— U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), during the next several months will lose responsibility for missiles and nuclear weapons, gain the cyberspace security mission and shift some 21,500 uniformed and civilian personnel into or out of the command.
But Air Force Gen. Bob Kehler, commander of AFSPC at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo, said the changes are not as earthshaking as some might imagine.
The space, missile and cyberspace missions are closely intertwined, Kehler said. Therefore, many missileers will continue to spend parts of their careers in Space Command, and integrating the cyberspace mission into the command will not be all that difficult.
“I think that the fundamental focus and direction of Space Command will not change,” he said. “This makes a lot of sense … for us.”
The Air Force announced Oct. 24 that Air Combat Command’s nuclear-capable B-52s and B-2s, along with AFSPC’s intercontinental ballistic missile forces, will transfer to the new Global Strike Command. Air Force Cyber Command (Provisional), meanwhile, will be renamed 24th Air Force and moved from Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base,
, to AFSPC.
Global Strike Command will stand up by September 2009, and Cyber Command is expected to move to AFSPC next spring or summer.
The shake-up, prompted by two nuclear incidents that cost the Air Force chief of staff and secretary, Gen. Michael Moseley, and Michael Wynne, respectively, their jobs, is the largest reorganization in the service since Strategic Air Command disbanded in the early 1990s.
said the shift will be gradual. His team is working on road maps for how to move the ICBM forces to Global Strike Command and how to integrate the cyberspace security mission into AFSPC.
“This will have to be a phased transition,” Kehler said. “You can’t move everyone at once even if you wanted to. This transition will take several years to complete.”
But the move of the cyber mission into AFSPC is already well under way, said Maj. Gen. William Lord, commander of the provisional Air Force Cyber Command. The command’s leadership team has been working with AFSPC’s personnel, plans and operations directorates, and Kehler and Lord are working together closely to draft a new program action directive that will outline a plan for merging the organizations. The document is due to the Air Staff at the Pentagon by Dec. 1.
But the third major shake-up of Air Force Space Command since it was created in 1982 means more than musical chairs. It changes the command’s focus.
For starters, AFSPC will not have a kinetic war-fighting role for the first time since ICBMs were placed under its command in 1993. The loss of those ICBMs and the addition of 24th Air Force means AFSPC likely will be about 18 percent larger. The command has about 25,000 active-duty and civilian personnel, according to an official fact sheet.
The 20th Air Force and its three missile wings – the 90th at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; the 91st at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; and the 341st at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. – will move to Global Strike Command and take with them about 8,500 people. But 24th Air Force, the new unit in charge of cyberspace, will have two to four wings and bring back under the AFSPC umbrella about 13,000 airmen, including reservists. So the net gain to the command likely will be about 4,500 personnel.
also said AFSPC will have to rely on Global Strike Command to provide many of its young space officers, indicating that the separation between the two major commands might not be as absolute as it is between most major commands.
Missile units require a large number of lieutenants, he said, whereas space units require a proportionally larger number of captains and majors.
“We will have to take a number of people out of Global Strike Command who are lieutenants and brand new captains and bring them to Space Command,” Kehler said. “You need to pull them from somewhere. The logical marriage of ICBMs and space has been very helpful in that regard. That’s going to have to continue.”
Both Kehler and Lord said Space Command is the most appropriate command to take charge of the cyberspace mission.
“There’s great synergy between the space business and cyberbusiness, and even … some similar kinds of expertise revolving around both disciplines,” Lord said. “It’s not nearly as [difficult] as you read in the media.”
For example, Lord said, communications airmen are needed in both areas.
“We have space units and tactical deployable communications units that use equipment that is basically the same thing,” he said. “One has been modernized pretty well, the other has not been. If we [can] harmonize some of that work, we now have some synergies inside our own maintenance organizations.”
In terms of career development, Kehler said the cyberspace career plans released last summer were modeled after the Space Professional Development Program, so it will be easy to combine the two.
The cyber and space missions also are similarly dependent on technology, he said, and Space Command’s focus on more quickly developing and fielding technology is equally important to the cyberspace mission.
But there are skeptics. Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute in
, rejects the idea that the cyber and space mission draw on similar technical skills.
“Cyber is a completely different world,” he said. “This is a metaphor for what is wrong with the way the Air Force approaches future missions. They try to fit new missions into old … frameworks.”
And Wynne, who first conceived of a cyberspace command, said in early October that placing such an organization under AFSPC, which reports to U.S. Strategic Command, could make the new organization too strategic and not tactical enough in its focus.
disagrees, noting that AFSPC, though it reports to Strategic Command, focuses on both strategic and tactical uses of space.
“Space is inherently strategic and tactical,” he said. “Its effects are everywhere from global to local. … We’ve spent more time in the last 10 years bringing space to the tactical level.”
Lord said 24th Air Force will continue to work closely with Air Combat Command on its tactical cyberspace needs.
Air Force Space Command at a Glance
To deliver space and missile capabilities to the
and its warfighting commands
Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler
25,000 active-duty military and civilians and 13,700 contractor employees
Peterson Air Force Base,
Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.; Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.; Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.; Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.; F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.; Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; and other units around the world