WASHINGTON – Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced Tuesday that U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, America's top nuclear commander, will be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Wilson, who spoke at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the Pentagon sent Hyten's nomination to Capitol Hill on Monday. Hyten will succeed retiring Air Force Gen. Paul Selva and will work alongside current Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who will become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, succeeding Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford.
The four-star general has served as commander of U.S. Strategic Command since November 2016. Before becoming the country's top nuclear commander, Hyten headed Air Force Space Command. Hyten has been a vocal proponent of space-based defenses in order to protect U.S. assets in space and track hypersonic threats.
The latest revelation comes as the Pentagon works to lay the groundwork for President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force, a new sister service branch that would stand alongside the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. However, the creation of a sixth military branch, the first in 72 years, is dependent upon congressional approval.
Trump nominated U.S. Air Force Gen. John "Jay" Raymond to lead the U.S. Space Command, a new combatant command that will oversee the military's missions and war fighting in space.
As the Air Force's top space officer, Raymond was long considered a favorite for the job. He is currently commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. If confirmed by the Senate for this newly established role, Raymond will run both U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command.
Unlike the creation of a Space Force, the Pentagon can establish a U.S. Space Command without input from lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department is asking Congress for $14.1 billion in its fiscal 2020 budget request to fund space operations. That would allocate funding to several national security programs, from satellites to missile warning systems. Of the total, about $1.6 billion will fund improvements to space-based missile warning capabilities, a missing link in America's layered missile defense system.
The Air Force is also seeking $72.4 million to establish a headquarters for Space Force.