Remarks by Chief of Space Operations Gen Chance Saltzman at the Space Systems Command Change of Command Ceremony

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  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

As delivered by U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman on Feb. 1, 2024.

Well good morning. I don’t think it would be fair to put all the blame on the Major for the weather. I think we all know the chaplain is also to blame.

It’s a very good morning, good morning to everybody; Guardians, community leaders, distinguished guests, friends and family, thank you for joining us today. More importantly, thank you for your support of the United States Space Force and specifically Space Systems Command.

So happy that standing room only has been able to brave the storm – California in February.

Despite the weather, I am thrilled that we all came together today to celebrate Space Systems Command as we transition responsibility from one great leader to another.

Some people don’t realize this, but this command is actually the oldest military space organization in the United States Armed Forces.

First established as the Western Development Division out here in Los Angeles April 1st, 1954, under the command of a little-known officer, Brigadier General Bernie Schriever.

It was created to manage the U.S. Air Force's new ballistic missile program.

The names have changed since the 50s: Western Development Division, Space Systems Division, Space and Missile Systems Center, and since 2021, Space Systems Command.

This April we will celebrate that heritage with its 70th Anniversary – the Platinum Jubilee of space here in Los Angeles.

And today, we add another page to that storied history as we honor not only the leadership of General Mike Guetlein as he transitions to be the second Vice Chief of Space Operations, but we also recognize Lieutenant General Phil Garrant as he takes command of Space Systems Command.

I know Heather wants to be here but most of us can greatly appreciate the demands of a cross country PCS so Heather you’re here in spirit I promise you.

Now allow me to say to both Rachel and Heather, thank you for your service – not just to your families but to our nation.

You have both very patiently shared your husbands’ time with us over these many years of service, and we appreciate it! Thank you.

Let me also welcome to all the members of the Guetlein and Garrant families who are with us today or joining us online.

It’s wonderful to have you here to celebrate this special occasion.

And as for our Space Systems Command Guardians and Airmen in attendance, I always look forward to opportunities to spend time with you.

You are our foundation, our bedrock – no other service is more reliant on the talent, innovation and foresight of their acquisition and logistics team – without you, launches don’t go, satellites don’t fly, missions don’t happen.

We would all be blind to the activities of our adversaries and crippled in our ability to respond.

You are committed to ensuring that never happens, and you remain poised to deliver lethal and resilient space capabilities to defend the nation in the increasingly contested space domain.

Because of you, I remain confident that we are well positioned to outcompete our rivals, deter aggressors, defeat our enemies, and maintain the nation's strategic advantage in space.

So, let's have a round of applause for the incredible work the men and women of Space Systems Command are doing.

For the last few years, this command has continued to fast-track space innovation under the leadership of its first and only commander, General Mike Guetlein.

However, in a few moments, we will see the passing of the leadership baton from one exceptional leader to another.

All of the authority – all of the responsibility – all of the accountability – will pass from General Guetlein to General Garrant – with a simple salute.

And the responsibility could not be greater.

Space Systems Command, as our acquisition and logistics field command, is designing, acquiring, launching and sustaining the space systems our Guardians must have, in all their ever-evolving forms, from the surface of the Earth to the far reaches of space.

This team's many historic achievements since its stand-up are a testament to the talent and the determinization of our Guardians … and equally as important, is a testament to the leadership of your commander, General Mike Guetlein.

I have known and worked closely with Mike for many years, and I’m thrilled that he is becoming our second Vice Chief of Space Operations.

He is the perfect partner as our leadership team positions the Space Force for continued space dominance in the challenging years ahead.

I know we are ready for this challenge because this command has accomplished some … pretty incredible facts and feats in the last couple of years – milestones that would have taken other organizations decades to complete.

For example, just last September, this team made history with the launch of VICTUS NOX.

Since the earliest days of the space race, our efforts in the domain have been so complex, so classified that the goal of responsive space has been simply that – an aspirational goal.

We would take years to design, develop, test and deploy a new capability.

In today’s era of Great Power Competition, that response time, pardon the pun, will not fly.

Conflicts today could begin, and end, in the blink of an eye. We must be prepared to see potential aggression before it starts, stop it when it starts, respond to counter moves quickly.

That’s why your accomplishments with VICTUS NOX are so historic.

Under the concept of Tactically Responsive Space, the team took a low-cost satellite, one that they built and tested in less than a year, from a warehouse here in El Segundo, and readied it for launch at Vandenberg Space Force Base in less than 60 hours – 60 hours!

Once the team was given the launch order, the payload was delivered to orbit 27 hours later.

This has never been done before – it’s an unprecedented accomplishment. And a critically important one if we are to maintain our competitive advantage in space.

Space dominance starts with space awareness.

And that’s why your recent successes with the Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Tracking program have been so important.

You’ve used this innovative program to deliver commercially sourced sensing AND data fusion and analytics to meet the unclassified space awareness needs of our Joint war fighters.

It’s been a great success.

Starting with AFRICOM, this program utilized the SRT Marketplace as the contracting vehicle to rapidly acquire commercial data and analysis.

At AFRICOM’s urgent request, Space Systems Command was able to use the marketplace to request and fulfill an order within 72 hours, meaning we had data flowing from commercial providers to operators within days instead of weeks.

Additionally, the SRT team supported an exercise with SOUTHCOM – support which ultimately resulted in assistance in two real-world scenarios.

First, the team identified and geo-located a Chinese-flagged vessel suspected of illegally fishing in Peruvian waters.

This led to SOUTHCOM tasking an Air Force C-130 to over-fly the vessel and enabling Peruvian Coast Guard members to train on locating and identifying potential illegal fishing in their waters.

Second, a possible volcano eruption in Columbia provided this command with an opportunity to deliver commercial synthetic aperture radar sensing products to the Columbian government in support of a potential humanitarian response.

The exercise proved and validated the SRT Marketplace model. It can be suitable for combatant command needs and can be scalable to support any area of responsibility.

This is just a small sample of the many phenomenal successes Space Systems Command has had over the past three years.

Mike, your dedication, strategic vision, and unwavering commitment to excellence has propelled this command forward, setting a remarkable precedent for all of us to follow.

But he didn’t do it alone.

Rachel, you deserve…a lot more…enormous amount of credit for providing Mike with the support he needed to lead and serve Space Systems Command and our Space Force so faithfully and so successfully.
And I just know you are proud of Mike’s success; I know you both proud of all your children. It’s a great family and that means great support thank you.

Mike and Rachel, now that you are at the Pentagon, I want you to know that your efforts as the inaugural commander have made a real difference in where the Space Force is today, and where the command is set to go tomorrow.

So please join me in giving the entire Guetlein family and General Guetlein himself a round of applause.

Now, as we bid farewell to one era, we eagerly welcome another.

Today, we inaugurate a new chapter in the history of the Space Force as we entrust the responsibility of leading Space Systems Command to General Phil Garrant.

Phil and Heather, I know how proud you are of your four wonderful children.

Let me just recap this is pretty amazing: Jake, a civilian Air Force contracting officer in the F-35 Joint Program Office; Ben, a paramedic and kinesiology major at Cal State Long Beach; Sam, also a paramedic and fire science major at Eastern Kentucky University – “Go Colonels” – and your daughter Meghan, an Air Force civilian stationed at Spangdahlem, Germany.

I’m thrilled that some of them are here today and joining us online.

Jake and Meghan were not able to be here today, but Jake – you may not know this – sent me a note and wanted me to share a couple of lines from it:

It’s not as bad as you think you guys. He writes…

“I apologize for not being there today, … I wanted to take a moment to share a few things about your newest commander, who I'm lucky to call my dad.”

“First and foremost, it would be best to start with his passion for service.”

“To give an exact quote from him, ‘There is no greater calling than serving the American People.’

“…While he has an immense knowledge of the Air and Space Force, he would tell you his most important job is taking care of his people and fellow servicemembers. He shows up to work every day to serve you…”

“Overall, this is his quote, ‘he's a fairly tech-savvy guy… fairly tech-savvy guy

who enjoys the simple things in life. On the weekends, you can find him joining my mom and our dogs at local breweries…” now that I understand “…enjoying craft beer.’

“Just remember these three S's: Service, Social, and Sports to connect with him and one another. If all else fails, ask him about his bagpipes.”

“Please take care of him; he will do his best to take care of you…” That was nice.

I can’t say it better than that. But I am interested in hearing “Semper Supra” on the bagpipes! That might be cool.

Now I first worked with Phil when he was the Director of the Space Superiority Systems Program Office, and I was serving as Gen Hyten’s Executive Officer at Air Force Space Command.

They were using a Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program the GSAP satellite to investigate an anomaly on another an on-orbit military satellite communications – and he would call with updates… and I mean he would call all the time.

If something changed, he’d call me about it.

If something didn’t change, he'd call me about it…And perhaps this was driven by his boss I don’t know but I can tell you that it did prove to me he had a mind for details and the disciple to follow through. I think that’s going to be incredibly valuable here at Space Systems Command.

More recently, Phil was travelling with me to New Zealand for the Combined Space Operations Principals Board last December.

I was speaking at the 2022 Reagan Defense Forum, where the team also stopped for crew rest.

Come to find out, since only principals were allowed at the Reagan venue, the team had a few hours to kill and toured all over Los Angeles without me!

They hit the Getty Museum, Diddy Riese Cookies, In-N-Out, some breweries, among other the sights.
I’m sure Phil and the team had far more fun than I had on that trip with Phil as their tour guide. So welcome back to LA it feels like you have an affinity for it, I think.

Above and beyond his trip-planning skills, Phil has served with great distinction throughout his career.

Most recently, Phil was the deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, and requirements at the Pentagon.

Prior to that, he’s worked as program executive for ground-based weapon systems for the Missile Defense Agency, and as vice commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center.

Seriously, with an outstanding track record of accomplishments, a steadfast focus on the future, and a relentless dedication to our mission and its people, Phil embodies the qualities and values needed to lead Space Systems Command to the next stage of evolution.

So, to the Garrant family, you all deserve to be extremely proud of all that Phil has accomplished… and for the trust the nation has placed in him to lead this important organization.

The challenges before us are immense, but so too are the opportunities.

From advancing our technological prowess to enhancing our capabilities in the domain, we must remain at the cutting edge of innovation.

Our ability to adapt, to stay ahead of emerging threats, and to seize new frontiers will be instrumental in maintaining our superiority in space in this era of Great Power Competition.

These challenges will be expertly addressed because of our Guardians and the missions they execute here at Space Systems Command.

Phil, you are charged with building on the accomplishments Mike and his team cultivated, while finding new and innovative ways to deliver lethal and resilient space capabilities to defend the nation in the emerging contested space domain.

And I have every confidence you will do just that carrying out all your duties with the Character, Commitment, Connection, and Courage that you’ve demonstrated every day throughout your career.

So, to the Guetlein and Garrant families, along with the men and women of Space Systems Command, thank you again for your work, your exemplary service to the Space Force and our nation.

Thank you, Semper Supra!