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American Forces Press Service

Chilton Takes U.S. Strategic Command Helm

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today praised Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton as the general ceremonially took the reins of U.S. Strategic Command.

Gates said Chilton, who began his tenure at STRATCOM on Oct. 3 after having commanded Air Force Space Command, has the skills and experience to lead the command forward in its critical role in the fight against terrorist threats.

Speaking at today’s assumption-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., the secretary pointed to Chilton’s long, trail-blazing career as prime experience for the STRATCOM job. Chilton was a test pilot on the F-4 Phantom II and F-15 Eagle aircraft, laid new groundwork during assignments at Air Force Space Command, and served as an astronaut aboard three space shuttle missions.

Chilton will tap into this experience to help the United States confront some of the most destructive threats it faces. These include terrorist groups working to get control of weapons of mass destruction and potential adversaries who might leverage information and space technologies to threaten the United States and its interests.

Gates called space-based capabilities critical in stopping the proliferation of dangerous materials. “It is through space that we can monitor the weapons we already know exist,” he said. “It is through space that we can track adversaries attempting to acquire these weapons and then do something about it. It is through space that our troops and our leadership monitor the battlefield and communicate with each other.

“Therefore,” Gates continued, “it is space that we must protect, especially as we expand its use.”

China’s successful test of an anti-satellite weapon earlier this year reinforced the importance of maintaining unfettered access to space, he said. “This test and other developments show that our own near-earth satellites are vulnerable and must be protected,” he said.

As a former CIA director, Gates said he understands the importance of a strong intelligence-gathering system and the need to analyze that intelligence and plan a U.S. response.

He told Chilton he’s confident the general will be able to tackle the challenges ahead and build on the accomplishments Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright began during his three years at STRATCOM. Cartwright served as commander until August, when he became the eighth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cartwright “flattened the organization,” speeding up information flow throughout the command, Gates said. He also introduced the Global Innovation and Strategy Center, which brings together outside experts to focus on a specific issue, brainstorming solutions and developing recommendations for STRATCOM leaders to follow up on.

Gates said he knew filling Cartwright’s shoes at STRATCOM would be challenging, but that he believes Chilton is the person to take the command forward. “General Chilton, we look to you for the way ahead during these turbulent times,” he said.

Chilton said he feels honored to lead the organization that is “called on to be the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal.”

He noted STRATCOM’s broad responsibilities. “We are responsible today for providing the secretary of defense time-sensitive planning to conduct global strike operations anywhere on the planet. We are tasked to conduct operations in support of the global fight we are engaged in today,” he said. “And we are tasked to be the masters and defenders of domains that have become ever more critical, not only to the way we fight as a nation, but to our way of life as a nation … -- the domains of space and cyberspace.”

With the “tsunami change” that ushered in STRATCOM’s reorganization and adoption of a 24/7 operational mission beginning to settle, Chilton said, he’s ready to increase the command’s focus on future threats as well as today’s fight.

“The type of combat we will face in the 21st century will go beyond the physical force on force and the battles of centuries gone by,” he said. It will require “innovation, … speed, agility and focus.”

He called the men and women serving at STRATCOM “just the team America needs to defend her today and tomorrow.”

“I am excited and proud and humbled to join this great team in our noble endeavor,” Chilton said.

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