U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) headquarters is stepping back from some of the day-to-day operational duties it inherited from U.S. Space Command in a move military officials say will help expedite the delivery of space-based services to forces in the field.
Having the 14th Air Force at Vandenberg Air Force, Calif., directly handle requests for satellite services is part of a wider restructuring that will divide many of Stratcom’s areas of responsibility into separate Joint Functional Component Commands, including one for space.
Stratcom’s headquarters, based at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb., will retain broad oversight and long-term planning responsibilities for space. Stratcom inherited these duties along with the space-support role when it absorbed U.S. Space Command in 2002.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Goslin, former vice commander of Stratcom, said the reorganization will eliminate two layers of bureaucracy from the process of requesting space-based services, such as communications or surveillance. Goslin granted Space News an interview at the National Space Symposium here April 6, when he was still serving in that capacity.
Traditionally, military forces needing satellite services would contact U.S. Space Command — later Stratcom — which would forward the request to Air Force Space Command, the operating organization for U.S. military space systems, according to U.S. Navy Capt Jamie Graybeal, chief of Stratcom public affairs . Air Force Space Command would then forward the request to the 14th Air Force, which handled the delivery of services like satellite communications to deployed forces , Graybeal said .
Under the new arrangement, the military services will go directly to the newly created Joint Space Operations Center hosted by the 14th Air Force at Vandenberg, according to Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, vice commander of Air Force Space Command. The Air Force, along with other military services, will continue to deploy space experts to battlefield areas, Leaf said during an April 4 interview at Air Force Space Command’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base here.
The Air Force has been conducting training exercises at the Joint Space Operations Center in recent months, and will continue to refine the center’s operations in upcoming exercises including the Joint Expeditionary Forces Experiment slated for later this year, Leaf said.
Although it will no longer directly be in the space support loop, Stratcom’s headquarters will retain its space advocacy, oversight and long-term planning role, Goslin said. Being relieved from some of its day-to-day operational responsibilities will enable Stratcom’s headquarters staff to focus more on big-picture strategic issues, he said.
Stratcom began planning for its reorganization about two years ago, and the effort has picked up steam over the past six months, Goslin said.
The Joint Space Operations Center is part of Stratcom’s new Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike, one of four functional commands established in March as part of the broader reorganization, Goslin said. There are now Joint Functional Component Commands for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.; network warfare at Fort Meade in Maryland ; and missile defense at Schriever Air Force Base here.
Many, though not all, of those functions will become Stratcom’s responsibility by virtue of its merger with U.S. Space Command. Space-based capabilities play a part in each of those activities and considerable cooperation among the Joint Functional Component Commands is expected, Goslin said.
Stratcom also might create a fifth Joint Functional Component Command in the near future focused on monitoring weapons of mass destruction, Goslin said. That mission likely will be handled primarily by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, he said.
Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, commander of Stratcom , met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff April 6 at the Pentagon to discuss the outlook for the reorganization, Goslin said.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee April 4, Cartwright described the Joint Functional Component Command structure as being “in its infancy.”
Continued work is needed to address issues including the proper distribution of subject matter experts and an assessment of the role that staff from allied militaries may play, Cartwright told the committee.