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USSPACECOM transcript header
TRANSCRIPT | Aug. 20, 2020

USSPACECOM Change of Command - SECDEF

Command seal


U.S. Space Command

Change of Command Ceremony

Hangar 140, Peterson AFB, Colo.

Secretary of Defense, Honorable Mark T. Esper

20 August 2020



STAFF:  Please be seated.  It's my great honor to introduce the 27th Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Mark T. Esper.


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER:  Well good morning, everyone.  It's great to be here again on this very special day and today it's special because we honor two great leaders.  First of all, we honor the leadership of General John "Jay" Raymond and recognize General James Dickinson as he takes command of the United States Space Command.

To all of our distinguished guests, colleagues, friends, family and others gathered here today, thank you for your support of these two outstanding leaders.  First and foremost, I would like to recognize General Raymond's -- Raymond's wife Mollie -- Mollie, their daughters Christina and Amy -- I guess they're not with us -- and your son Gary, as well, but all of you for your unfailing devotion throughout -- throughout your husband's and father's decades of exceptional service.  Thank you very much.


I'd also like to recognize General Dickinson's family, his wife Angie and your four children, Debra , Hank, Olivia and Joe for standing alongside your husband and father for so many years now and for your continued support over these next four years.  Thank you all very much as well.


For decades, the world has enjoyed the freedom to operate in space.  Today, billions of people worldwide rely on space-based capabilities such as the Global Positioning System pioneered by American scientists and innovators and operated by the United States military.

Everything from commerce, transportation and tracking national security threats to cellphones, ATMs and everything else in our modern way of life rely upon unfettered access in, from and to space.  These technologies and scientific achievements have created remarkable opportunities and our space-based capabilities have provided a decisive edge for our warfighters.

Yet we now find that space has become highly contested and the gains we possess are threatened.  Moreover, as we continue to push the limits of science and innovation, we recognize that our competitors are seeking new ways to exploit our systems and to undermine our military advantage.

We know, for example, that China and Russia are weaponizing space through the development of anti-satellite missiles, directed energy weapons and more, all designed to hold the United States and allied space systems at risk.  They have turned a once peaceful arena into a warfighting domain.

America and our partners have led the world in space.  Beijing and Moscow seek to take that away.  Therefore, in this new era of great power competition, the United States must be able to compete and win across all domains -- air, land, sea, cyberspace and space.

Space power will be essential in any future conflict and the National Defense Strategy underscores the importance of modernizing our space capabilities to effectively respond to this rapidly changing and complex security environment.

That is why in June of this year, the department published the Defense Space Strategy, the first of its kind.  This guidance takes a bold approach in advancing our military space power to achieve a secure, stable and accessible space domain.

The Department of Defense will do so at an accelerated pace by preserving freedom of operations in the domain, providing space support to our operations to improve day-to-day life, and strengthen the joint and combined force, and finally ensuring stability by deterring aggression and maintaining a safe, sustainable space environment.

Furthermore, with the creation of the U.S. Space Force, the first new service branch in over 70 years, and U.S. Space Command, we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform every aspect of our defense space enterprise and apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to ensure that our nation can defend our vital interests and capabilities in space now and in the decades to come.

To drive such an historic undertaking requires bold leadership and tremendous vision.  That is why we have placed our trust and confidence in General John Raymond to serve in these two critical roles in the space enterprise, both as the Commander of U.S. Space Command since August of 2019 and concurrently as the first Chief of Space Operations since December of last year.

With more than 36 years of experience steeped in space operations, General Raymond is one of the few leaders capable of wearing both hats as the department embarks on the most significant transformation in the history of our nation's security space program.

General Raymond is no stranger to taking on positions of great responsibility.  As a young crew commander of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile, one of the three legs of our nuclear triad, he knew well the importance of discipline, execution and maintaining a steady hand in a no-fail mission.

This served him well as he broadened his experience with opportunities in -- in areas such as commercial space lift operations, space surveillance and space and missile program -- programming, just to name a few.  Along the way, General Raymond deepened his extensive expertise in planning and executing national security space operations, and importantly he developed a reputation as one of our nation's most sought after leaders.

As a commander at all echelons, from the squadron level to combatant command and everything in between, General Raymond has demonstrated an innate ability to adapt and lead in the most dynamic environments, hallmarks that served him well as the head of U.S. Space Command.

In this capacity, General Raymond's strong leadership helped stand up the nation's 11th combatant command, ensuring that our military can conduct operations in, from and to space to deter conflict, and if necessary, to fight and win.

And through his bold vision, the command has increased the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence while reducing decision timelines for space operations and bringing focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space.

America and the free world need intrepid leaders like General Raymond who can think beyond what is possible and take daring, calculated risks to advance our space enterprise.  This is also why it was an easy decision to install him as our first Chief of Space Operations and the first Officer in the United States Space Force.

In this role, General Raymond continues to push joint warfighting excellence in the space domain by focusing on the organization, training and equipping of our nation's finest space professionals.  Jay, our nation continues to have great trust and confidence in your ability to lead as you carry on as the Chief of Space Operations.

I want to commend you for your outstanding leadership of Space Command and advancing National Defense Strategy.  Now with your efforts focused solely on the United States Space Force, I know you will continue to push our military to even higher levels and keep our nation semper supra, always above.

Thank you and Mollie for your continued service to our great nation.


While we were standing up a separate and independent Space Force, we know that the space enterprise is an inherently joint endeavor, with our entire military relying heavily on the capabilities integral to the space domain.

So in the past year, we've installed an Air Force Officer who became the first space member as the head of Space Command and I am thrilled to welcome its first truly joint leader, an Army Officer at the helm, General James Dickinson. 

General Dickinson takes charge during an important time in our nation's space enterprise and I know that he possesses the expertise, the character and the leadership to guide the command into the future. 

Jim Dickinson demonstrated his talent and skills early on as a young Air Defense Artillery Officer, a critical role in protecting our forces from aerial and missile attack as well as airborne surveillance.  These officers must not only be able to think on their feet, but they must also be able to do so while leading people and managing complex network and radar systems in the most challenging of environments. 

This experience propelled General Dickinson throughout his career and propelled him well for leadership opportunities as a commander of a battalion, two air defense artillery brigades and an Army air and missile defense command. 

And importantly, prior to becoming the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Space Command, General Dickinson 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.

A similar experience that has equipped him to lead space operations in a joint environment. General Dickinson, Jim, as you take command I want you to know that we have your -- the utmost confidence in your abilities, the leadership, acumen and foresight you have demonstrated throughout your career will serve your well.  Leah and I are excited to watch you and Angie lead Space Command now and in the years ahead.  Congratulations.


In closing, I would like to once again thank the city of Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities for their staunch support of the Department of Defense mission and this command and for their unwavering commitment to our service members.

To the men and women of U.S. Space Command, I want to thank you for all that you do to protect and preserve the freedom of navigation in, from and to space for all.  Your steadfast commitment to the mission and to upholding your oath to the Constitution is the reason our military is regarded one -- as one of the country's most trusted and respected institutions.

The United States of America is and will remain the global leader in space because you stand on the forward edge of the highest frontier.  We are stronger, safer and more secure because of your commitment to never cede this ultimate high ground.  Thank you.