STRATCOM Chief Nominated for Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs

Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command talks integrated command relationships and the role of information and intelligence to the combatant commands during the 2018 Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference August 13, 2018, in Omaha, Nebraska. (DoD photo/Brian Murphy)
Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command talks integrated command relationships and the role of information and intelligence to the combatant commands during the 2018 Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference August 13, 2018, in Omaha, Nebraska. (DoD photo/Brian Murphy)

The head of U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, has been nominated as the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to Air Force’s top civilian.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told audiences at the Space Symposium in Colorado on Tuesday that STRATCOM commander Gen. John Hyten has been nominated for the position.

Hyten would take over from Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who is retiring.

The move to elevate Hyten comes at a time when the Defense Department is focused heavily on expanding its space assets.

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As STRATCOM chief, Hyten has emphasized the need for nuclear modernization and expanded communications, as well as the growing demand for improved defenses in space against near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.

Since assuming the position in 2016, Hyten has said space is his "third priority," with "nuclear first, nuclear command-and-control second."

He has said he is grateful the Trump administration is creating a Space Force and associated components to deal with emerging threats from adversaries in space.

"The president said we need a structure inside the Pentagon focused on space all the time, and I support that structure," Hyten said during a March 28 House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing. "I think the most important thing we can do in the near term [is] to stand up a new unified command, moving space out from under my command, out from under U.S. Strategic Command, and creating a new U.S. Space Command focused 100 percent of the time on the space problem.

"Space will never be higher than my third priority. I get to spend so little time on space because I have to focus on the nuclear capability," he added.

Prior to his current post, Hyten was vice commander and then commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, between 2012 and 2016, according to his official biography.

He has fought for other modernization programs, including the UH-1N Huey helicopter replacement program, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Last year, Hyten stressed the move is long overdue for STRATCOM, which uses the aging Huey helicopter for aerial protection of its missile sites.

"We are going to get a new helicopter in the missile fields," he said Aug. 1 during his opening remarks at the 2018 STRATCOM Deterrence Symposium in Omaha, Nebraska. "We are going to get a new helicopter if I have to die trying or if I have to kill somebody to do it. It is taking way too long."

In September, the Air Force chose Boeing Co. to build the Huey replacement at a cost of approximately $2.38 billion.

If confirmed, Hyten will serve with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. In December, Trump nominated Milley to succeed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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