STRATCOM’s New NC3 Center Reaches First Milestone

A B-2 Spirit bomber, deployed from Whiteman AFB, Mo., is staged on the flightline at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Jan. 25, 2019. Air Force photo by SrA. Thomas Barley.

US Strategic Command’s Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications Enterprise Center (NEC) recently reached initial operational capability, the latest step toward restructuring and updating those assets under STRATCOM’s leadership.

The center will focus on sustaining current NC3 systems, designing and fielding their replacements in the next 10 years, and revamping operational-level force direction, management, and planning. Its establishment comes after STRATCOM chief Gen. John Hyten was named the operations official in charge of system requirements, engineering, and integration, a move meant to clarify the enterprise’s governance structure.

An “NC3 Governance Improvement Implementation Plan,” issued by the Defense Secretary, told STRATCOM to open the NEC, “establish program roles, and provide direction to partner government agencies,” the command said in an April 3 press release.

“The center was created to help break down stovepipes in NC3 operations across the Defense Department,” NEC director Elizabeth Durham-Ruiz said in the release. “We want to bring a whole-of-government approach to NC3 as we focus on operations, requirements, systems engineering and integration, and analytics for the entire enterprise.”

It is housed in STRATCOM’s headquarters building and was not affected by recent flooding that covered one-third of Offutt AFB, Neb., according to a command spokeswoman.

The Air Force owns most of the Defense Department’s NC3 systems that connect bombers, submarines, and nuclear missiles to their operators and the nation’s top decision-makers. STRATCOM’s center mirrors similar Air Force organizations that opened at Barksdale AFB, La., and Hanscom AFB, Mass., in the past few years to help the service better manage NC3.

“The NEC will improve current NC3 effectiveness and efficiency while defining future capability requirements,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Davis, STRATCOM’s global operations director, said in February. “The NEC will also establish core NC3 operational concepts as the basis for aligning the right mix of multidomain capabilities necessary to execute nuclear command-and-control missions and achieve our strategic defense objectives.”

Hyten recently told lawmakers his command is in the process of collecting and vetting industry and academia’s proposals for designing a new NC3 enterprise that were submitted in February. Those ideas will form the foundation for future system requirements.