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News | Aug. 24, 2021

USSPACECOM declares Initial Operational Capability

By U.S. Space Command Public Affairs Office

Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander, declared the nation’s 11th combatant command achieved initial operational capability Aug. 24, 2021.

“The rich space operations legacy of U.S. Strategic Command and its largest component, Air Force Space Command, meant that when our combatant command was established two years ago, we weren’t starting on the launch pad,” Dickinson said. “However, we are a very different command today at IOC then we were at stand-up in 2019 — having matured and grown into a warfighting force, prepared to address threats from competition to conflict in space, while also protecting and defending our interests in this vast and complex domain.”

During the past two years, USSPACECOM accomplished multiple milestones on the path to IOC with a focus on building the command to compete and win.

Milestones include:

  • Received assigned components from five military services to USSPACECOM
  • Stood-up two functional components (Combined Forces Space Component Command and Joint Task Force-Space Defense) to deliver combat relevant space capabilities to the Joint fight, and to conduct space superiority operations to deter conflict, defend U.S. and allied interests and defeat adversaries throughout the continuum of conflict
  • Established and built USSPACECOM headquarters command and control capabilities with 600 space professionals, and growing
  • Published the Command Vision and Strategy documents, which provides the framework for the command’s mission execution
  • Signed the first USSPACECOM operations order under Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER
  • Executed USSPACECOM’s role in multiple, national-level Tier 1 war games, war fighting rehearsals and exercises to  test and refine space warfighting command and control relationships  
  • Established USSPACECOM Tier 1 exercises — Space Thunder, Lightning and Challenge — to align with other combatant command exercises
  • Added to the more than 100 space operations-related data sharing agreements with international, intergovernmental and commercial partners

“Simply put — U.S. Space Command is ready to deter conflict, and if necessary, defeat aggression and, along with allies and partners, defend our vital interests in the space domain,” Dickinson said.

The command’s focus now shifts to achieving full operational capability. Looking ahead, FOC will require the headquarters be fully staffed, establishing a permanent headquarters and approving an OPLAN and updated campaign plan.  

Also, USSPACECOM will look to define criteria for “Tenets of Responsible Behaviors” for military operations in space, in accordance with the recently released Secretary of Defense memo.

“In the same way our command has matured and grown during the last two years, so has the threat,” said Space Force Lt. Gen. John Shaw, USSPACECOM deputy commander. "The Department of Defense must lead by example — committing to promote responsible behavior for military space operations in order to assure the space domain remains secure, stable, sustainable and accessible.”

The memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin charged USSPACECOM with developing and coordinating guidance regarding five tenets of responsible behavior in space. The tenets of responsible military behavior include:

  • Operating in, from, to and through space with due regard to others and in a professional manner
  • Limiting the generation of long-lived debris
  • Avoiding the creation of harmful interference
  • Maintaining safe separation and trajectory
  • Communicating and making notifications to enhance the safety and stability of the domain

Dickinson explained developing a shared understanding among space-faring nations of what constitutes safe and responsible military space operations can contribute to the U.S. whole-of-government approach to creating a more stable and predictable space environment by reducing the risk of miscommunication and misinterpretation.

“These tenets represent a first step in ensuring the ability of all space-faring nations to operate freely and openly in space,” he said.

Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, USSPACECOM command senior enlisted leader, attributed achieving IOC to the people of the command and its service and functional components.

“One of the biggest differences between the old space command and the new space command is the warfighting ethos of our people,” Stalker said. “The baseline capabilities of our people make us strong — but our cultural commitment to a diverse and joint approach to USSPACECOM operations make us more lethal and effective warfighters.”