SATCOM shift to Space Force stalled under CR
The U.S. Space Force’s plans to absorb all of the military’s satellite communications, including nearly 700 uniformed personnel from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, is delayed along with the rest of the military’s appropriation as Congress preps for a second continuing resolution in fiscal year 2022.
The U.S. Space Force’s plans to absorb all of the military’s satellite communications, including nearly 700 uniformed personnel from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, is delayed along with the rest of the military’s appropriation as Congress preps for a second continuing resolution in fiscal year 2022.
Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the Space Force’s deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear, said the groundwork to integrate the personnel has been done, and the plan is to start the transfer, along with the requisite budget and appropriations, in the coming months.
“We've set the groundwork for about 700 inter-service transfers,” Saltzman said during a virtual Mitchell Institute event on Nov. 29. “With those people, in several instances, comes a transfer of wideband SATCOM that the Army has had in the past, and the narrowband SATCOM that the Navy has run.”
Saltzman said the transfer, which is expected in the “next few months” once a fiscal year 2022 defense appropration is signed into law, will give the Space Force enterprise-level control of “all the military SATCOM under one service from the wideband, the protected SATCOM and of course, the narrowband...that's a first for the country and being able to manage it as an enterprise is going to be an important efficiency and effectiveness drill for the entire Department of Defense.”
The shift was originally planned for Oct. 1.
The federal government is currently funded through a continuing resolution set to expire this Friday. Lawmakers are expected to pass a new stopgap bill punting that funding deadline to the end of January 2022.
Saltzman said the Space Force is looking to make progress in training and readiness and aligning the necessary elements needed daily to support U.S. Space Command and other components.
“As we look at the threats and how it affects our mission set, we have to define the advanced training requirements of our crews, our operators, but also our support personnel, our mission planners, our engineers, our intelligence, so that they are ready to address a threat in a contested environment,” Saltzman said.
The Space Force is also looking to build out its operational test and training infrastructure to include simulators at the operational and tactical level “so that when these good ideas come from our guardians, we have the ability in a modeling and sim environment to validate the tactics,” such as maneuvering, and determine “Will this work in the domain, do the physics work?”
The Space Force has been wrestling with defining space operations readiness needs since its inception and launched its Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) in August to unify the new military service’s education, training, and test and evaluation units and has been preparing a New Force Generation model with the Air Force to map out its future warfighting needs by 2023.
“We really needed to relook at the way we presented our forces to the combatant commands, to free up the time and have the capacity to work through some of our readiness and training activities. And so we worked really hard on that over the last year,” Saltzman said.
In addition to training personnel to be able to handle the daily mission demands as well as those posed by adversarial threats, such as trying to take a satellite offline, the Space Force is focused on making existing and future architecture more resilient.
“The architecture that we have was largely designed for a benign environment,” he said. “it was all about getting the most out of the capabilities as possible. And we designed a very efficient architecture with regards to that. That's not a warfighting architecture.”
The Space Force, which stood up an analysis center to tackle the issue, is using modeling and simulation technology to assess existing architecture and consider trade offs regarding cost, orbit and mission, “putting digital twins into the modeling and simulation environment to see which ones are more promising, which ones might be produced at a lower cost....the way we're sharing that information with industry is going to create a powerful way for them to respond back.”
Saltzman also noted that the Space Force wants to collaborate more with industry, especially when it comes to buying commercially available technologies for non-military functions.
“I always talk about the fact that when I pick up a phone in the Pentagon, there's very little of that phone, telephonic architecture that we own as a military. Of course, we encrypt, and we have different networks. But there's a backbone out there that we pay for,” he said. “So where we can buy capability, even on a recurring basis, not in a surge capacity, I think we’ve got to give it real consideration.”
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