Transcript

Remarks by Secretary Esper and General Milley at USSPACECOM Change of Command

Aug. 20, 2020
Secretary Of Defense Mark T. Esper; Joint Chiefs Of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley

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STAFF:  Please be seated.  It's my great honor to introduce the 27th Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Mark T. Esper.

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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER:  Well good morning, everyone.  It's great to be here again on this very special day and today it's special because we honor two great leaders.  First of all, we honor the leadership of General John "Jay" Raymond and recognize General James Dickinson as he takes command of the United States Space Command.

To all of our distinguished guests, colleagues, friends, family and others gathered here today, thank you for your support of these two outstanding leaders.  First and foremost, I would like to recognize General Raymond's -- Raymond's wife Mollie -- Mollie, their daughters Christina and Amy -- I guess they're not with us -- and your son Gary, as well, but all of you for your unfailing devotion throughout -- throughout your husband's and father's decades of exceptional service.  Thank you very much.

I'd also like to ...

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I'd also like to recognize General Dickinson's family, his wife Angie and your four children, Debra , Hank, Olivia and Joe for standing alongside your husband and father for so many years now and for your continued support over these next four years.  Thank you all very much as well.

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For decades, the world has enjoyed the freedom to operate in space.  Today, billions of people worldwide rely on space-based capabilities such as the Global Positioning System pioneered by American scientists and innovators and operated by the United States military.

Everything from commerce, transportation and tracking national security threats to cellphones, ATMs and everything else in our modern way of life rely upon unfettered access in, from and to space.  These technologies and scientific achievements have created remarkable opportunities and our space-based capabilities have provided a decisive edge for our warfighters.

Yet we now find that space has become highly contested and the gains we possess are threatened.  Moreover, as we continue to push the limits of science and innovation, we recognize that our competitors are seeking new ways to exploit our systems and to undermine our military advantage.

We know, for example, that China and Russia are weaponizing space through the development of anti-satellite missiles, directed energy weapons and more, all designed to hold the United States and allied space systems at risk.  They have turned a once peaceful arena into a warfighting domain.

America and our partners have led the world in space.  Beijing and Moscow seek to take that away.  Therefore, in this new era of great power competition, the United States must be able to compete and win across all domains -- air, land, sea, cyberspace and space.

Space power will be essential in any future conflict and the National Defense Strategy underscores the importance of modernizing our space capabilities to effectively respond to this rapidly changing and complex security environment.

That is why in June of this year, the department published the Defense Space Strategy, the first of its kind.  This guidance takes a bold approach in advancing our military space power to achieve a secure, stable and accessible space domain.

The Department of Defense will do so at an accelerated pace by preserving freedom of operations in the domain, providing space support to our operations to improve day-to-day life, and strengthen the joint and combined force, and finally ensuring stability by deterring aggression and maintaining a safe, sustainable space environment.

Furthermore, with the creation of the U.S. Space Force, the first new service branch in over 70 years, and U.S. Space Command, we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform every aspect of our defense space enterprise and apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to ensure that our nation can defend our vital interests and capabilities in space now and in the decades to come.

To drive such an historic undertaking requires bold leadership and tremendous vision.  That is why we have placed our trust and confidence in General John Raymond to serve in these two critical roles in the space enterprise, both as the Commander of U.S. Space Command since August of 2019 and concurrently as the first Chief of Space Operations since December of last year.

With more than 36 years of experience steeped in space operations, General Raymond is one of the few leaders capable of wearing both hats as the department embarks on the most significant transformation in the history of our nation's security space program.

General Raymond is no stranger to taking on positions of great responsibility.  As a young crew commander of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile, one of the three legs of our nuclear triad, he knew well the importance of discipline, execution and maintaining a steady hand in a no-fail mission.

This served him well as he broadened his experience with opportunities in -- in areas such as commercial space lift operations, space surveillance and space and missile program -- programming, just to name a few.  Along the way, General Raymond deepened his extensive expertise in planning and executing national security space operations, and importantly he developed a reputation as one of our nation's most sought after leaders.

As a commander at all echelons, from the squadron level to combatant command and everything in between, General Raymond has demonstrated an innate ability to adapt and lead in the most dynamic environments, hallmarks that served him well as the head of U.S. Space Command.

In this capacity, General Raymond's strong leadership helped stand up the nation's 11th combatant command, ensuring that our military can conduct operations in, from and to space to deter conflict, and if necessary, to fight and win.

And through his bold vision, the command has increased the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence while reducing decision timelines for space operations and bringing focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space.

America and the free world need intrepid leaders like General Raymond who can think beyond what is possible and take daring, calculated risks to advance our space enterprise.  This is also why it was an easy decision to install him as our first Chief of Space Operations and the first Officer in the United States Space Force.

In this role, General Raymond continues to push joint warfighting excellence in the space domain by focusing on the organization, training and equipping of our nation's finest space professionals.  Jay, our nation continues to have great trust and confidence in your ability to lead as you carry on as the Chief of Space Operations.

I want to commend you for your outstanding leadership of Space Command and advancing National Defense Strategy.  Now with your efforts focused solely on the United States Space Force, I know you will continue to push our military to even higher levels and keep our nation semper supra, always above.

Thank you and Mollie for your continued service to our great nation.

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While we were standing up a separate and independent Space Force, we know that the space enterprise is an inherently joint endeavor, with our entire military relying heavily on the capabilities integral to the space domain.

So in the past year, we've installed an Air Force Officer who became the first space member as the head of Space Command and I am thrilled to welcome its first truly joint leader, an Army Officer at the helm, General James Dickinson. 

General Dickinson takes charge during an important time in our nation's space enterprise and I know that he possesses the expertise, the character and the leadership to guide the command into the future. 

Jim Dickinson demonstrated his talent and skills early on as a young Air Defense Artillery Officer, a critical role in protecting our forces from aerial and missile attack as well as airborne surveillance.  These officers must not only be able to think on their feet, but they must also be able to do so while leading people and managing complex network and radar systems in the most challenging of environments. 

This experience propelled General Dickinson throughout his career and propelled him well for leadership opportunities as a commander of a battalion, two air defense artillery brigades and an Army air and missile defense command. 

And importantly, prior to becoming the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Space Command, General Dickinson commanded the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Forces Strategic Command as well as the joint functional component command for integrated missile defense.

A similar experience that has equipped him to lead space operations in a joint environment. General Dickinson, Jim, as you take command I want you to know that we have your -- the utmost confidence in your abilities, the leadership, acumen and foresight you have demonstrated throughout your career will serve your well.  Leah and I are excited to watch you and Angie lead Space Command now and in the years ahead.  Congratulations.

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In closing, I would like to once again thank the city of Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities for their staunch support of the Department of Defense mission and this command and for their unwavering commitment to our service members.

To the men and women of U.S. Space Command, I want to thank you for all that you do to protect and preserve the freedom of navigation in, from and to space for all.  Your steadfast commitment to the mission and to upholding your oath to the Constitution is the reason our military is regarded one -- as one of the country's most trusted and respected institutions.

The United States of America is and will remain the global leader in space because you stand on the forward edge of the highest frontier.  We are stronger, safer and more secure because of your commitment to never cede this ultimate high ground.  Thank you.

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STAFF:  Thank you, Secretary Esper.  It is now my privilege to present the 20th Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley.

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GENERAL MARK MILLEY:  I could've sworn that we were just here, Shags.  Shags is supposed to be in civilian clothes, you're retired.  I don't know if anyone's told you that but you're retired there, big fella.  You're supposed to look like Renuart over here.

(LAUGHTER)

Hey, look it, just a couple of minutes here and -- and we'll conclude this but this is a big deal.  That little ceremony that you just saw a few minutes ago between Jay Raymond and Jim Dickinson is huge for America, really for the world, because this command, Space Command, as Secretary Esper just mentioned, is so critically important in today's world, given the various domains of war -- land, sea, air, cyber and -- and space.

So as we evolved over the last couple of years, much credit is due to the Air Force, much credit's due to now retired Dave Goldfein, much credit is due to the Secretary of Defense and thousands of people, but probably no more credit is due than is due to Jay Raymond. 

So Jay, I'm not going to recount your career, I'm just going to -- and you're still on active duty, you're not going the way of Shags, you're not putting civilian clothes on right now, you're the commander of a force that's responsible to train, man and equip the space warriors or space guardians, whatever the name's going to end up being, but those troopers that are going to defend this country from the ultimate high ground, as the Secretary said.

You are a national treasure.  You have created something that didn't exist before and you've created something that is unbelievably important.  As you look around this building right now, the reason you're here is because of capabilities in space. 

Some of you flew here, some of you drove but all of you came via GPS some way, somehow.  All of the planes on this airbase couldn't take off and land without the capabilities of space.  All of these televisions, all of your iPhones and -- and all of these iPads, all this -- all this Zoom stuff, none of that could be happening without the capabilities of space, and frankly none of our capabilities in space will be happening without Jay Raymond.

So Jay, you have done an unbelievable job.  Thank you so much on behalf of every American that's out there.  Thank you.

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And Mollie, thank you.  As I mentioned before when we -- I didn't -- and I didn't mean to embarrass you, Leah, by calling you out but -- but the families are so critically important and Jay couldn't have done what he did without your support and the support of your entire family and he can't do what he's continuing to do as the first Chief of the Space Force without your support and love and care and dedication and sacrifice.  So thank you so much for what you and all the families do.

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And for Jim Dickinson and his incredible family, a family of service, with his wife Angie and Debra back here -- Debra's a school teacher, married to an infantry major, an incredible example of service there.  Olivia is a journalist and we like to think that freedom of the press matters in our Constitution, so thank you for what you're doing every single day.  And their sons Hank and Joe both -- Joe wants to be a pilot and -- and Hank is in the -- in the construction business and his wife is a nurse. 

So you've got nurses, you've got teachers, you've got a future pilot -- military pilot, you've got an infantry officer and you've got a teacher and you've got a mom.  You talk about service, that's incredible service in the Dickinson family.  So thanks to all of you because Jim, as you mentioned earlier on your promotion, he wouldn't be here either without all of you.  So thank you for what you do.

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And the Secretary noted, a lot of the accomplishments of Jim Dickinson -- and I won't rehash that -- but just to say that I've known Jim Dickinson for a long time, both as the Chief of Staff of the Army and in pre -- previous roles within the military. 

I've gotten to know him very, very well and I can tell you that when it came time to look at who's going to be the commander of SPACECOM following Jay Raymond, we did a -- a search, as you might -- as you might imagine.  The Secretary was very, very rigorous in his review process -- lots of interviews, looking and vetting through lots of records, and there were multiple, highly qualified, really talented candidates.

At the end of the day, Secretary Esper decided to nominate Jim Dickinson.  The reason he did that was because of obvious areas of competence, exceptional skill coming up through the system with the air defense artillery of the Army and a lot of joint experience in various commands, as the Secretary mentioned. 

So he has exceptional competence but also because of character.  Jim Dickinson is a man of enormous character and in this particular job, he's going to need every ounce of that character because he is going to have to continually render his best military advice to the Secretary of Defense and then the President in times of crisis, in good times and bad times and he's going to have to stand in the breach, be candid, honest, forthright, just as Jay Raymond did, just as every one of us in these positions has to do every day, day in and day out.

And it was for those reasons that Jim Dickinson, in addition to competence, it's his character that puts him on this stage before you.  I can tell you our nation and SPACECOM is in great hands with now General -- formerly Lieutenant General, now General Jim Dickinson.  So Jim, thanks for what you do, thanks for what you're about to do and thanks for your great leadership.

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And lastly, to the -- to the soldiers and the sailors, the airmen and Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians out there not only SPACECOM, but Space Force. Right now, you're relatively small in number, but your impact on our nation is way bigger than your numbers would indicate.

So I just want to publicly thank each of you for what you every single day for all of us -- all 350 million Americans. Most of whom will never know you, but every single day you're impacting our lives in positive ways, so thank you for what you're doing and God bless America.