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News | June 10, 2021

NSDC, JTF-SD foundational to protecting the space domain

By Jennifer Thibault Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs

The National Space Defense Center and its parent headquarters, the Joint Task Force-Space Defense — both with a mission to protect and defend national interests in the space domain — have come a long way since their high-profile beginnings almost six years ago.

The Department of Defense and intelligence community established the NSDC, originally called the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, in 2015 to create a unity of effort and facilitate information sharing across the national security space enterprise.

 “We provide a unity of effort working together with those disparate communities, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the National Reconnaissance Office and their representatives that sit on the National Space Defense Center floor,” said Col. Scott Brodeur, who is dual hatted as the JTF-SD director of operations and director of the NSDC. “We do the planning and the execution to protect and defend our critical space assets.”

Additionally, the center maintains vigilant watch on activities in space, warns against emerging threats and orchestrates U.S. counter-space operations.

“The NSDC has the advantage of pulling together, numerous different capabilities into one location,” Brodeur said. “There are numerous organizations that provide space domain awareness. The NSDC gathers information from the Intelligence Community, commercial companies (that we contract and partner) and all the sensors in the Department of Defense’s space surveillance network and fuses them to create an integrated sensor support plan.”

The organization also directs the command and control of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP. 

“As the ‘neighborhood watch’ of the GEO belt, GSSAP can characterize objects in space to a refined level allowing us to discriminate and characterize those objects,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Tom James, JTF-SD commander, said. “In doing so, we can identify competitors and provide threat-focused space domain awareness.” 

The JTF-SD was formally recognized in 2019 as a subordinate command to U.S. Space Command during a ceremony at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. 

“All joint task forces, from anti-piracy to space, operate in complex strategic environments,” said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, then-combatant commander, at the establishment ceremony. "The JTF is a “first-of-its-kind operational command established to protect and defend U.S., allied, partner and commercial assets and interests in space.”

The JTF-SD is a joint organization with an interagency center including representatives across the services working alongside NRO, intelligence community and commercial partners. In the 20 months since its establishment, the JTF-SD has seen increasing proliferation of and demand for on-orbit space capabilities in the domain it’s charged to protect.

“Today, even as potential adversaries continue their effort to achieve parity in space capability, they also employ asymmetric capabilities to deny us the advantages of space,” Army Gen. James Dickinson, current USSPACECOM commander, said in his testimony before the Senate in April. “The U.S. must continue to build resilience in the vital space capabilities the joint force requires to fight and win in space, as well as in the air, land, sea and cyber domains, while strengthening its space warfighting capability to counter these rising peer, near-peer and asymmetric threats."

Such warfighting capability provides a credible deterrent against belligerent actions in the space domain as part of a broader U.S. strategy for deterrence and defense," he added. 

“The JTF was established as a direct response to the actions of competitors like China and Russia that threaten our ability to maintain unfettered access to and freedom to operate in the space domain,” James said. “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence highlighted those threats, which include China and Russia’s fielding of antisatellite weapons to disrupt and degrade U.S. and allied space capabilities, in its annual threat assessment in April.”

In addition to its unprecedented unity of effort with the DoD, IC and NRO in the space domain, the JTF-SD integrates systems and capabilities to give the combatant command options to protect and defend national, allied and partner space assets.

“JTF-SD has a commercial cell right here in Colorado Springs that helps us bring in more space domain awareness capabilities,” Brodeur said. “We develop tactics, techniques and procedures to collect space domain awareness data and share it with the rest of our partners.”

USSPACECOM’s other subordinate command, the Combined Force Space Component Command, is located at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

“Everything we do at the JTF-SD is focused on our protect and defend mission,” James said. “But we are not alone. Our partner in these efforts is our fellow component. As JTF-SD conducts space superiority operations to deter aggression, defend capabilities and defeat adversaries throughout the continuum of conflict; CFSCC works to ensure space-based capabilities are integrated across the combatant commands and to communicate warnings to U.S. government satellite operators, our allies and the commercial sector and even our competitors; just as we do in the air and maritime domains. Together we support USSPACECOM to ensure there is never a ‘day without space.’”