WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the leader of Air Force Space Command, to become the next head of U.S. Strategic Command.
Ash Carter, the U.S. Defense Secretary said in a Sept. 9 statement that Hyten, who has led Space Command since 2014, was “the perfect choice.”
“Armed with 35 years of strong managerial experience, deep technical expertise, and visionary leadership, Gen. Hyten is the perfect choice to lead this critical command in the years to come, as the men and women of STRATCOM carry out missions essential to our national defense – including sustaining nuclear deterrence through a safe, secure, and effective triad, helping defend our networks and deter malicious actors in cyberspace, and preparing for the possibility of a conflict that extends into space,” Carter said.
At STRATCOM. Hyten will oversee space operations, missile defense, cyber warfare, the nuclear arsenal and combatting weapons of mass destruction. If confirmed, he will replace Navy Adm. Cecil Haney. Obama has nominated Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for operations, to replace Hyten at Space Command.
Hyten had long been rumored to become the next head of STRATCOM, after Gen. David Goldfein became the Air Force chief of staff earlier this year.
Hyten grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where his father worked on the Saturn 5 rocket, and attended Harvard University. He spent part of his early career working on the Air Force’s anti-satellite program, arriving just weeks after a well-known 1985 test in which a modified tactical missile launched from Air Force F-15 aircraft destroyed an aging U.S. satellite by force of impact.
More recently, he was the vice commander of Space Command and had led space acquisition efforts at the Pentagon.
But when he took the helm of the Air Force’s space enterprise in 2014, he worked to transform the culture of the Air Force’s space enterprise and described space operations in stark warfighting terms.
“I don’t ever want to go to war in space. With anybody,” Hyten said in a speech in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2014. “That is bad for humankind. It’s bad for our military. It’s bad for the United States of America. It’s counterproductive for the amazing things that we do in space. … All that being said, the only way to avoid such a war is to always be prepared to defend ourselves. Always.”
Notably, in its fiscal year 2016 budget, the Pentagon shifted $5.5 billion over five years for space protection efforts and as part of a 2015 segment on “60 Minutes,” Hyten famously told journalist David Martin he would use force in space if necessary.
“That’s why we have a military,” he said. “You know– I’m not NASA.”
Hyten was also a key player in standing up a joint space operations center, known as Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to conduct warfighting experiments with the intelligence community.
In recent years, he has focused his attention on the Space Mission Force, a plan for training military satellite operators, and an effort to evolve the current satellite ground control systems into one platform, known as the Enterprise Ground Services. His plainspoken speeches have left no question where he stands on key issues. In 2015, he said the fact that that the service has five satellite systems with five separate ground stations at Schriever was the “dumbest thing in the world.” And when he received a report earlier this year that did not take into account threats to the Air Force’s protected communication satellites he said he couldn’t come up with a solution until “after I got done screwing myself out of the ceiling.”
Since last August, Hyten has worked on a new planning document, known as the Space Enterprise Vision, to position the Air Force’s space operations over the next 15 years to better respond to emerging threats to national security space satellites.