HUNTSVILLE — In the weeks between warnings that North Korea planned to test a long-range ballistic missile and the actual July 4 launch, elements of U.S. Strategic Command made certain that all of the various systems deployed around the world — and in space — were ready, according to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen, commander of Strategic command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (JFCC-IMD), which has that responsibility.

In preparation for the North Korean tests, Dodgen’s job was to make sure that the sensors, command and control hardware and software, and interceptors that are part of the U.S. missile defense system were ready to be used if needed, but without compromising the schedule for necessary routine maintenance.

JFCC-IMD was created by U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in January 2005 along with the JFCCs for Space and Global Strike; Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance; and Network Warfare. Cartwright has since created a Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction that is part of the JFCC structure, and separated the organization for Space and Global Strike into two organizations.

The JFCCs are intended to decentralize responsibility at Strategic Command by putting many day-to-day tasks in the hands of lower-level officials so that Cartwright can focus on strategic-level advocacy and decision making.

While JFCC-IMD is focused on missile defense as its primary mission, other JFCCs have a role in this area too, according to an Army fact sheet. The JFCCs are supposed to cooperate on missile defense under a model that the Pentagon calls “finding the archer before he releases the arrow.”

The JFCCs for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Space; and Global Strike work together to locate enemy missiles and provide that information to troops in the field so they can try to destroy them prior to launch, according to the fact sheet.

“All of those things come together to create an environment that provides the greatest protection for our nation and the greatest deterrence for anybody out there who would do us harm,” Dodgen said during an Aug. 17 interview at the 2006 Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Ala. “It’s pretty exciting work.”

JFCC-IMD also can help the other JFCCs with missions that are not part of its primary portfolio, Dodgen said. In some cases when they may not need to be focused on their missile defense role, some missile defense sensors are available to be used in support of intelligence or space surveillance missions, he said.

Integrating all the elements of U.S. missile defense involves troops, sensors and interceptors deployed across 12 different time zones. As the Pentagon in the near future brings on line new sensors like the Sea Based X-band Radar to deal with increasingly complex threats from countries like North Korea, officials at the JFCC-IMD will work to ensure that those sensors are properly linked to the existing missile defense systems and find ways to mitigate coverage gaps if one sensor experiences problems, Dodgen said.

Other issues that Dodgen is dealing with include a proposed third site for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System interceptors. Proponents of the site, which the Missile Defense Agency would like to place in Europe, believe that it could help protect U.S. allies from the threat of ballistic missiles while giving the Pentagon a more optimum location to shoot down rockets launched at the United States from countries like Iran than the missiles located at in Alaska and California.

The pace of work on the third site has been questioned on Capitol Hill, where the House of Representatives has proposed cutting all funding for the effort in its version of the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act. Nonetheless, the JFCC-IMD is helping the Pentagon study the pros and cons of possible locations in Europe, Dodgen said.

“That [site] will be a very important piece,” Dodgen said. “We need to get on with the business of protecting our friends and allies.”

Another emerging issue on the JFCC’s agenda is cruise missile defense. The threat of cruise missiles has received increasing attention in recent years as Congress has added money to the Pentagon budget to begin preparing for the threat of missiles launched at the United States from vessels l ocated just off its shores.

Cartwright recently briefed the Pentagon’s senior leadership on the threat posed by cruise missiles, and the need for a military organization to take on the role of lead integrator for the sensors, interceptors, and command and control systems that can help shoot down cruise missiles, Dodgen said.

The military leaders gave their blessing for Strategic Command to assume that role. The JFCC- IMD is now looking to apply the same type of focus to integrating systems involved with defending against long-range ballistic missiles to those that can play a part in destroying cruise missiles, he said.

The systems that will likely make up the cruise missile defense architecture are operated today by the various military services, making it appropriate for Strategic Command to handle the integration task, Dodgen said. Dodgen previously led the Pentagon’s Joint Theater Air and Missile Defense Organization, which works with the services to determine their individual needs for cruise missile defense and will evaluate those systems as they are developed.

In addition to his duties with the JFCC, Dodgen serves as the commander of Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), which is based in Huntsville, Ala. . Putting the SMDC chief in charge of JFCC-IMD takes advantage of SMDC’s expertise in missile defense, its experience in establishing the 100th Ground Based Midcourse Defense Brigade, and its existing presence at the Joint National Integration Center, a missile defense modeling, testing and analysis center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., which now also serves as the JFCC’s headquarters, according to the Army fact sheet.

While the JFCC is led by an Army officer, the organization includes staff from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, according to the fact sheet.

The JFCC-IMD personnel structure is based on the model used by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, with individual leaders in charge of personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, planning, communications and capabilities development, according to the fact sheet.

Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense

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Mission: Planning and coordinating missile defense activities around the globe.

Parent Organization: U.S. Strategic Command

Top Official: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen

Year Established: 2005

Locations: Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. Liaisons in Omaha. Dodgen is based in Huntsville, Ala. at SMDC headquarters.

Current Budget: $11.5 million

Personnel: Approximately 50, with plans to grow to 125