WASHINGTON — The Senate has unanimously confirmed Navy Vice Adm. Charles Richard to be the next head of U.S. Strategic Command.

Richard succeeds Air Force Gen. John Hyten as STRATCOM commander and becomes the second head of the combatant command to come from the Navy since 2004. Hyten has since been confirmed as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Richard is a former deputy commander at STRATCOM who most recently served as the Navy’s head of submarine forces.

The confirmation appeared a done deal by the time Richard’s Oct. 24 confirmation hearing wrapped up, with senators providing little in the way of hard questioning. In line with previous nuclear commanders, Richard said he was not in favor of the U.S. adopting a no-first-use policy and called for continued investment in the nuclear force.

“We have delayed and life-extended the triad systems to the maximum extent possible,” Richard said during that hearing. “We are bumping into physics and engineering limits."

The admiral is arriving at a time when the Trump administration is reportedly considering the worth of two arms control agreements, the Open Skies Treaty and the New START Treaty. He fielded a number of questions on both during his confirmation.

Richard took a careful approach to questions about the future of the Open Skies Treaty, noting that “we do derive some benefit from it, particularly with our allies,” before adding that “we would need to make the appropriate resource and operational commitments to utilize the full provisions of the treaty if we were to remain, and I would just offer my best military advice, if confirmed, if a decision were to be reached.”

He later added that the “primary negative” of leaving Open Skies would be “the assurance of our allies. We are not the only signatory to that treaty. It provides valuable insight and partnership opportunities with our allies, but it does require us to make the capital and resource investments to fully use the provisions inside that treaty, and it does come at a counterintelligence cost to the United States.”

On New START, Richard said the agreement “has provided us with valuable insight into Russian, in this case, capabilities. It gives us a feel for their size, capacity, capability.” But the treaty as written “doesn’t address large categories of weapons that are not treaty constrained," he added. "It is only with Russia, and they are developing new systems. And I would provide my best military advice, if confirmed, into the pros and cons of any future agreement, including this one.”

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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