Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 14 swore in Gen. John “Jay” Raymond as the first chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force at a White House ceremony. Credit: Pentagon Channel

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 14 administered the oath of office to Gen. John “Jay” Raymond as the first chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force.

The swearing-in ceremony took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building located next to the White House West Wing.

Pence called this a historic occasion as Raymond became the first official member and leader of the newly established U.S. Space Force.

President Donald Trump on Dec. 20 signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that created the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the nation’s armed forces. Trump in June 2018 directed the Defense Department to stand up a new military service for space, but bringing that goal to fruition required Congress to pass authorizing legislation.

“I know the next year is going to be a busy year and we are going to see literally thousands of Air Force personnel move into the Space Force,” said Pence.

Raymond is the highest ranking military official in the U.S. Space Force and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also serves as the commander of U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

In attendance at the ceremony were Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Charles Ray and Vice Commander of the U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. David Thompson.

Pence recognized Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) who were in the audience and were key advocates for the establishment of the U.S. Space Force.

The vice president said Trump “did not hesitate” in making Raymond the first chief of space operations given his 35-year military career and experience leading space organizations.

In remarks after being sworn in, Raymond said: “It’s a big honor for me, it’s a big honor for my family. More importantly, it’s a big honor for the 26,000 airmen that come to work every day focused on ensuring our access to, and our freedom to maneuver in space.”

By creating the U.S. Space Force, said Raymond, “the president and Congress have given us a great opportunity to build the force we need to respond to the challenges we face in the space domain.”

Having a sixth branch of the military dedicated to space, Raymond said, is “not only historical but it’s critical to our national security and that of our allies.”

Addressing Pence, Raymond said: “Mr. vice president, we have our marching orders and we’re moving out.”

Raymond has been insistent that although space has been declared a warfighting domain, the goal of the U.S. Space Force is to deter a conflict from extending into space. The new service, however, will be prepared to fight if deterrence were to fail.

“We do not want a conflict to begin or extend into space,” Raymond said. “We want to deter that conflict from happening. The best way I know how to do that is from a position of strength.”

The NDAA that was signed Dec. 20, said Raymond, “gives us an opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper, to build this service in close partnership with the Air Force. … We will build this new service in a way that strengthens our joint force and allows us to move with the speed and the agility needed to respond to the current strategic environment.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...