By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

The Defense Department will
proceed with the merger of U.S. Space Command and U.S.
Strategic Command, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
announced today.

The merger of the two unified commands is part of the Bush
administration push to transform the U.S. military to make
it more responsive and flexible. The new command is slated
for initial operational capability on Oct. 1, 2002.

The preferred location for the new, as-yet unnamed command
is Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Offutt is currently home of
Strategic Command. Space Command is based at Peterson Air
Force Base, Colo. DoD officials said some small number of
people would transfer from Peterson if the Offutt location
is approved.

Strategic Command is the command and control center for
U.S. nuclear forces. Space Command handles U.S. military
space operations, information operations, computer network
defense and space campaign planning.

President Bush has approved the plan. The new command “will
be responsible for both early warning of, and defense
against, missile attack as well as long-range conventional
attacks,” Rumsfeld said during a press briefing.

In April, Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced changes to
the Unified Command Plan that established U.S. Northern
Command and made other changes to boundaries and
responsibilities for combatant and unified commanders. At
the time, they said DoD was studying the merger of the two

Rumsfeld said the missions of the two commands have evolved
to the point where a merger into a single entity would
eliminate redundancies in the command structure and
streamline decision making.

Myers said he is “very comfortable” with the proposal. “The
merger should, and in my view, definitely will increase the
military effectiveness providing the appropriate support to
our combatant commanders around the world and, for that
matter, responsiveness to the president and to the
secretary of defense.”

Myers said other proposals — most notably the merger of
the new Northern Command with Southern Command — are being
looked at, but nothing is in the works now.

“We think overall on the Unified Command Plan we have taken
steps in the last six months, especially with the SPACECOM
and Strategic Command merger, we have made some very, very
big changes in the Unified Command Plan,” Myers said. “I
guess we’re thinking we probably ought to let this settle
out for a little bit before we tackle some more big

About 600 service members and 300 civilian employees are
currently at Space Command, while Strategic Command has
about 1,500 military and civilian employees.