An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Stratcom Gets New Leader

Let us always ensure that the most dangerous weapons ever produced by human science are managed with the greatest responsibility ever produced by human government."
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

Navy Adm. Charles Richard passed command of U.S. Strategic Command to Air Force Gen. Anthony J. Cotton today during a ceremony at the LeMay Command and Control Facility at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III oversaw the ceremony and told the audience that the command is adjusting to face new challenges. 

A Navy admiral and Air Force general salute each other on stage as Lloyd J. Austin III stands between them.
Exchanging Salutes
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stands by as Adm. Charles "Chas" A. Richard, left, the outgoing U.S. Strategic Command commander, salutes the incoming commander, Air Force Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, during a change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 9, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD
VIRIN: 221209-D-PM193-1583R

Austin said U.S. Strategic Command's mission is to responsibly manage the U.S. nuclear deterrent. "Your mission is to deter war — and to do it with unmatched professionalism," he said. 

Part of this professionalism is the ability to deal with new situations. "The United States is on the verge of a new phase — one where, for the first time, we face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors," Austin said. "The People's Republic of China is expanding, modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces. And Russia is also modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal."  

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks at a lectern.
Stratcom Remarks
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks during a U.S. Strategic Command change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 9, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD
VIRIN: 221209-D-PM193-2062R

As Russia's war on Ukraine continues to go badly for President Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader has resorted to nuclear threats. "As the Kremlin continues its cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine, the whole world has seen Putin engage in deeply irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling," Austin said. "So, make no mistake: Nuclear powers have a profound responsibility to avoid provocative behavior, to lower the risk of proliferation, and to prevent escalation and nuclear war."  

Strategic Command oversees the U.S. nuclear triad, which is being modernized to face this new world. The secretary noted that he was in California last week to unveil the B-21 Raider. This new conventional and nuclear-capable bomber – the first since the B-2 – will become the backbone of the Air Force's fleet for decades.  

The B-21 raider aircraft sits in a hangar with the American flag in the background.
B-21 Bomber
The B-21 Raider was unveiled during a ceremony in Palmdale, Calif., Dec. 2, 2022. Designed to operate in tomorrow's high-end threat environment, the B-21 will play a critical role in ensuring America's enduring airpower capability.
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 221128-F-XX000-0002
Illustration of submarine
Submarine Illustration
An artist’s rendering of the future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
Photo By: Navy illustration
VIRIN: 190306-N-N0101-125C
"We're working to modernize the other legs of the triad through new Columbia-class submarines and the Sentinel ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] system," the secretary said. "Strategic Command is here to deter conflict and keep the peace, and that means a safe, secure and effective U.S. nuclear arsenal as the ultimate backstop to deter strategic attacks on our country and our allies — including NATO, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Australia." 

The command is also working to build a truly integrated deterrence, that lies at the heart of the U.S. National Defense Strategy, which includes the conclusions of the Nuclear Posture Review.  

"Our nuclear capabilities don't exist in a vacuum," Austin said. "We must integrate our nuclear deterrent across all domains, including space and cyberspace. And we must also reduce the risk that escalation in one domain could spill over into another. As our National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review make clear, that type of integration is more essential than ever to prevent conflict and catastrophe." 

Full Event: Stratcom Change of Command

Nuclear deterrence is not a numbers game, the secretary warned. That idea could spur a dangerous arms race.  

"So, [the command] is developing the credible capabilities and the concepts that we need to prevent conflict in this century," he said. "You are integrating our efforts across all domains. And you're weaving our capabilities together with those of our allies and partners."  

Two Air Force missileers look over a map.
Map Review
Air Force 1st Lt. Gordon Lam and Capt. Ana Garzon look over a map before departing to their missile alert facility at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Oct. 19, 2018. DOD photo by Brad Kimberly
Photo By: Brad Kimberly, DOD
VIRIN: 181019-D-EE902-002
An airman gives signals to the pilot of a B-2 bomber.
Bomber Signals
Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Rucker marshals a B-2 Spirit returning to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Sept. 6, 2018, following a routine training mission. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla
VIRIN: 180907-F-OL040-2030X
Austin said the talk of deterrence does not lessen the United States' work to eliminate nuclear dangers. "We are working to reduce the global role of nuclear weapons through arms control, nonproliferation and strategic stability," he said.  

"For decades, the United States has used these tools to decrease the potential for nuclear war — all underwritten by our strong deterrent. We remain committed to putting diplomacy first and to enhancing transparency and predictability. And we stand ready to pursue new arms-control arrangements with willing partners operating in good faith." 

Austin said it's up to U.S. Strategic Command to continue to deter nations from using the world's most dangerous weapons. "For three years, the vital work of this command has been led by Adm. Charles Richard," Austin said. "He has led Stratcom with vigilance and resolve at a time of evolving threats — and during a global pandemic. He has focused relentlessly on China's expansion of its nuclear capabilities… and on Russia's dangerous escalatory behavior." 

A man speaks at a hearing. A cup and microphone are in the foreground.
Navy Adm. Charles ‘Chas’ A. Richard
In this file photo, Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard testifies before a Senate panel about threats to the United States from China and Russia, and the Defense Department's steps to provide a credible deterrent, April 20, 2021.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 210420-D-DB155-010

Austin said Richard has worked to ensure that the United States' extended-deterrence commitments to our allies remain ironclad. The secretary thanked the career submariner for his 41 years of service and leadership and wished Richard and his family "a fair wind and following seas." 

Austin welcomed Cotton, who comes to the position from Air Force Global Strike Command. The Air Force general will continue overseeing the important DOD investments in nuclear command and control and in the modernization of the nuclear triad.  

A service member and two civilians stand behind a mound of dirt and hold shovels.
Breaking Ground
In this file photo, Gen. Anthony Cotton, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, and South Dakota state representatives prepare to break ground during a ceremony kicking off the B-21 Raider bomber facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base S.D., May 25, 2022.
Photo By: Samuel Weldin, Army Corps of Engineers
VIRIN: 220525-A-OK605-0015

Still, "deterrence has never been just about the numbers, the weapons or the platforms," Austin said. "The heart of American deterrence is the people who protect us and our allies. It's the young missileers who keep the watch; the sailors who patrol the depths of the oceans; and the pilots who remain ready at a moment's notice. It's the technicians and operators who keep our systems humming." 

Strategic Command defends the United States and its allies from catastrophe, Austin said. "Let us always ensure that the most dangerous weapons ever produced by human science are managed with the greatest responsibility ever produced by human government," he said.

Related Stories