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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Chief of Space Operations Change of Responsibility Ceremony (As Delivered)

Good morning, everybody. It's always great to see so many of our outstanding Guardians.

And I'm glad to be here with Secretary Kendall. Frank, thank you for all that you do for our Airmen, our Guardians, and their families. 

I also want to thank General Milley for his outstanding leadership of the Joint Force. Mark, we remain grateful.

Let me give a special welcome to the man of the hour, General Jay Raymond, and to his family. His wife Mollie has been a tremendous champion for military families for nearly four decades. And I want to thank their children—Christina, Amy, and Garry—for serving right alongside their father. 

Now, General Milley will have more to say about Jay and his many years of service to our nation.  

But let me start with a few words about what General Raymond's leadership has meant for our newest military service.

Jay was the first member, the very first member, of the United States Space Force. 

He stood up the first new service branch for our military in more than 70 years. He oversaw the first budget request, the first doctrine document. And he helped recruit tough and innovative warfighters to be his teammates, and then he figured out what to call them. He chose "Guardians," and I think that's the absolute right name for this great force. He laid the foundations for the culture and the traditions that will define this service for decades to come. 

And you know what? He did all of that, and he made it look easy.     

And Jay, I know that you're proud to be the first Guardian—but even prouder to have grown this force to nearly 15,000 Guardians and civilians who are fiercely dedicated to keeping our country safe in this vast domain. 

So thank you, General Raymond. And well done. 

And of course, today marks another milestone for the United States Space Force, with its first change of responsibility ceremony. 

And there's no one better to take the helm than General Chance Saltzman.  

He knows his way around the space domain. He's operated satellites. He's spent many nights at the Joint Space Operations Center during ICBM alerts. And for the past two years, he's helped this new service get off the ground as the Deputy Chief of Space Operations.

So we're lucky to have General Saltzman take the colors today. 

And he wouldn't be here, of course, without his wife of 30 years, Jennifer, and their kids, John and Sarah. So I want to thank them as well for their service and for supporting their father in this next chapter.

Now, the United States leads the way in space. But in recent years, the competition has picked up. It has become a contested environment. And China and Russia are investing in their own space capabilities. 

Now as our National Defense Strategy has outlined, the People's Republic of China is the only competitor with the intent to reshape the international order—and, increasingly, the power to do it. That's why the PRC is the Department's pacing challenge. 

And today's aggressive Russia is an acute threat to our interests and our values. 

So to defend our country and prevent conflict, we will rely on integrated deterrence. 

And integrated deterrence means working seamlessly across all domains and across the full spectrum of conflict, in lockstep with our unparalleled network of allies and partners, to make it clear to any potential adversary that the risks and the costs of aggression far outweigh any conceivable gains. 

And the United States Space Force is crucial to integrated deterrence. 

That means space systems that are ever-more resilient.

It means a relentless pursuit of innovation and technological advancements that will help us maintain and expand our edge.  

It means shaping norms for space activity to make it more costly for any would-be aggressor to violate those rules of the road.   

And it means working together with our partners and allies to keep building our collective strength in space. 

You know, 60 years ago, President Kennedy challenged our country to seize the initiative in space, saying that, "we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace."

The United States is the preeminent power in space, and I know that our 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."

Thank you General Raymond, and General Saltzman, and the United States Space Force. 

May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.