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New leaders for the Space Force and US Strategic Command

Senate lawmakers confirmed the next leaders of U.S. Space Force and U.S. Strategic Command on Thursday during wrap-up work ahead of the October recess.

Lt. Gen. Bradley Saltzman will serve as the second-ever chief of space operations and Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton will take over U.S. Strategic Command after the chamber unanimously approved the nominations. Both are expected to formally be sworn into the new roles in coming days.

The moves were noncontroversial and came amid a flurry of military confirmations finalized late Thursday afternoon.

Both men had hearings on their nominations before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier in September and received strong support from the lawmakers there.

Saltzman has served as deputy chief of space operations for the past two years. He will replace Gen. John Raymond, who has led the Space Force since its establishment in December 2019 and is expected to retire later in 2022.

During his confirmation hearing, Saltzman said his primary focus would be growing the force (its end strength is about 8,500 personnel right now) and broadening recruiting to individuals outside the other services.

Currently, about two-thirds of the Space Force’s personnel is made up of service members who have transferred from other branches.

Cotton, who is currently serving as head of Air Force Global Strike Command, will take over the leadership spot at Strategic Command from Navy Adm. Chas Richard.

During his confirmation testimony, Cotton said he was most focused on “the pacing challenge of China and acute threats presented by Russia” in coming years.

“The mission of U.S. Strategic Command is to deter our adversaries and employ force to guarantee the security of our nation and our allies,” he said. “Our nation’s nuclear forces continue to be safe, secure, reliable, and effective.”

As they typically do before a legislative break, lawmakers also confirmed numerous other diplomatic nominations and other key executive branch leadership posts on Thursday.

Nominations that were not finalized will now likely have to wait until after the November midterm elections for final action from the Senate.

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