NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — U.S. chief space operations Gen. Chance Saltzman on Sept. 12 announced the Space Force will experiment with a new command structure where a unit is responsible for all aspects of a mission area, including training, procurement and operations. 

Two integrated units will be established, each run by a Space Force colonel — one for space electronic warfare; and the other for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) satellites. 

This is a departure from the current structure where responsibilities for procurement, maintenance, sustainment and operations are fragmented under separate chains of command, Saltzman said in a keynote speech at the Air & Space Forces Association’s annual conference. 

The Space Force will name these units “integrated mission deltas.” Deltas are Space Force units composed of squadrons focused on specific mission areas.

Space electronic warfare includes the operation of satellite jammers and equipment used to detect adversary jamming. The PNT delta will be in charge of maintaining and operating Global Positioning System satellites in support of U.S. military and allies organizations. 

“The Space Force has come to realize that to be effective; a service must align responsibility, authority, and resources for all aspects of unit readiness,” said Saltzman. “This must be comprehensive and include all activities.”

The reorganization will bring together electronic warfare operators from Space Operations Command and those who procure and sustain equipment under the Space Systems Command. 

PNT satellite operators, similarly, will work side-by-side with PNT satellite maintainers. 

Saltzman called this an example of necessary change in order to keep up with growing demands for space services and support equipment from deployed forces around the world. 

“The structuring of people to do their jobs will always create seams,” he said. “The key is to arrange the organization to maximize performance around what matters most.” 

In an era of strategic competition against rival powers, he said, “we cannot afford to split a mission area’s critical activities across organizational seams. Instead, it is essential that all elements of readiness — people, training, equipment and sustainment — fall into the same organizational structure.”

Space Force evolving

During a meeting with reporters at the AFA conference, Saltzman further explained the thinking behind these changes.

“It’s a recognition that we’ve evolved from our historical origins in Air Force Space Command,” he said. Back when space was viewed as an uncontested domain, “responsibilities for training, sustainment and operations were bifurcated.”

“We want to take those elements, pull them all together at the lowest level possible, have a commander that has unity of command around all four of those readiness elements,” Saltzman said. 

He said space electronic warfare and PNT were selected for the reorganization because these areas are currently not tied to any major acquisitions that would be disrupted by the changes in command structure. 

“These can be given to the integrated mission delta commander without breaking any big acquisitions,” Saltzman said. “And I wanted to make sure there was no risk in doing this,” he added. “This was the best way to learn some key lessons quickly, by picking those two deltas.”

Saltzman said he does not expect the integrated delta structure to weaken the role of the Space Systems Command, which oversees the acquisition and sustainment of major programs. 

“I’m not worried that suddenly they won’t have anything to do,” he said of Space Systems Command. “There is no end to the work that needs to be done. This is a relatively small organizational shift.”

Saltzman pointed out that “unity of command is a principle of war. And when you assign a commander to do something, accountability is very clear, resource utilization is very clear,” he added. “When it’s split across the seams, it’s much harder to hold people responsible.”

“So that’s why I’m really comfortable with this,” Saltzman said. “If I don’t like the way something is working, I know exactly who to hold responsible and there’s value in that from a military perspective.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...