WASHINGTON — U.S. Strategic Command gained a new leader Thursday as Air Force Gen. John Hyten took command of the organization in a ceremony held at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
“The Cold War is over. We won,” Hyten said during the event. “However, the world is once again a very dangerous place and those threats seem to be building daily.”
Strategic Command, the combatant command responsible for overseeing the military’s nuclear, space, and cyber capabilities, must be prepared to meet the challenges ahead, the general said.
“We never want to go to war with nuclear weapons. We never want to go to war in space or cyberspace, but in order to keep the peace we must be ready and willing to fight these wars if called upon,” Hyten told the assembled crowd.
Hyten lead Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, since Aug. 2014. President Obama nominated him to lead STRATCOM in September, and the Senate confirmed the nomination later that month.
He takes over for Adm. Cecil Haney, a nearly 40-year veteran of the Navy who has lead STRATCOM since 2013 and is expected to retire.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke at the ceremony and said that STRATCOM was at the forefront of America’s defense.
“America’s nuclear deterrence remains the bedrock of our security,” Carter said. “It remains the highest priority of the Department of Defense.”
The secretary lauded Hyten on his leadership, not just on nuclear matters but in the space domain as well, saying that the general has “unwavering dedication, profound insight, and the calm deliberative manner that the gravity of these missions requires.”
“John has developed a keen understanding of the current and future operation needs of our DoD space force,” Carter said. “John has a keen appreciation for what’s at stake.”
Amid discussions about whether military space operations should have their own combatant command, Carter said it’s important to keep what happens in orbit connected to what happens on Earth.
Separating space operations into a separate command “would be a mistake because every one of our missions in every domain — air, sea, land, cyber and also our potential opponents — rely on space in some way,” he said. “We must integrate and not separate everything we do in space.”
“STRATCOM is helping us write a playbook for future space operations,” Carter added. “As we’ve been updating each of our core contingency plans, we’ve made sure they account for how we must now view space as a potential warfighting domain.”