HUNTSVILLE, ALA.: The new Intelligence Community-military space operations center the military is creating may replace the long-established JSPOC, two top commanders said, but a lot has to happen first. The nascent JICSPOC — Joint, Interagency, & Coalition Space Operations Center — will start as an experiment before potentially becoming a backup to JSPOC and then one day, maybe, taking over from it.
JIPSOC is being created at the direction of Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. Its objective: to improve the sharing of data between the IC and the military and to help counter rising Russian and Chinese threats to US satellites and space-based systems. By bringing together intelligence agencies and foreign allies alongside the military services, it will act as a “JSPOC on steroids,” said Lt. Gen. David Mann, the chief of Army Space & Missile Defense Command.
“It really allows us to be more responsive to the warfighter and to more effectively and in a more timely manner respond to potential threats, whether it’s jamming, spoofing, whatever it may be,” Mann told reporters at the Space & Missile Defense conference here. Sure, the existing JSPOC can address these dangers too, but without having other US agencies fully involved, he said, “you’re not fully exploiting all the other efforts that are out there.”
If the new ops center will be so much more capable than the existing one, asked one journalist, then why shouldn’t JIPSOC be the primary control site?
“It may evolve into that, over time. I don’t know. It possibly could,” Mann said, emphasizing that he can’t speak for Air Force Space Command on the matter. “This is something that was recently directed by the DepSecDef, very, very recently.”
Adm. Cecil Haney, chief of Strategic Command, added some detail. “Secretary Work mentioned the fact that ultimately it [the new JICSPOC] could be the backup for the JSPOC,” Haney said. That may or may not happen, he cautioned. For the JICSPOC, he said, “first and foremost is to figure out how we can take this operational concept, expand upon it…. so we can really protect our ability to support the warfighter.”
“The JSPOC that we have right now is a very established operations center,” he went on, so you don’t want “to stop immediately and go straight to a JICSPOC [as the primary control]. You probably have to wait for it to evolve.”
For now, the new ops center’s primary mission is experimentation, said Haney. While the new center dedicates itself to figuring out how to fight new threats to space, someone has to keep doing the existing center’s day-to-day job as (in essence) space traffic control.
“We have to be able to experiment and work our way through various vignettes,” Haney told reporters, “so we can make better investments” against threats ranging from GPS jamming to ground-based lasers. “At the same time. we still have this responsibility for being able to avoid collisions in space. [There are] agreements we have for sharing information with a number of nations, a number of commercial entities: That work still has to go on.”