WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Dec. 19 voted to confirm eleven senior officers to become four-star generals and admirals, including two Space Force leaders, Gen. Michael Guetlein and Gen. Stephen Whiting.

The Senate vote came as the chamber delayed the holiday recess to work on a number of issues.  The confirmations of Guetlein and Whiting, along with the promotions of hundreds of other officers, faced an unforeseen delay of nearly six months as a result of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) blocking military promotions in protest of the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing travel costs for troops seeking abortions. 

The Senate on Dec. 5 confirmed 421 senior military promotions. However, that release did not cover 11 top generals and flag officers who had been nominated to receive a fourth star. 

The hold created a period of uncertainty and operational constraints, the Pentagon said. After his Senate colleagues persistently pressured Tuberville to drop the protest, the blockade was lifted Dec. 19. 

Both Guetlein and Whiting were nominated for their new posts in July. 

Guetlein is poised to succeed now-retired Gen. David “DT” Thompson as vice chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force. 

Guetlein since 2019 served as commander of the Space Force’s acquisition arm, the Space Systems Command, based in Los Angeles. The new leader of Space Systems Command is Lt. Gen. Philip Garrant.

“Each of these leaders is highly qualified.  They have dedicated their lives and careers to serving and defending our nation.  They deserve our respect and gratitude, and I am pleased the Senate worked together to get them confirmed.” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Gen. Stephen Whiting will assume the top post at U.S. Space Command, a Defense Department combatant command that oversees military operations in the space domain. Whiting since October 2020 served as commander of the Space Operations Command, a Space Force organization at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, that oversees the organization and equipping of Space Force units.

Whiting replaces U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson as head of Space Command. He takes over amid a political fight over the permanent location of the command’s headquarters. The battle started when then-President Trump in his final days in office selected Huntsville, Alabama, as the headquarters’ location. The Biden administration ultimately reversed course and opted to keep Space Command in Colorado. This decision drew criticism from Alabama lawmakers who continue to challenge the decision. 

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...