the smallest service, its importance is enormous, he added.
Kendall said Saltzman has some big shoes to fill, but the Air Force secretary said he knows Saltzman is ready.
"I know that you are ready to charge full speed ahead on operationalizing and transforming the Space Force based on your strategic, operational and tactical experience," he said.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, also participated in the ceremony.