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News | Jan. 10, 2024

USSPACECOM welcomes Whiting as third commander

U.S. Space Command

U.S. Space Force Gen. Stephen N. Whiting assumed command of U.S. Space Command from U.S. Army Gen. James H. Dickinson during a change of command ceremony here, Jan. 10, 2024.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks and Adm. Chrisopher W. Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the event.

During her remarks, Hicks spoke of the importance of the command’s role in today’s complex strategic environment.

“Every day, (US)SPACECOM delivers tremendous value across our Joint Force … more than ever, 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 here,” she said and went on to describe the efforts by both China and Russia to expand their space and counterspace capabilities. “We’ve seen both countries conduct operations against us and our allies and partners to degrade our space advantages.”

But, she emphasized, conflict is not inevitable, in space or anywhere else.

“The United States is committed to preventing conflict through deterrence by making clear to our competitors that the cost of aggression would far outweigh any conceivable benefits,” Hicks said. “Everyone at this command is part of how we do that.”

Grady echoed the strategic importance of the command, while emphasizing the significance of the selection of those who lead it.

“There (is) no one more qualified to lead space operations at this pivotal time in our Nation’s history. (Stephen) has served his entire career as a space operations officer at the tactical, operational, and strategic level, and he is known as a dedicated, level-headed, and experienced space warfighter,” Grady said. “In this complex global environment, the U.S. continues to lead across all domains and to help hold the global order … and leading in space is paramount to ensure that the Joint Force remains the most capable and lethal military in the world – and that starts in space.”

The ceremony, deeply rooted in military history, holds particular significance for USSPACECOM. Established four years ago, Dickinson served as the command’s first deputy commander, as well as second commander the last three years.

Like Dickinson, who was no stranger to the mission having previously commanded the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Forces Strategic Command as well as the joint functional component command for integrated missile defense, Whiting brings a breadth and depth of experience to his new role.

He most recently served as the inaugural commander for Space Operations Command, a field component of the U.S. Space Force and the former space force component to USSPACECOM, where he led the preparation, generation, and sustainment of combat-ready intelligence, cyber, space, and combat support forces. He also has served as the first commander of Combined Force Space Component Command, a former functional command of USSPACECOM and was a staff officer in USSPACECOM prior to its disestablishment in 2002.

During his remarks, Whiting thanked leaders, family and friends in attendance and emphasized the important role USSPACECOM plays in protecting U.S. national interests and providing a breadth of options across all operational domains to the joint warfighter.

“It is my distinct honor to be entrusted with leading the patriots of this command.” Whiting said. “I have a sober appreciation of the tremendous responsibilities placed on our shoulders to ensure that space remains a sustainable, safe, stable, and secure domain for all humankind. Our highest priority 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 force from space-enabled attacks, and to lead and win the space fight by achieving space superiority.”

Whiting also addressed the serious concern presented by competitors whose assertive actions have made the domain not only congested, but competitive and contested.

As such, Whiting committed to build off Dickinson’s legacy, to provide “no fail” space capabilities to the Joint Force with a focus on refining the command’s performance of its warfighting missions and Unified Command Plan responsibilities and pledged to work closely with Allies and Partners to “succeed in space together.”

“We will provide a formidable deterrent against potential adversary aggression and we will be prepared to win across all levels of conflict, through the employment of military spacepower and integrated transregional missile defense support capabilities, while maximizing our partner(ships) with Allies, partners, our interagency teammates, commercial industry, and academia,” he said.  

Prior to the passing of the guidon, USSPACECOM was presented the Joint Meritorious Unit Award – awarded in the name of the Secretary of Defense to joint activities for meritorious achievement or service. The award was presented to USSPACECOM in recognition of the command’s service during the period of Aug. 29, 2019, to Aug. 31, 2022. 

“This incredible team holds the ultimate high ground, integrating our premiere space capabilities into the Joint Force’s global operations -- deterring the aggressive behavior of our adversaries, defending our Nation’s most critical assets, and when necessary, defeating those looming threats,” Grady said. “In my view, space has emerged as our most essential warfighting domain, integral to our national security, our coalition interoperability, and our global stability.”

Dickinson took command of USSPACECOM during an important time in the Nation’s space enterprise, leading the command to achieve numerous accomplishments, including the most recent declaration of full operational capability in December 2023.

USSPACECOM completed the very first Secretary of Defense-approved operational plan for space; conducted its first 24/7 joint tier-1 exercise, validating the headquarters staff as a ready, joint force; spearheaded updates to space warfighting doctrine, Joint Doctrine Publication 3-14, Space Operations, helping to normalize space with other domains; developed five tenets outlining responsible military behaviors in space; expanded the command’s network of partners through the signing of Space Sharing Agreements with 142 commercial companies, 32 countries, two intergovernmental agencies, and seven universities; and successfully expanded the command’s responsibilities through the assumption of the trans-regional missile defense mission and the role as the Department of Defense’s Human Space Flight Support Manager, to name a few.

During her remarks, Hicks noted how Dickinson’s unique background as the Army’s senior air defender had served the command and the Nation well.

“You've made a career working to protect against attacks from the skies, and I know that's been a vital perspective here as you've overseen the transfer of missile-defense ops support and planning responsibilities from STRATCOM to (US)SPACECOM, bringing missile warning, missile defense and space domain awareness together under one command,” she said.

She also shared a quote from the Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III about Dickinson’s leadership.

“Under your strong and principled leadership, USSPACECOM ensured that ground- and space-based systems around the world were ready to keep our country and our allies safe. And your legacy as the first Army general to command USSPACECOM will be a shining example for the next generation of military leaders,” Austin said.

Dickinson reflected on what he said was “the coolest job in the Department of Defense,” stating emphatically that USSPACECOM is ready today to face an every-changing and complex strategic environment, and to protect and defend the space domain for the Nation, its Allies and Partners.

“I am honored and humbled to have served as the Commander of United States Space Command. You are our greatest asset and what gives us the advantage over our competitors in space,” Dickinson said. “Because of you—the 18,000 warfighters serving around the world today--USSPACECOM will employ our Nation’s joint military spacepower to ensure there is never a day without space.”       
Dickinson will retire from the U.S. Army after 38 years of honorable service.  

USSPACECOM, working with Allies and Partners, plans, executes, and integrates military spacepower into multi-domain global operations in order to deter aggression, defend national interests, and when necessary, defeat threats.

Watch the full change of command ceremony here.