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The Gazette February 11, 2005

Satellites shake up military thinking, prompt need for speedier decisions

By Tom Roeder

Satellites have created a perplexing problem for the military, and the commander who oversees much of the high-tech Air Force units in Colorado Springs wants to fix it.

Thanks to satellites, the military can gather information more quickly than high-level leaders can react to it, said Marine Gen. James Cartwright, head of the U.S. Strategic Command.

The solution is to speed up how the military makes big decisions, like how a target should be attacked, Cartwright said.

"It essentially forces the authority . . . down to where it needs to be," Cartwright told a Colorado Springs audience made up mostly of military brass and defense contractors Thursday.

Cartwright spoke at the Defending America/Space Comm 2005 Symposium at The Broadmoor hotel.

The general oversees most of the functions of Air Force Space Command and the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Colorado Springs.

One defense expert said the general's effort makes sense.

"It increases the probability that you will be leading from the front rather than leading from the rear," said John Pike, executive director of the think tank GlobalSecurity.org.

Changing the chain of command is needed to make sure the information gleaned from satellites is fully used, said Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, deputy commander of Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, another speaker at the symposium.

Instead of a pyramidshaped organizational chart where ideas filter through highly organized and time-consuming channels, Cartwright's system is more like an Internet chat room, where participants are judged on how much they can add to the discussion.

High-ranking officers are involved in the discussions from the start, instead of waiting for more junior officers to prepare lengthy arguments on why something should be done.

"If the decision-maker is the last one to have a say, he's had no influence on the answer," Cartwright said.

The general brought his management style to Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, where he started shrinking the chain of command as soon as he took over last year. The command staff was cut from 4,000 to 1,000 officers.


Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information