Washington: The US Space Force welcomed a new leader as the Department of Defence formally transitioned command of the service to Gen. Chance Saltzman.
During a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Saltzman took the reins from Gen. Jay Raymond, becoming just the second official to lead the young service. Speaking during the change of command, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall praised Raymond for his ground-level work, calling him “the father of the Space Force.”
“The Space Force that I walked in on 15 months ago, the one that Gen. Saltzman will be stepping up to lead …. is a living, breathing testament to the vision, professionalism and will to succeed that Gen. Raymond brought to his role as the first chief of space operations,” Kendall said.
Raymond, who is retiring from a 38-year military career, has served at the helm of the service since 2019, when Congress authorized it. At the time, he wore two hats, leading what was the military’s newest combatant command, US Space Command. Prior to overseeing the two space organizations, he was head of Air Force Space Command for three years.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the ceremony that Raymond’s leadership will leave a lasting impact on the Space Force.
“He laid the foundation for the culture and the traditions that will define the service for decades to come,” Austin said. “He did all of that, and he made it look easy.”
Saltzman most recently served as deputy chief of space operations, with a focus on the service’s cyber and nuclear forces. He joined the Air Force in 1991 and has experience as an intercontinental ballistic missile officer and a satellite operator for the National Reconnaissance Office and has held leadership roles within the Air Force and US Central Command.
He’s taking charge as the Space Force is poised for growth in areas like readiness, system resilience and integration within the Defence Department. The service, armed with nearly 16,000 guardians and civilians and a $24 billion annual budget, may also be on the edge of a growth spurt as concerns about threats from China and Russia increase.
Recognizing that responsibility, Saltzman said that continuing to build a resilient and capable force “will not be an easy or short-lived task.”
“A resilient, ready and combat-capable Space Force is indispensable to deterrence today, tomorrow and every day after that,” he said.