COLORADO SPRINGS — U.S. Space Command, a military combatant command responsible for operations in outer space, is seeking more funding and resources from the Pentagon to defend the nation’s spacecraft and fill growing demands for satellite services, the head of the command Gen. James Dickinson said April 18. 

“The command is putting out demand signals,” he said in a keynote speech at the 38th Space Symposium.

The development of so-called “initial capabilities documents,” or ICDs, has been a priority for the command since it was established in 2019, Dickinson said. Those documents lay out the “requirements and the capabilities that we need not only today, but in the future.” 

The ICDs are extensively reviewed by the Pentagon’s joint chiefs of staff and have to be validated so funding can be requested and justified in DoD budget proposals.  This is a complex task, Dickinson said, as they have to take into account global military needs for satellite services like communications, GPS navigation and early warnings of missile launches. These requirements documents also are shaped by security concerns driven by the proliferation of anti-satellite weapons. 

U.S. Space Command has to ensure DoD has access to all these services uninterrupted, said Dickinson. 

So far Space Command has submitted four ICDs and more are in the works, he said. The four documents focus on requirements for space domain awareness, space combat power, joint space command and control, and a joint space communications layer. 

The ICDs are “critical,” Dickinson said. “In order to get the funding, in order for the services to provide capabilities to us, they need to understand what our requirements are.”

Ukraine war demands

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the demand for space services has soared, he said.

As part of the United States’ support of NATO’s operations, Space Command has increased satellite communications services, said Dickinson. “We’ve provided more than an additional gigabyte of data to support communications across the European continent.” Since the beginning of the conflict, he said, Space Command has also provided more than 11,000 indications and warnings of missile launches to NATO allies and other partners. 

“We now have our first ever integrated plan for defending critical space assets and delivering space capabilities to the rest of the joint force,” he said. 

Having an integrated plan is significant, he said, because it formalizes the process for synchronizing operations with the Pentagon’s other combatant commands during contingencies. For example, it’s important for Space Command to coordinate operations with U.S. Cyber Command to make sure space assets and ground systems  are protected. 

Command growing, more allied agreements

U.S. Space Command is currently based at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado. Dickinson said the command is close to reaching its staffing goals, with more than 1,200 military personnel and civilians assigned to it. That includes several members of allied military forces.  

Much larger workforces are located at Space Command’s operational field units at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado; and at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. At these locations, military leaders work with foreign allies, civilians and private contractors monitoring space objects and identifying potential threats.

International collaboration is essential for space security because no one country can handle the enormous demand for data and intelligence about the space domain, he said. U.S. Space Command has signed 169 space situational awareness data sharing agreements. Of those, 33 are with nations and international organizations, 129 with commercial companies and seven with universities. 

Separately the command has signed “enhanced space cooperation” agreements with the U.S. closest allies, the United Kingdom and Canada. On April 20, the command will announce a new enhanced space cooperation pact with Australia.

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...