Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Retires Ahead of Changeover to Space Force

Air Force Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson announced his retirement July 27 as the longest-serving commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center ahead of its redesignation as the Space Force’s Space Systems Command later this summer.

Thompson paved the way for the standup of the Space Force field command, but he will not hand over the reins but instead retire as commander of the acquisition center at Los Angeles Air Force Base effective Aug. 1 after 36 years in the Air Force.

Over four years at SMC, Thompson oversaw development, delivery, and acquisition of space warfighting capabilities to the tune of $9 billion annually, some 85 percent of the nation’s space budget. Thompson also served as commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, in Air Force Systems Command, in Air Force Materiel Command, and in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

The SSC standup will not be affected by Thompson’s retirement. Current Vice Commander Brig. Gen. D. Jason Cothern will take over for Thompson until a new three-star general officer is confirmed.

President Biden nominated Maj. Gen. Michael A. Guetlein in July to serve as the first commander of Space Systems Command. Guetlein is currently deputy director at the National Reconnaissance Office. Once SSC is formally stood up, launch operations at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., and Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., will be realigned under his command.

Space Force did not immediately reply to an inquiry from Air Force Magazine.