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Strategic, Space Commands to Merge

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2002 -- The Defense Department will proceed with the merger of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced today.

The merger of the two unified commands is part of the Bush administration push to transform the U.S. military to make it more responsive and flexible. The new command is slated for initial operational capability on Oct. 1, 2002.

The preferred location for the new, as-yet unnamed command is Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Offutt is currently home of Strategic Command. Space Command is based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. DoD officials said some small number of people would transfer from Peterson if the Offutt location is approved.

Strategic Command is the command and control center for U.S. nuclear forces. Space Command handles U.S. military space operations, information operations, computer network defense and space campaign planning.

President Bush has approved the plan. The new command "will be responsible for both early warning of, and defense against, missile attack as well as long-range conventional attacks," Rumsfeld said during a press briefing.

In April, Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced changes to the Unified Command Plan that established U.S. Northern Command and made other changes to boundaries and responsibilities for combatant and unified commanders. At the time, they said DoD was studying the merger of the two commands.

Rumsfeld said the missions of the two commands have evolved to the point where a merger into a single entity would eliminate redundancies in the command structure and streamline decision making.

Myers said he is "very comfortable" with the proposal. "The merger should, and in my view, definitely will increase the military effectiveness providing the appropriate support to our combatant commanders around the world and, for that matter, responsiveness to the president and to the secretary of defense."

Myers said other proposals -- most notably the merger of the new Northern Command with Southern Command -- are being looked at, but nothing is in the works now.

"We think overall on the Unified Command Plan we have taken steps in the last six months, especially with the SPACECOM and Strategic Command merger, we have made some very, very big changes in the Unified Command Plan," Myers said. "I guess we're thinking we probably ought to let this settle out for a little bit before we tackle some more big issues."

About 600 service members and 300 civilian employees are currently at Space Command, while Strategic Command has about 1,500 military and civilian employees.

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