Space Planning Teams Grow Across Defense Department

U.S. Space Command now has a planning team embedded in “about seven” other combatant commands, spurring broader use of space assets in everyday operations, Gen. James H. Dickinson said Jan. 26.

That leaves only a few combatant commands without an integrated planning element for space, though the USSPACECOM boss did not say which ones have yet to stand up their own group.

The Defense Department has 10 combatant commands other than USSPACECOM, which directs the people and resources provided by the new Space Force and similar units around the world. The groups help ensure that each organization accounts for space assets like satellites and radars in their daily missions—what they can do, how they should be protected, and if they are available—as well as offering a line back to SPACECOM about how best to support those regional operations.

“We’re in the process of making sure each of the 10 combatant commands have that respective element,” Dickinson said at an event hosted by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Gen. James H. Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, speaks with retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, during a virtual Aerospace Nation Space Power Forum on Jan. 26, 2021.

Former SPACECOM commander Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, now head of the Space Force, told Congress in 2019 that U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and U.S. European Command had teams in place to “better synchronize space planning” for their own missions. A recent SPACECOM release noted that U.S. Southern Command has a planning element chief as well.

When Dickinson appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing last July, he said the existing teams had two or three people and would continue to grow. Each planning element is led by an officer at the O-6 level, he added: colonels in the Army, Air Force, Space Force, and Marine Corps, or a Navy captain.

It’s one way of further intertwining space into combat ops rather than seeing it as secondary to air, land, and sea power.

In addition to hosting a space planning team, U.S. Cyber Command is similarly offering its own cyber planners to SPACECOM as well.

“This will help us in our efforts to make sure that as we stand up U.S. Space Command, that we are implementing the cyber protection, cyber capabilities that we need to, right from the very beginning,” Dickinson said last year. “You have two domains where you don’t necessarily … see physically what’s going on in each of those domains, so our ability to work together is critical.”