President Barack Obama has nominated Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, to take over as head of U.S. Strategic Command, in charge of the nation's nuclear triad.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hyten would replace Adm. Cecil Haney at the command based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. It was not immediately clear if Haney would retire or move to another position.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that Lt. Gen. John Raymond, now the top Air Force operations officer at the Pentagon, will be promoted to general to take over Hyten's post at Air Force Space Command.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter hailed the choice of Hyten, a 1981 Reserve Officers' Training Corps graduate of Harvard with a degree in engineering and applied sciences.
"Gen. Hyten is the perfect choice to lead this critical command in the years to come, as the men and women of STRATCOM carry out missions essential to our national defense -- including sustaining nuclear deterrence through a safe, secure, and effective triad; helping defend our networks and deter malicious actors in cyberspace; and preparing for the possibility of a conflict that extends into space," Carter said.
Hyten will immediately face the challenge of meeting the staggering costs of modernizing the nation's nuclear triad of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and Trident nuclear submarines.
Last month, Haney met with Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson at Offutt to discuss the mounting costs for the projected Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines meant to replace the Ohio-class submarines in carrying sea-based nuclear weapons. The 12 Columbia-class submarines are projected to be built between 2019 and 2042 at a current estimated cost of $97 billion.
In addition, the cost of fielding a new intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the aging Minuteman III missiles has been estimated at $85 billion.
Last October, Northrop Grumman Corp. won the contract to build a new fleet of strategic bombers with the B-21 designation to replace the Cold War-era Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses at an estimated cost that could reach $80 billion.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.