WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson handed over the reins of U.S. Space Command to U.S. Space Force Gen. Stephen Whiting Jan. 10 at a change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Space Force Base outside Colorado Springs.

Whiting was nominated back in July to take over as head of U.S. Space Command and was cleared by the Senate Armed Services Committee following a July 26 confirmation hearing. But his confirmation was held up for months along with hundreds of other military promotions by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala) to protest the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing troops who travel to seek abortions.

Whiting’s deputy commander is U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas James.

U.S. Space Command is a unified combatant command of the Department of Defense, responsible for military operations in outer space. Its main tasks are to monitor space activities and threats, support other military units with space capabilities like communications and surveillance, respond to crises involving space, deter aggression and defeat enemies if needed.

In remarks at the ceremony, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks highlighted the importance of the command as “space is integral to military operations, and our competitors know it. They realize how much the American way of life and the American ways of war depend on space power, and they want to undermine our advantage.”

Hicks mentioned China as the United States’ most concerning rival that is “rapidly expanding its space and counter space capabilities and integrating them into a broader strategy to challenge our joint force and undermine U.S. interests.” She said both Russia and China are “evolving their military doctrines to extend into space. They’re both deploying capabilities that can target GPS and other vital space based systems.”

Gen. Stephen Whiting speaks at a change of command ceremony Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: DoD livestream

Whiting was previously commander of the Space Force’s Space Operations Command. In a speech at the ceremony, he said U.S. Space Command’s primary job is to “preserve freedom of action in space. And our moral responsibility is ensuring delivery of space capabilities to the joint force to enable all-domain dominance, to protect the joint force from space-enabled attack, and to lead and win the space fight by achieving space superiority.”

Meanwhile, a political skirmish continues in Washington over the location of the headquarters of U.S. Space Command. 

Colorado politicians along with the state’s robust space industry and connections to Space Force bases made it an early favorite to host the permanent headquarters. But in 2021 the Trump administration decided to move the headquarters to Alabama. 

The Biden administration in July reversed course and said the headquarters would remain at Peterson Space Force Base. However, Congress in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act included language barring Space Command from spending money on a new Colorado Springs headquarters building until further investigation of Biden’s basing decision is completed.

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...