The nominee to lead Space Force was recently grilled by a U.S. Senate committee about growing military threats from China and his vision for the young service that has a strong presence in Colorado Springs.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief of space operations, would replace Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, who is retiring after 38 years in the military. Saltzman has experience in missile and space systems and as a satellite operator. He has also worked as the Chief of Combat Plans for the Joint Space Operations Center and later as Chief of Combat Operations, according to the Space Force.
During the recent senate hearing, Saltzman highlighted the growing competition in space and the importance of strong deterrence.
"We must be clear-eyed in our understanding that our strategic competitors have invested heavily in fielding systems capable of disrupting, degrading and even destroying our space capabilities," he said.
He described China as the pacing threat that is aggressively pursuing opportunities to attack U.S. satellites.
A report by the Defense Intelligence Agency showed that China's satellite fleet grew from more than 200 to nearly 500 from 2019 to 2021. Russia's fleet is growing at a far slower pace, the report showed.
Saltzman would like to see a more distributed architecture of U.S. satellites that would be harder to attack as part of a more resilient and defendable system, he said.
"It’s one of my primary objectives to ensure that a war does not extend into space. That’s not a good day for the United States," he said.
In addition to risks, Saltzman was asked about building a culture within the 16,000-member Space Force and providing appropriate training opportunities.
Saltzman said Space Force members could be lost to the private sector over time and that is where a strong culture will be key.
"This is about giving them challenging work," he said.
He would also like to provide better training opportunities such as simulators that would allow guardians to practice tactics against thinking adversaries.
The Space Force's ability to work with small businesses was also a point of interest for senators and Saltzman said he would be interested in relationships that would foster innovation, no matter the size of the vendor.
"Innovation is going to be critical to the success of the Space Force," he said.
The space sector is a major employment driver for the state with 300 space organizations and close to 35,000 residents employed by the space industry, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.
Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D.-Rhode Island, said a vote on Saltzman's nomination to be the next chief of space operations would take place as soon as possible.
U.S. Space Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Brooke Davis said a timeline for the vote has not been set.