WASHINGTON — Gen. B. Chance Saltzman assumed command of the U.S. Space Force, and departing chief Gen. John “Jay” Raymond retired Nov. 2 at a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews Maryland, presided by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. 

In attendance were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and other top Pentagon officials, members of Congress as well as NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and space billionaire Elon Musk

In remarks, Austin recognized Raymond for his role leading the first new service branch established in more than 70 years. “He laid the foundations for the culture and the traditions that will define this service for decades to come,” Austin said. 

On Saltzman taking over command, said Austin, “he knows his way around the space domain, he’s operated satellites, he’s spent many nights at the Joint Space Operations Center during ICBM alerts … So we’re lucky to have General Saltzman take the colors today.”

Austin said the Space Force has a key job protecting U.S. assets in space. “The United States leads the way in space. But in recent years, the competition has picked up. It has become a contested environment. And China and Russia are investing in their own space capabilities.”

This will require a “relentless pursuit of innovation and technological advancements that will help us maintain and expand our edge … working together with our partners and allies to keep building our collective strength in space,” Austin said. 

Kendall called Raymond “the father of the Space Force.”

“You grew from a service of zero to now almost 15,000 guardians,” he said. “Saltzman has big shoes to fill.”

Congrats from the VP

Vice President Kamala Harris in a letter read at the ceremony congratulated Saltzman. “As the chair of the National Space Council, I look forward to working with you to ensure the US Space Force is positioned to support our nation, particularly in light of the growing threats to our space enterprise and the need to promote responsible behaviors in space.”

Saltzman in remarks addressing the entire Space Force, said “You will hear plenty from me in the coming weeks, months and years. So I’ll keep this short and to the point. The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place and preserving U.S. national security interest in space is growing harder every day.”

“Without the space capabilities you are designing, building, protecting and operating, the Joint Force will not be capable of accomplishing its missions. A resilient ready and combat capable Space Force is indispensable to deterrence. And in the worst case, if deterrence fails, the Space Force will be an indispensable component of our joint force at war,” said Saltzman.

Milley in a speech praised Raymond’s military service, and recognized SpaceX founder Musk who was in the audience. “He needs no introduction,” said Milley. “But what he symbolizes is the combination of the civil and military cooperation and teamwork that makes the United States the most powerful country in space.”

Raymond in closing remarks said the United States military “has never been stronger or more ready than it is today, and it needs to be as we face the most complex strategic times in our nation’s history.”

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...