WASHINGTON — Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright has made a considerable number of changes to the organizational structure of U.S. Strategic Command since taking the helm in the summer of 2004. Not all of them were perfect, particularly when it comes to space, he noted in a recent interview at the Pentagon.
Many space advocates were frustrated to see U.S. Space Command fold in 2002 and have its mission assigned to Strategic Command. In an attempt to better address space, as well as the other missions assigned to Strategic Command, Cartwright created a series of Joint Functional Component Commands (JFCCs) to handle the day-to-day aspects of those missions while he focused on strategic planning and advocacy.
Under the plan, which took effect in 2005, space shared a JFCC — and with it, a three-star commander — with the global strike mission. Cartwright acknowledges how this may have appeared to space advocates — that space operations went from having its own four-star commander, to being part of a larger portfolio handled by another four-star, to part of the responsibilities of a three-star.
“Space kept getting dropped down and down in the priority of flag [officers],” Cartwright said during a Sept. 8 interview at the Pentagon.
The position of commander of the JFCC for Space — currently held by Air Force Maj. Gen. William Shelton, who is expected to receive his third star in the near future — is ripe for officers who have spent the bulk of their careers in the space field, Cartwright said. He notes that the U.S. Air Force is no longer the only service with space expertise. With a growing number of officers in the Air Force and the other services who have 20 or more years in the space field, Strategic Command is able to take steps to ensure a joint flavor at the JFCC, he said.
“What we’re attempting to do with the JFCC for Space is to create a no-kidding joint global perspective on all space operations for the Department of Defense,” Cartwright said. “We bring the services together in a joint entity that has the ability to do all the space functions.”
The JFCC for Space, like the other JFCCs, takes advantage of existing infrastructure — in this case, the 14th Air Force and its space operations center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. However, the spots of deputy commander and chief of staff are reserved for officials from the other services, Cartwright said. If the deputy commander comes from the Army, the chief of staff would come from the Navy, and vice versa, he said.
Cartwright wants to see how the JFCC for Space performs before advocating for concepts like a separate military service for space.
“I think we’ve taken most of the lessons learned [and] applied what we think are reasonable solutions to what we’ve thought were shortfalls in creating a joint organization, etc.,” Cartwright said. “Now you’ve got to let it mature a little bit. Give it room to grow and make a few mistakes, and then decide if you make an alter ation based on that, or stick with what you have. “In addition to creating a separate JFCC for space, Strategic Command also is taking other steps that should be measured before serious consideration is given to starting a separate space service, Cartwright said.
Those steps include discussions with NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office about how to better leverage each organizations research and development, and operational efforts to avoid duplicating the work done separately by the civil and intelligence communities, Cartwright said.
One effort to improve cooperation with the intelligence community is to have the deputy commander at the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base also serve as a representative for the National Reconnaissance Office, Cartwright said.
“That way, we’ve got transparency, and we understand what is going on with both sides,” Cartwright said. “There’s no sense for both of us to be doing de-confliction in space of debris — one can do that and provide it as a service to the other. So what are those things that we’re going to do versus what they’re going to do? We’re re-writing a lot of those activities.”
Breaking down barriers
Part of Cartwright’s rational for creating JFCCs to handle Strategic Command’s many missions included facilitating better cooperation across mission areas. As the command gains experience with the JFCCs it will look for ways to further improve cooperation.
One such area where Cartwright would like to see improvement is with the sharing of information from the databases used by the JFCCs. While an official in one JFCC can search through the databases of his own organization, going through the databases of another JFCC is not always possible, he said.
Strategic Command would like to break down some of these walls in cyberspace. Addressing this task will require using common standards for storing data, Cartwright said.
“It’s not about the technology,” Cartwright said of the challenge of achieving this goal. “It’s really the culture.”
Breaking through the institutional resistance towards making each JFCC’s databases open to the other organizations will likely be similar to Strategic Command’s experience with the SKY Web online network, Cartwright said.
Cartwright had modeled the network based on popular Internet blogs and chat rooms as a way of increasing collaborative work on the various issues facing command, regardless of the rank of participants. While some officials were resistant to embrace SKY Web, ultimately the value of the network convinced them otherwise, Cartwright said.
“Let’s just go find something that demonstrates great value and is compelling, and if people will line up, we’ll build more of it,” Cartwright said. “And if they don’t, we’ll kill it.”
Meanwhile, Cartwright is interested in taking SKY Web a step further. While the network has been valuable in fostering discussion on solving problems, its format does not lend itself towards the development of formal documentation, he said.
Cartwright is looking past blogs and chat rooms towards another Internet phenomenon to address this issue — Wikipedia. Cartwright likes the model of the user-updated encyclopedia, which he believes could work in concert with the chat tools that already are part of SKY Web.
Documents on the network could be regularly updated based on user input, Cartwright said. The network could include an audit trail that shows who made changes to the documents, and their rationale for doing so, he said.
“So as a commander, I can say ‘gee, I’m looking at this range of things,’” Cartwright said. “‘Maybe I’m going to go a little more aggressive. Let’s make a couple of adjustments.’ Then people start making the adjustments and you open up the space and say, ‘let’s change this paragraph to be a little more aggressive.’ You get a whole bunch of ideas, decide on one, and then you can watch, very much in real time, in execution, how is it working?”
Cartwright also is looking for outside-the-box thinking when it comes to improving the military’s satellite communications capabilities. He said he worries when officials suggest that the military’s rapidly growing thirst for bandwidth will be sated by the Transformational Satellite (T-Sat) Communications System.
“I worry when people come to me and say ‘T-Sat will solve your problems because it will give you infinitely larger bandwidth,’” Cartwright said. “That’s only one piece of it, and if you buy only one piece, you’re approaching it as a brute force approach.”
Instead, Strategic Command is trying to stimulate research and development on ways to better manage the flow of information from the satellites, and address where data is best processed — in space or on the ground, he said.
“I don’t want to be trapped into the Rosetta Stone — ‘here’s the answer to the problem, and it’s T-Sat,’” Cartwright said. “I hope that might be true, but you have got to approach it in multiple ways, and look at multiple technologies. So that’s where my head is.”