When Gen. Lance Lord retires as commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, his successor may inherit a substantially different job.

The Air Force is considering adding information operations to the portfolio of the service’s top uniformed space official as it looks for ways to reduce its personnel levels by 40,000 people before the end of this decade, according to Air Force sources.

Rumors have been circulating since last fall that Space Command could be in for significant changes once Lord retires, including possibly reducing the rank of its top official or combining it with another Air Force command. Those rumors have been fueled in part by the fact that the Air Force has yet to name a successor to Lord, who announced more than three months ago that he would retire April 1.

Lord attempted to shoot down those rumors during a Feb. 22 conference call with reporters, stating that Space Command would remain a major command with a four-star leader. Lord said that it is only a matter of time before his successor is named, but said Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, who currently serves as the deputy commander at Space Command, would take over on an interim basis until a new four-star is found.

However, Lord noted that nothing is “off the table” as the Air Force looks at options for personnel reductions.

Air Force sources said the leading option appears to be creating a new organization by combining Space Command with the information operations offices that are today part of Air Combat Command.

During a March 1 interview, Lord declined to directly address that proposal, but noted that there are natural synergies between space and information operations.

Synergy between space and information operations also is referenced in a Feb. 15 letter from Gen. Michael Moseley, chief of staff of the Air Force, to Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, commander of Strategic Command.

The Air Force is assessing how best to organize for those mission areas, as well as that of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Moseley wrote.

“Fully exploiting the tremendous synergy across these mission areas will enhance” the Air Force’s ability to achieve certain objectives without using munitions to destroy targets, Moseley wrote.

Moseley’s letter also addresses another proposed organizational change — splitting up Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command (JFCC) for Space and Global Strike.

Strategic Command established several JFCCs in 2005, as it sought to find a new approach to dealing with the missions that it took on after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. One of those was the JFCC for Space and Global Strike.

A separate JFCC for Space could foster better integration of space capabilities throughout the military, Moseley wrote. Maj. Glen Roberts, a spokesman for Moseley, said the general was not available to elaborate on his letter at press time.

The current leader of the JFCC for Space and Global Strike, Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin Chilton, is seen as the most likely candidate to head the revamped Space Command, according to Air Force and congressional sources.

Chilton’s space background includes three flights aboard NASA’s space shuttle, serving as deputy program manager for international space station operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and deputy director of operations at Air Force Space Command.

The creation of the JFCC for Space and Global Strike was among the bones of contention raised in a March 1 letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

Allard’s letter, which also was sent to Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, was sharply critical of what the senator described as a trend at the Pentagon to increasingly de-emphasize space.

Allard, a leading congressional advocate for space programs, said that the creation of the JFCC for Space and Global Strike “has essentially downgraded the mission of space operations from a four-star combatant command to a three-star billet that is focused almost entirely on global strike.”

Comments: jsinger@space.com