Combined Space Operations Center
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
6:24 P.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for that very warm welcome. And before you sit down, would you just join me in thanking an incredible woman who does so much for this country? She’s a Marine Corps mom, she’s an aviator, she’s an art teacher at an elementary school. But as you just heard, she is a champion for military families and military spouses. Would you thank our Second Lady, Karen Pence — my wonderful wife? (Applause.) Great job. Thank you.
To Major General Whiting, Brigadier General Burt, Colonel Hough, Colonel Bongiovi, Colonel Brodeur, to all of you extraordinary men and women here who have chosen to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America — the greatest force for good in the history of the world — it is my honor to be here today at the home of the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg Air Force Base! (Applause.) Thank you all.
Now you can sit down if you want. (Laughter.)
And while you’re relaxing, my wife just called him out, but I have to tell you — you know, our son is in the Marine Corps. He’s an aviator. He’s married. And why don’t you have another round of applause for all the spouses of all of you who serve. We couldn’t do this without our families, and we couldn’t be more grateful to each and every one of you — (applause) — spouses, and moms and dads, and kids.
You know, for so many of you, you serve as a family, and we want to thank your families. We want to thank your families for the sacrifices they make. We are truly grateful.
And speaking of gratitude, let me bring gratitude from a friend of mine, who happens to be your Commander-in-Chief, who is a great champion of securing American leadership here in our country, around the world, and in the boundless expanse of space. I bring greetings and gratitude from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
I talked to the President on Air Force Two when we were just a little bit before wheels down at Vandenberg, and he wanted me to tell you how proud he is of all of you and the work you do here at this vital Air Force base, and the role that you play in our national defense. He and I are truly grateful.
You know, in the President’s inaugural address, he proclaimed that the United States stood, in his words, “at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space.”
So it’s a particular privilege for me to be here today, where for more than 60 years, the men and women of our Armed Forces have played a vital role in protecting America’s interests in the vast expanse of space.
It’s amazing to think of — the very year I was born, 1959, Vandenberg Air Force Base was responsible for an essential step in our effort to win the “Space Race,” launching the world’s first-ever polar orbiting satellite in the Discoverer 1 mission. I think that’s worth a round of applause. (Applause.) One of the first jobs in the space (inaudible) came from right here.
And Vandenberg made history in the Discoverer 14 mission: the first successful recovery of photographic film from an orbiting satellite and the first-ever mid-air recovery of an object returning from orbit.
And, more recently, you made history this past March, when the 30th Space Wing here at Vandenberg — working closely with missile defense — completed nearly a decade of work and successfully intercepted a test intercontinental ballistic missile. It was like a bullet hitting a bullet. And, Vandenberg, you did it. Well done! (Applause.)
General, I remember hearing about that at the White House, and we were all pleased and all impressed. In this time of widening and unknowable threats, it gives the American people, and those of us privileged to serve them, great, great confidence when we see your professionalism in the heavens above.
Today, each one of you, too, are working closely with our commercial partners here. And you’re setting the pace for America’s dynamic commercial industry, modernizing our space infrastructure. You’ve helped SpaceX, I’m told, to conduct eight different launches to put $3 billion, second-generation Iridium Next constellation into orbit.
And all aspects of American space activity come to life here at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and it’s thanks to men and women like all of you.
And I really did come here just to say thank you. You know, when I got asked to run with the President back a little bit more than three years ago, I’ll never forget the day — and we were out on the campaign trail together, and I was headed down to Florida, and he said to me, now — he said, “You know, we’re going to go and win this campaign.” And he said, “After you become Vice President,” he said, “I was kind of wondering” — he said, “You know, previous Vice Presidents have chaired the National Space Council.” And he said, “I was wondering if you might be willing to chair the National Space Council and restart that organization.” It lain dormant for about a quarter of a century.
Now, he didn’t know that I was that wide-eyed kid sitting in the basement of our house, 50 years ago next week, when one small step for mankind became one giant leap — right? — for mankind, rather. He didn’t know that the Pences actually vacationed at Cape Canaveral when our kids were little, just so we could — just so we could walk around those old rockets at the museum. He didn’t know that the only committee I ever asked to be on in my 12 years in Congress was the NASA Subcommittee and the Science Committee.
So when then the candidate asked me if I’d be willing to chair the National Space Council, I just looked at him and said, “Would I!” (Laughter.) And it is a great, great honor for me to chair the National Space Council and see America’s leadership in space renewed under President Donald Trump. (Applause.) And, Vandenberg, you’re leading the way. True.
Looking out at all of you, I couldn’t be more proud. And I know the President, if he was standing here, wouldn’t be more grateful. But I know each one of you serves individually. And I want to name a couple of you.
Like a missile defense duty operator who hails from Palm Springs. The military service, I’m told, is a proud tradition in his family. Both his grandfathers served in the Army. And today many of his relatives also serve in United States Navy.
I’m told he’s actually the first sailor to complete the Space 200 and the Advanced Overhead Infrared Radar Course in Colorado. And he’s working now to become the first naval enlisted member to get an advanced qualification in Space Operations. This is a space entrepreneur whose is making us all proud. Join me in thanking Petty Officer Ralph Salas. Where are you, Ralph? (Applause.) I told you. I told you I was hearing good things. Great job.
I just met Ralph in the Operations Center and I said, “I’m hearing good things about you.” And I don’t think he believed me. (Laughter.) I’m proud of you, Ralph. Well done. Way to lean into it.
Let me also recognize another great, great airman, senior intelligence duty officer who is here with us today. She was born, I’m told, in Riga, Latvia. And after coming to United States, she decided to give back to the country that gave her so much by joining in the United States Air Force.
Today, I’m told, she acts as a liaison between current operations, Intelligence, and Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Division, providing real-time intelligence support to the operations floor, where I just was. So join me in recognizing another great, great airman, First Lieutenant Katrina Hartman. Katrina, where are you? Stand up and take a bow, will you? (Applause.) Great job. Great job. Proud of you.
You know, both of these airmen are emblematic of each and every one of you who serve here at Vandenberg. You’re really setting the standard for professionalism. You’re setting the standard for military service. And you’re doing it at the tip of the spear of a vital element of our national defense. And we’re grateful to each and every one of you for the way and the dedication that you’re going about it.
It’s all of you who make our country proud. You all represent us so well. On behalf of your Commander-in-Chief and a grateful nation, let me just say to all of you clearly and plainly: Thank you for your service. Give yourselves a round of applause. You all are heroes. (Applause.) You are.
And rest assured, just as Vandenberg has been at the center of American leadership in space in the years past, so too I promise you: Vandenberg is going to be crucial to ensuring American dominance in space for decades to come. (Applause.)
This base is proof that in today’s space age, the public and private sectors can achieve far more together than they ever did apart. It’s really remarkable.
The American companies that you are working with here are on the cutting edge of the space industry, developing new rockets, spaceships, satellites, technologies that will take us higher, further, faster into space than ever before.
But for too long, as American industry and technology leap toward the future, the truth is — and you know it — government agencies seem stuck in the past, or at least moving at a much, much slower pace than the entrepreneurial energy of our private sector.
But under President Trump’s leadership, that’s all changing. As you know, we’ve taken decisive action to unleash America’s space industry like never before.
As the President puts it fairly plainly: We want to see the private space industry grow, because, as he said, “Rich guys love rockets. And we’re going to let them build them. And we’re going to let them fly them. And they’re going to fly right out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.” (Applause.) That’s what he said.
So I know the Secretary of Commerce was here not too long ago and you’ve heard about what we’re doing. We’ve been cutting red tape, making it easier than ever before our private partners to launch into space right here at Vandenberg.
We developed our nation’s first comprehensive space traffic management policy, and Vandenberg is going play a critical role in this effort. Frankly, you already are.
Late last year, when the Secretary visited here to discuss necessary steps towards combining the awareness capabilities of our military with the Department of Commerce, it really was a historic step. And we want to thank and commend all your leadership here for helping to facilitate that partnership.
And I’m told that Department of Commerce personnel are going to be arriving here permanently fairly shortly.
Earlier today, as well, I received a briefing from your senior leadership on a critical data generated here through this brand-new Combined Space Operations Center. “Right effect, right place, right time.” Where superiority starts for Americans in space. (Applause.)
JSpOC. Just one year old, JSpOC is invaluable in our efforts to identify threats in and from space. And your mission here, in unpacking JSpOC and making it fully operational, is absolutely essential. And we commend all of you for your efforts today to create a stable environment for public and private partners, including our international allies who we’re grateful to have partnering with us here at JSpOC and throughout this base.
In fact, why don’t we give a round of applause to Canada, the UK, and Australia for being such great partners in space? (Applause.) We’re proud to have you here. Proud to have you on.
And to support combat operations of our men and women across the globe that you make a difference as well, all of you here are making it possible for the American space industry to succeed like never before. You’re making it possible for our war fighters to have better information than ever before. And President Trump and I couldn’t be more grateful.
But as we talk about the private sector, we have to recognize, as our industries grow, as our capabilities grow — and they grow around the world — truthfully, the threats to our security grow as well. We’ve literally watched as nations around the world have pursued weapons to jam, to blind, to disable our navigation and communication satellites. You know all about it — through electronic attacks from the ground or surface-to-air.
And recently, our adversaries have even been working to bring new weapons into space itself. As President Trump said in our first year in office, and as all of you at Vandenberg know well, space is “a warfighting domain, just like the land and air and sea.” And the United States of America is going to be as dominant in space as we are on land and air and sea. (Applause.)
To meet these emerging threats and the challenges — the new challenges on Earth and in the heavens above — in the 21st century, under the President’s leadership, I’m proud to report to you that we’re strengthening American power, strengthening our national defense.
After prior administrations managed with Congress to deplete military spending through budget cuts and so-called sequestration, I’m proud to report to you that President Trump has taken decisive action to rebuild our military. We’re restoring the arsenal of democracy. And this President has already signed the largest increase in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
Seven hundred billion dollars in our first year. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars in our second year. We’re currently working with members of Congress to continue the pace of strengthening our military and giving you all of the resources that you need to accomplish your mission and keep this country safe.
And I’m also happy to mention that in all of that, there was largest pay raise for our military in about 10 years. (Applause.) And you deserved every penny. (Applause.) Deserved every penny.
And, finally, President Trump also recognized that the time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our military; to prepare America to meet any challenge in the next great battlefield, where America’s best and bravest will be called to defend our nation, and for generations to come. As President Trump made it clear: The time has come to establish the sixth branch of our armed forces. And soon the United States Space Force will be a reality. (Applause.)
We’re working with members of Congress, and I’m proud to report legislation is already moving through the House and the Senate to establish the United States Space Force. And it’ll soon be a reality.
Our nation’s armed forces have always been a vanguard of advancing American leadership beyond the bounds of Earth. And the Space Force, we believe, is the next and natural evolution of American military supremacy. And — so get ready, folks. The United States Space Force is going to be here before you know it. (Applause.)
You all know just as well as I do, we’ve already stood up the U.S. Space Command. And we’re laying a foundation to ensure that all of you that are charged with securing this nation in the heavens above have the resources and the command structure to be able to support the mission.
It makes a lot of sense, though, the first American rockets in space were launched by the military. The first American satellites to orbit the Earth performed reconnaissance missions, and many of them were launched from right here at Vandenberg.
And the next generation of Americans who will provide for our common defense in the boundless expanse of space will also be wearing the uniform of the United States — the uniform of the United States Space Force. You are the people who have made this nation secure, and we’ll always be grateful.
You know, next week is going to be a historic week. We mark the 50th anniversary of the day that Apollo 11 set down on the moon, and Neil Armstrong, with a few short steps, spoke those timeless words. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It’s hard to believe a half a century has gone by.
But I want to promise you: As you see renewed American leadership evident here at Vandenberg Air Force Base — this President also made it clear, even just a few days ago at the Salute to America — we’re going back to the moon and then to Mars, and it’s going be Americans leading the way. (Applause.)
Now, the really cool thing is Karen and I get to fly down to Kennedy Space Center next Saturday for a celebration of the 50th anniversary. And we’re going to be giving a ride to a couple of former airmen — a couple of former Air Force pilots — by the name of Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins. And it’s going to be our great honor to take two of the three — two of the three men on the Apollo 11 mission down to celebrate that extraordinary occasion.
I mention it because they are historic figures and they’re courageous. But I also mention them because they were Air Force. (Applause.)
So we got a lot to do in the present and we got a lot to do in the future, and you all are going to be a part of all of it. Don’t doubt it for a second. And you young people wearing the uniform of the United States — serving here at Vandenberg, serving in the Air Force — keep your powder dry, keep your options open. We might need you a little bit higher up before too long.
But I want to thank all of you. You know, I stand before you today, and you’re the men and women that stand guard. You stand guard at the gate. You volunteered to stand watch on the highest frontier of the American people, to keep the American people safe.
So as you go forth, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, I just want to admonish you: As you do your duty, do it with professionalism and diligence; respect the chain of command; take care of your people; mind your mission. And never doubt that the work you’re doing here at Vandenberg is vital to our national defense, to America’s dominance in space, and to our national security. And believe in your mission and know the American people believe in you.
I know we can count on you when I look out at all of your bright and shining faces. When I look at the extraordinary record in the past and in the present here at Vandenberg Air Force Base, I know you’ll do your duty. And I want to thank you for that.
So thanks for the honor of being with you today. Karen and I are truly privileged to serve as your Vice President and to serve in your Second Family.
And I leave here today with renewed confidence that as long as we have men and women with the courage to serve — to step forward — of your caliber; to put your lives, your careers on hold to serve this nation; to be willing to count our lives as more important than your own, I know that we’re going to forge a future of security and freedom for the American people. And we’re going to deliver that security and peace for ourselves and for generations to come.
So God bless Vandenberg Air Force Base and all who so nobly serve here. God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America. Keep up the good work. (Applause.)