U.S. Air Force to Return Some Space Training to SIDC

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BOSTON — In an effort to strengthen its focus on operational needs, the U.S. Air Force is preparing to overhaul the National Security Space Institute (NSSI) by divvying up its responsibilities for training officers and enlisted personnel on the uses of space systems, according to a service official involved with the effort.

The realignment of NSSI will split the organization’s courses between Air Force Space Command’s Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC) in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Air Education and Training Command, which is headquartered in San Antonio, according to Col. Robert Wright, SIDC director.

Taking over responsibility for these courses marks a return to the educational work of the SIDC’s predecessor organization, the Space Warfare Center, which had a mandate to help military officials in non-space posts understand the advantages that can come from satellite-based capabilities, Wright said in a Feb. 24 interview.

Air Force Space Command took much of the educational work that had been conducted at the Space Warfare Center and expanded it with the creation of the institute in 2004, he said.

The SIDC’s new responsibilities, which take effect in April, will include specialized training in satellite subsystems, deployment training for space operators, and space fundamentals for senior leaders, including officials from other services, other government agencies and select allied nations, Wright said.

“Frankly I look forward to taking back that [training] and making it more relevant to the warfighter,” Wright said.

The mix of active duty and reserve officials who taught the NSSI courses that the SIDC is taking over will now report to Wright under a new SIDC organization called the Advanced Space Operations and Training School, Wright said. Some of the SIDC’s existing staff will take on educational duties in addition to their current responsibilities that include overseeing space experimentation and wargames, Wright said.

The SIDC is expected to receive a boost to its budget next year to handle the educational work, Wright said. The organization’s budget had dipped from $75.6 million in 2008 to approximately $65 million in 2009, but the service is requesting about $74 million in 2010, he said.

The SIDC will also host a new facility under construction at Peterson Air Force Base to house its educational work as well as the courses that fall under Air Education and Training Command’s responsibility, he said.

The SIDC’s new educational work includes classroom instruction, hands-on application training, simulation exercises and facility tours. More than 1,000 people will take its courses.

The new facility, which is expected to cost approximately $20 million, is expected to be ready in 2012, and will replace the leased office space that is currently used to house the NSSI in
Colorado Springs, Wright said.

Air Education and Training Command already offers Space 100, an introduction to space operations and acquisition for junior-level personnel. As part of the realignment, command will offer its space courses under the NSSI moniker, and will add a Space 200 course, which offers a more in-depth examination of those issues, and Space 300, which is geared towards senior officials and focuses on strategic-level issues, in October.