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.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the U.S. Strategic Command Change of Command Ceremony (As Delivered)

Well, good morning, everyone. 

It's great to be back at Offutt. 

And I'm delighted to be joined by so many distinguished supporters of United States Strategic Command.

Governor Ricketts, Senator Fischer, Congressman Flood—thanks for your leadership. 

Administrator Hruby, Secretary Kendall, thanks for being here as well.  It's always great to see you.

And above all, I'd like to recognize the men and women of STRATCOM. Thanks for the warm welcome and for all that you do to protect our democracy.

So let's give the men and women of STRATCOM a round of applause. 


Truly well-deserved.

Now, this command's motto declares, "Peace is our profession."

Your mission is to deter war—and to do it with unmatched professionalism.

Today, STRATCOM faces new challenges. 

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.

The People's Republic of China is expanding, and modernizing, and diversifying its nuclear forces. And Russia is also modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal. 

And 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.

So make no mistake. Nuclear powers have a profound responsibility to avoid provocative behavior, and to lower the risk of proliferation, and to prevent escalation and nuclear war. 

STRATCOM, it's your mission to be the responsible custodians of America's nuclear arsenal. 

And you're meeting this challenging and dangerous moment with clear eyes and determination. 

STRATCOM is leading the push to modernize our nuclear triad. You know, a week ago today, I was in California to unveil the B-21 Raider, which [will be]   the backbone of the Air Force's bomber fleet. 

And we're working to modernize the other legs of the triad through new Columbia-class submarines and the Sentinel ICBM system. 

STRATCOM is here to deter conflict and keep the peace. 

And that means a secure, and safe, 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.

STRATCOM is working to build a truly integrated deterrence. And that lies at the heart of our National Defense Strategy, which includes our Nuclear Posture Review. 

Our nuclear capabilities don't exist in a vacuum. 

So we must integrate our nuclear deterrent across all domains, including space and cyberspace. 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.

And we all understand that nuclear deterrence isn't just a numbers game. In fact, that sort of thinking can spur a dangerous arms race. 

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

And finally, we know that deterrence alone will not eliminate nuclear dangers. So we are working to reduce the global role of nuclear weapons through arms control, nonproliferation, and strategic stability. 

For decades, the United States has used these tools to decrease the potential for nuclear war—all underwritten by our strong deterrent. 

So 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. 

Nothing that this Department does is more important than reducing the risk of nuclear conflict, escalation, and arms races. 

For three years, the vital work of this command has been led by Admiral Charles Richard. 

Chas, we're really sorry to see you retire for many reasons—and one of them is that you'll have even more time to root for the Alabama football, which I really worry about.


You see, I'm an Auburn guy. So Chas, I'll say this because you are the man of the hour. I'll deny it later on, but I have to congratulate you on that Iron Bowl victory a few weeks ago. I'll probably be excommunicated from the Auburn family for saying that publicly. Actually, it was a great game and a well-deserved victory. 

Chas, I'm pleased that we're joined today by some of your family. Your wife Lisa is a dedicated public servant herself. She's worked as a Senate staffer, including on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and she's worked in a range of roles serving military families and communities in need. 

Lisa, thank you for supporting Chas for 34 years of marriage and for your service to our nation. 

We've also got your three children here, Chase, Allison, and Emily. And today is actually Chase's birthday. So happy birthday, Chase.


And thank you to all of the members of Admiral Richard's family for their service and their sacrifice. 

You know, Admiral Richard only planned to be in the military for four years. But he ended up clocking out at 41 years. 

And as one of our military's most accomplished submarine officers, he's modeled the dedication, the expertise, and the commitment to excellence of our "Silent Service."   

At the start of his career, he interviewed with the legendary Admiral Rickover to get a job in the Navy's nuclear-power program. 

And that was the beginning of four decades of extraordinary contributions to America's sea-based deterrent, including—incredibly—seven years spent underwater.

He was the Navy's youngest commanding officer of a nuclear-powered submarine. He commanded the famed USS Parche. And he led U.S. Submarine Forces before taking his capstone role here at STRATCOM. 

Along the way, he even got to land on the ocean floor—and discover a series of 2,000-year-old shipwrecks. 

Admiral Richard 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. 

He's worked to ensure that our extended-deterrence commitments to our allies remain ironclad. 

And he's overseen important investments in nuclear command and control and in the modernization of our nuclear triad. 

Admiral Richard, thank you for your 41 years of patriotic service and for your leadership. 


And on behalf of the Department, I wish you and your family fair winds and following seas.  

Today, the leadership of this command passes to General Anthony Cotton.

Tony, I'd like to welcome you and all your family members here today. I had a chance to meet them earlier—all 50 of them.


Just kidding, that's a gross exaggeration. There's probably only 20.


Which is remarkable. It says a lot about you and Marsha. 

And let me especially thank your wife, Marsha. She's a teacher, a compassionate advocate for our men and women in uniform, and your greatest champion for more than 30 years.  

We've also got your daughter Bri and your son Russell with us. And I know that Bri and Russell are very glad to be here. And I know that you know how much it means to your parents that you're here today. So welcome.

Now, General Cotton, you knew from a young age that you wanted to carry on your father's proud legacy of service in the Air Force. And I'm certain that he would be so very proud today if he could witness you take the colors of Strategic Command. 

You started out your career as a missile officer at Minot. And that became one of your favorite duty stations—because that's where you met Marsha. 

You've commanded missile and space wings. You've supported our intelligence community. And you've held both the deputy and commander jobs at Air Force Global Strike Command.

And in between all of that, you somehow managed to find time for one of your favorite hobbies, and that is fixing cars and appliances. 

Now, Tony, I'm told that you once fixed a dryer in 15 minutes with a $40 part, and saved hundreds of bucks in the process. And so come to think of it, the next time that you're in Washington, Tony, I know that some of your friends could use some of your help fixing a couple of things.

Tony, you've had a tremendous career. But one of your favorite assignments was serving as commander of Air University—because you loved shaping the careers of young service members and civilians through education.

So thank you for your compassionate leadership and for the example that you've set for the next generation throughout your trailblazing career. 

And thanks in advance for everything that I know you're going to bring to STRATCOM. 

You know, deterrence has never been just about the numbers, the weapons, or the platforms. 

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 ocean, and the pilots who remain ready at a moment's notice.

It's the technicians and the operators who keep our systems humming. 

And it's the quiet patriots who stand guard in any climate, under any conditions.  

Here at STRATCOM, you proudly stand up—day in and day out and around the clock—to defend us from catastrophe and to build a safer and more peaceful future. 

So 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.

Thank you, Admiral Richard, and General Cotton, and the men and women of this command. 

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

Thank you very much.