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Admiral Takes Helm at Stratcom

Nov. 18, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk

In a change-of-command ceremony, Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard assumed command of U.S. Strategic Command from Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, today.

Hyten has been confirmed by the Senate to become the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva.

Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the ceremony.

"Today we offer our gratitude to Gen. Hyten for leadership of this command and we wish him well in his new role as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Norquist said. "And we welcome Adm. Charles Richard as he steps up to lead a monumental mission: strategic deterrence across all domains."

Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard hold onto a flag together.
Change of Command.
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard accepts the U.S. Strategic Command guidon from Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist as he assumes command of Stratcom during a change-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Nov. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Steve Cunningham, Air Force
VIRIN: 191118-F-SM465-1120C

Norquist talked about the importance of Stratcom.

"The priorities of U.S. Strategic Command range from global strikes to missile defense. From the ability to deter, to the ability to deliver a decisive response, should one ever be needed," Norquist said.

The 150,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve this mission are an extraordinary responsibility. As leaders of the nuclear enterprise, they know better than anyone that deterrence is an active mission that requires vigilance every day 24 hours a day, he added.

"The men and women of this command have been entrusted with the world's most dangerous weapons — ones that you keep safe, secure, ready and reliable for a nation that hopes to never need to use them," the deputy secretary said. "The stakes are far too high and the costs [are] far too great. From mistakes and miscalculations in your stewardship of the [nuclear] triad, you have embraced that responsibility with the sense of duty that has made your mission a no-fail mission. We rely on you to meet the changing demands of the 21st century with the same spirit." 

We are no longer in the Cold War era of deterrence that cultivated the legacy of this command, he added. 

Stratcom, you are singularly the most important command in the United States military."
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"Today's multipolar, multidomain challenges include a rising China that has expanded its second-strike capabilities in pursuit of regional dominance, and an increasingly aggressive Russia trying to reassert itself as a global power by making major investments in strategic modernization and expanding its focus to include cyber and space," Norquist said. 

Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles, destabilize the Middle East and introduce its own threats to the space and cyber realms, he noted. North Korea is testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and threatening its neighbors as well as the the United States with its nuclear program.

And of course, with the ongoing threat of nonstate actors like ISIS, our [counter weapons of mass destruction] are all the more important than ever to secure the homeland. These challenges required an integrated approach between Stratcom, our other combatant commands and our allies, he said. 

"Gen. Hyten recognized this and during his tenure as commander since 2016, he helped expand Stratcom's focus from nuclear weapons into global warfighting and strategic deterrence," the deputy said. "Thanks to his leadership, we have a clear vision for the future of deterrence as outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, as well as for the U.S. Space Command, with each of you leading the way to ensure we dominate in space."

The deputy defense secretary presented the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to Hyten for exceptional service.

Milley said Stratcom's motto is, "peace is our profession," and emphasized the command has always delivered on that motto. "Peace through strength is a day-to-day reality at this command."

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley speaks at a lectern.
Milley Remarks
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers remarks during the U.S. Strategic Command change-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Nov. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Ian Hoachlander
VIRIN: 191118-F-DQ331-1708

Milley also noted that a great-power war has not been seen in the world since 1945, and Stratcom explicitly exists to prevent such a war.

"Stratcom, you are singularly the most important command in the United States military," he said.

With two great leaders, Milley said of Hyten and Richard, Stratcom ensures the continued stability and strength of the nation's nuclear forces.

Hyten thanked the Stratcom staff, calling them an amazing group of people.

"Without a doubt, the strength of this command is our people. We never stop, we're always ready," he said.

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten addresses an audience from a lectern.
Offutt Remarks
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, outgoing commander of U.S. Strategic Command, speaks during Stratcom's change-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Nov. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Ian Hoachlander
VIRIN: 191118-F-DQ331-1732

"Stratcom accomplished a lot in the last three years. We restructured the command down from 18 to three. Now we're structured just like every war-fighting command," Hyten said.

"We stood up cyber command, transferred responsibilities, and stood up Space Command [and] as we move forward, we have to continue this global integration. That will set us apart from every adversary we have in the world," he said.

Taking the Stratcom helm marks Richard's third flag assignment at the command.

"Throughout this command legendary history, Stratcom has been commanded by amazing leaders," he said.

"To the men and women of Strategic Command, our priority will not change. … They are not changing on my watch," Richard emphasized.

An audience, shown from overhead, attends a ceremony.
Command View
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard assumes command of U.S. Strategic Command from Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten during a change-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Nov. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. April Wickes
VIRIN: 190918-F-WA802-1609

"Stratcom is a global warfighting command," the new commander said. "We must never lose sight of the fundamental nature of strategic forces. That triad remains the most effective way to deter adversaries from conducting strategic attacks against the United States and our allies. Its credibility backs up all other U.S. military operations around the globe. The former chief of naval operations said it is foundational to our survival as a nation. Twenty-four/7/365, we have to be ready to execute this mission with NASCAR pit-stop like efficiency," the admiral noted.

We have to finish launching Space Command and ensure it gets to full operational capability, he said, adding, the chairman tasked us with concept development for global integrations. Remember, our competitor started upgrading their strategic … capabilities years ago. We have to remain focused on our triad. 

"Modernizing our triad is not starting an arms race. It is avoiding unilateral disarmament in the threat this nation has faced," Richard said.

Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard speaks at a lectern in front of an audience.
Command Remarks
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, provides closing remarks during Stratcom’s change-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Nov. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Ian Hoachlander
VIRIN: 191118-F-DQ331-1823

Finally, Stratcom's trajectory is not just a continuation of our existing plans, he said. "We have to leverage the amazing intellectual capital of the 21st century. We have to adapt to a changing global environment; we have to lead the effort to determine what we have to have to deter strategic attacks all across the globe. We've got to maintain our competitive advantage," Richard said.

"Deterrence starts with telling adversaries 'not today,'" the admiral said.