USSPACECOM And Space Warfighting

In my last article, the establishment of the United States Space Force (USSF) was the focus. Shifting now to the warfighting domain of space, I’ll turn to the establishment (re-establishment, actually) of United States Space Command (USSPACECOM).

First, to reduce any confusion between USSPACECOM and the US Space Force: Why do we need both? Keeping it simple: The USSF is an independent military service, similar to the Army, Navy, and Air Force that organizes, trains, and equips forces to support operations in the space domain. USSPACECOM is a combatant command similar to CENTCOM or PACOM that engages in combat operations.

Long before the discussions on the establishment of the USSF, government, civilian, and military strategists were driving the reestablishment of a Space Combatant Command: USSPACECOM. This reactivation was a vital first step in the recognition of the Space Warfighting Domain—and the importance of our ability to operate in, through, and to space, as well as support the National Defense Strategy of the United States. Activation of the new Command required significant changes to the Presidentially approved Unified Command Plan (UCP).

Back in 1985, when USSPACECOM was first stood up, the United States was operating in a Cold War environment. The Space Domain was a new operating medium focused on technology improvements and new on-orbit systems. The goal was to improve mission effectiveness, and work progressed on both innovation and digital implementation.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, caused a total to refocus on different missions—homeland defense and pursuit of the terrorists that attacked the United States. This refocus drove a full restructure of the U.S. Combatant Commands and USSPACECOM was deactivated in support of other higher priorities. The long period between 2001 and 2019 had us focused on this protection mission, counterterrorism, and preventing further attacks on the United States and its Allies. Unfortunately, this focus allowed our international adversaries to seize the initiative and take control of the Space Domain while we were protecting ourselves.

The last ten years have seen a proliferation of adversary space systems—and removed any fighting edge we may have had in the early 1990s. We were also constrained during this time: The term Space Warfighting Domain was not allowed in policy or war-planning discussions, for fear of igniting a Cold War in Space. We are still a robust spacefaring nation but have lost ground in the accelerating technology race with our adversaries; space continues to remain a very challenging environment. The first step in addressing these issues came from the White House’s National Space Council in late 2018, announcing the establishment of USSPACECOM as a Unified Combatant Command, and the second in further defining the space warfighting domain in 2019 with Space Policy Directive-4.

Both of these actions refocused the attention on the Space Domain that had been lacking for the previous ten-plus years. Congress proceeded with the confirmation process of General Jay Raymond, USAF, as the Commander of USSPACECOM, and supported the update and modification of the Unified Command Plan (UCP). The UCP approval and confirmation occurred in June 2019, with the formal activation of USSPACECOM occurring on August 29, 2019.

The Command

Overview And Leadership:

USSPACECOM is the newest of the eleven unified commands in the Department of Defense (DoD). It increases the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence, reduces decision timelines for space operations, and brings focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space. Establishing USSPACECOM was a critical step in acknowledging the importance of space to vital U.S. interests and in accelerating the ability of the Joint Force to defend these interests and deter adversaries. While it is temporarily headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, with additional personnel and functions at Schriever AFB, Colorado, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, and Vandenberg AFB, California, a future permanent location is being considered.

The USSPACECOM mission is to deter aggression and conflict, defend U.S. and allied freedom of action, deliver space combat power for the Joint/Combined force, and develop joint warfighters to advance U.S. and allied interests in, from, and through the Space Domain. This warfighting mission is accomplished by focusing on four specific mission areas:

Deterring Aggression/Conflict:

USSPACECOM strengthens national deterrence through the provision of space warfighting options to preserve the U.S. and allied competitive advantage, promote security and stability.

Defending U.S./Allied Interests:

If deterrence fails, USSPACECOM, in coordination with allied and joint force commanders and inter-agency partners, will lead the protection and defense of our combined interests in the space domain.

Delivering Space Combat Power:

USSPACECOM will preserve and expand space combat power enabling joint and combined force success.

Developing Ready And Lethal Joint Warfighters:

USSPACECOM will improve the development of joint space operations forces and capabilities to enhance space warfighting readiness and lethality while accelerating the integration of space capabilities into other warfighting forces.

Important To Mention Are Two Subordinate Commands Within USSPACECOM:

The Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) and Joint Task Force Space Defense (JTF-SD). The CFSCC plans, integrates, conducts, and assesses global space operations in order to deliver combat relevant space capabilities to Combatant Commanders, Coalition partners, the Joint Force, and the Nation. The JTF-SD conducts, in unified action with mission partners, space superiority operations to deter aggression, defend U.S. and Allied interests, and defeat adversaries throughout the continuum of conflict.

One key relationship, not often addressed when discussing USSPACECOM, is its interactions with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The NRO is one of the 17 agencies making up the Intelligence Community (IC). The NRO has been successful in designing, building, and operating the Nation’s space intelligence assets, and has a long and close relationship with the DoD. Integration of the NRO and its Speed-to-Orbit abilities was discussed, and a more formalized integration and cooperation approach was developed before the USSPACECOM formal activation. The IC and the DoD agreed to align USSPACECOM and the NRO, utilizing a new unified defense concept of operations at the National Space Defense Center (NSDC), which became a center of gravity for defending our vital interests in space. This unified structure fully integrates IC and DoD space defense plans, authorities, and capabilities to ensure the seamless execution of space defense systems. If any conflict extends into the space domain, the NRO will take direction from the Commander of USSPACECOM and execute defensive operations based on a jointly developed playbook, informed by a series of exercises and war games. Both General Raymond and the current NRO Director, Chris Scolese, have cemented this relationship and continue an open dialogue on improving mission operations and cooperation.  

Space Is A Critical Contributor To The Success Of The United States:

Economically, informationally, and militarily there is a bright future for Parsons if we continue the pursuit of excellence in the Space Warfighting Domain—Go Boldly!

Parsons And The United States Space Command

Why Parsons? We’re different and in pursuit of a better way to get the mission accomplished. Across our Federal and Critical Infrastructure business units. We have been impacting the National Defense Strategy for over Seventy-Five Years. Our customers know our contributions and we have been delivering value through scalable, fast, disruptive solutions to our customers’ most complex defense, intelligence, and critical infrastructure challenges. We provide deep domain expertise to develop solutions both for now and for the future, as well as apply our exceptional technology capabilities to stay ahead of the competition and our customers’ needs. Finally, we bring everything together with an unmatched cybersecurity toolset. These qualifications help to present a formidable solution for the United States Space Command. Our present work in space spans from Small Satellite Launch Integration to Payload Development, as well as Space Cyber & EW Resiliency. We are key providers of Space Domain Awareness and are contributing to the future of Space Security and Defense.

We are the “go-to” team that the new Combatant Command needs—and every member of our team can “Go Boldly” to support the newest warfighting command in the United States.

This journey will continue—look for future articles on the Space Domain and other mission areas where the Parsons team is providing warfighting innovative solutions.  

About The Author

John “J.R.” Riordan is former Senior Vice President of Business Development for our Space and Geospatial Solutions market. J.R.’s previous experience includes the Senate Armed Services Committee where he led the Congressional establishment of the United States Space Force. A proven military strategist, policy expert, and business executive whose knowledge of the defense and political environments advances our growth in the federal market. He currently leads the account management, business development, and customer engagement of the company’s space portfolio for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community.

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