USSPACECOM reaches full operational capability
Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander, declared the nation’s 11th and newest combatant command achieved full operational capability during a headquarters town hall on December 15.
“Since its establishment in 2019, USSPACECOM has been singularly focused on delivering exquisite capability to the joint force to deter conflict, defend our vital interests, and, if necessary, defeat aggression,” Dickinson said. “Thanks to the disciplined initiative of our people and the support of our joint, combined and partnered team, I can confidently say we have reached full operational capability.”
Dickinson made the announcement following an in-depth evaluation of the command’s capabilities, to include the ability to execute its mission on “our worst day, when we are needed the most,” he said.
That criteria included:
- Accomplishing the Unified Command Plan mission alongside global campaigning, exercising, and responding to crises.
- Having the right numbers of skills across the human capital.
- Having the infrastructure needed to support command and control across mission and business functions.
- Having the necessary command processes and functions in place.
- Being able to set the conditions and requirements for the future fight.
This announcement follows the preliminary declaration of Initial Operational Capability on Aug. 24, 2021.
“As the command has matured, challenges to a safe, secure, stable, and sustainable space domain have significantly increased,” Dickinson said. “Both the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation are fielding counter space capabilities designed to hold U.S., Allied and partner space assets at risk. And North Korea and Iran are in the early stages of developing their space enterprise.”
In addition to being competitive and contested, the domain has become increasingly congested with an increase in commercial activity, and the concern of space debris, which has increased by 76% since 2019 to 44,600 objects.
These unique challenges have motivated and focused the command to prepare to counter threats in, to, and from space. And over the last four years the command’s competence has been refined and validated through real-world events and exercise scenarios.
In 2019, the command rapidly established a 24/7 Joint Operations Center, the focal point for command and control of all friendly and threatening activities in the domain that also facilitates the flow of information needed to accomplish assigned missions. Since that time, the JOC has monitored, tracked, and reported a significant number of space activities, enabling timely notification of critical information for decisions by national leaders. Most notable being Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite missile test in November 2021 that generated more than 1,500 pieces of orbital debris and drew global condemnation for the long-lasting threat to the domain.
Additionally, the command completed the very first Secretary of Defense-approved operational plan for space and conducted its first 24/7 joint tier-1 exercise, in partnership with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which served as a major step in validating the headquarters staff as a ready, joint force. The command also spearheaded updates to space warfighting doctrine, Joint Doctrine Publication 3-14, Space Operations, helping to normalize space with other domains, aligning terms across the joint force, and codifying USSPACECOM’s AOR as “astrographic.” The publication also highlights the supporting relationship of USSPACECOM to the other combatant commands through the provision of space capabilities to protect and defend the joint force, and their supported relationship to USSPACECOM through defense of space capabilities in the cyber and terrestrial domains.
Today, in support of current global events, USSPACECOM provides combatant commanders with space capabilities in support of theater operations, including weather monitoring; space control; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; position, navigation and timing; satellite communications; and missile warning.
Although FOC declaration is an important milestone, it does not mean the command will stop developing capability or capacity. The command, like all others, will require additional resources to keep pace with competitors and evolving threats.
“Our work continues. As the complexity of the domain grows, so must our capability to deliver operational and strategic effects to our nation and preserve the safety and stability of the domain,” Dickinson said. “Thank you to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Air Force as our Combatant Command Support Agent, to Congress, and to our Colorado Springs community for their continued support of our mission and our service members and their families. I’m incredibly proud of the men and women of USSPACECOM for their commitment to ensure there is never a day without space.”
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