The Air Force Space Command (SPACECOM) is readying itself to take on an increased
role in the war on terrorism, said Air Force Gen. Lance Lord.
“We’ve got space guys hunched over laptop computers, you’ve
got them integrated into what is going on day to day,” said Lord, the
commander of SPACECOM, at Peterson Air Force Base, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“The military center of gravity is emerging in space,” he told
defense reporters. Lord is the first SPACECOM commander who is not a “three-hatted
commander,” also in charge of Northern Command (NORAD), and United States
Space Command (USSPACECOM). In April 2002, the Pentagon made Air Force SPACECOM
a separate four-star combatant command, distinct from the commanders of US Space
Command and NORAD. Though NORAD is still based at Peterson Air Force Base, USSPACECOM
was absorbed into Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which is based at Offutt Air
Force Base in Nebraska.
Lord said that two of his priorities are to organize and train space forces,
and to support the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Defense program.
“We want to get beyond what we are doing right now, which is tracking
objects in space, to space-based space surveillance. It is easier to look at
space from space than it is to look through the Earth’s atmosphere,”
He noted that the nation’s communications satellites will be in adequate
shape to support a possible conflict with Iraq. “We’ve worked hard
as a force provider and force enabler with our friend [Air Force Lt. Gen.] Harry
Raduege, who runs the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Harry has worked
hard to make sure that we have the kind of connectivity to enable and provide
the linkages in satellite communications. We are ready to support not only what
is going on, operationally, now, but what, if the president chooses, to take
action on in the future. And those communications are prepared and ready to
go,” he said.
SPACECOM, Lord said, is part of every service chief’s area of responsibility,
“because every combatant commander needs space.”
Lord said it was important for space technologies to be allowed to mature.
“First off, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a solid operational
concept,” he said. But sometimes concepts need time to fully develop,
he said. When the technology is identified and it is at the right maturity level,
then “we can move on,” Lord said. “Then it is a matter of
devoting the resources.”