Spacecom upgrades for the future

The U.S. Space Command is planning a massive $1.8 billion upgrade project for the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, Colorado Springs, Colo., that will lay the systems integration groundwork for a future national missile defense system.

Industry sources expect the command to issue a solicitation in July for the Integrated Space Command and Control (ISC2) contract to provide hardware and software upgrades, future communications architecture planning and various information technology services to the Cheyenne Mountain complex, the location of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) network operations center. The contract is expected to be awarded in February 2000 and will span 15 years.

Known as the "Mountain," the Cheyenne Mountain complex collects data from a worldwide network of satellites, radar systems and other sensors and processes that data on sophisticated computer systems to warn of ballistic nuclear missile or air attacks against North America. In addition, the center will be the focal point for command and control of the Defense Department's future National Missile Defense program to intercept and destroy incoming missiles before they reach the United States.

"We have developed an NMD concept of operations with a key assumption being [that] NMD would be a logical extension of NORAD's North American aerospace warning and control mission," said Gen. Richard Myers, commander in chief of Spacecom, during a recent hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Military Space Programs. "Centralized command and control will be handled at the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center with the NMD site [in Alaska] as a backup."

Lt. Col. Mark Cerise, Spacecom's ISC2 program manager, said ISC2 is part of Spacecom's "vision of [building] an integrated command and control system with fewer stovepipe command and control centers." The program's objectives include migrating the current baseline of C2 systems to a more standards-based environment, reducing the total cost of ownership and designing an infrastructure that is flexible enough to support future missions, such as NMD.

"[NORAD and Spacecom] can't afford any lapses in mission integrity," Cerise said. Carrying out ISC2 will be like "changing an engine on an airplane in flight," he said. In addition, Cerise said the winner of ISC2 will have to work "seamlessly" with Boeing Co., the lead systems integrator for NMD, in order to pull off the NMD vision.

The issue of developing and fielding an NMD system, hotly debated since the early days of the Reagan administration, recently took shape once again after Congress last month overwhelmingly voted to commit the United States to fielding a NMD system "as soon as technologically possible." Although DOD's current plans do not call for a decision on whether to move forward with fielding a system until June 2000, many believe the ISC2 contract is the first step toward preparing DOD's command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) infrastructure for the NMD mission.

"The team that wins this is going to be very important for a long time in the NORAD community," said Ken Moore, the ISC2 business development manager for TRW Inc.

Vendors noted that the reliability and integration requirements of the system will present an immense challenge for contractors. "They want to modernize and integrate the air and missile defenses and the space battle management applications [in such a way] that they minimize risk while capturing cost savings," said Tony Manganello, Litton/PRC Inc.'s capture manager for ISC2. "It's never easy to integrate systems that have always led stovepiped existences."

One of the main challenges facing the team that wins the ISC2 contract is developing and migrating the Battle Management C3I software into a tool mature enough to handle the future NMD mission. The failure last week of the Navy's Theater High Altitude Area Defense missile to intercept an incoming missile during a test flight underscores the difficulty of designing an end-to-end system capable of identifying, tracking and killing incoming missiles equipped with multiple nuclear warheads.

According to Moore, the NMD and ISC2 efforts must be tightly integrated to achieve the nation's missile defense goals. He noted that there may be more than 30 stovepipe systems in the Cheyenne Mountain complex that run the full gamut of operating systems and machine language code.

Thad Madden, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp., characterized the ISC2 effort as "combining the command and control mission of NORAD and Spacecom into a single command and control program." He said it underscores the importance of space systems to the future national military strategy.

"This program will set parameters for how space will be used in future conflicts and is going to require large-scale integration and command and control experience," Madden said.

However, some experts do not see the C3I integration issues as major obstacles to eventually fielding an NMD system. "I don't see any particular C3I or integration challenge," said Allen Thomson, a former CIA analyst specializing in satellite systems. "My concern is that the baseline threat is [being] highly tailored to make the NMD feasible."

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