June 27, 2002
Defense secretary merges 2 of nation's combat commands
Move is second key reorganization
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced
his second major reorganization of the nation's combat
commands yesterday, merging the command that detects
missile attacks with the headquarters that controls the nuclear
The decision affects the U.S. Space Command, based in Colorado
Springs, Colo., and the U.S. Strategic Command, headquartered
at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
Merging the two headquarters follows the recent creation of the
Northern Command, which will be responsible for the military
aspects of homeland security.
Both new commands become effective Oct. 1.
The merged command, which has not been named, is expected
to be at Offutt, near Omaha, because the Northern Command will
be at Colorado Springs.
The merged command is expected to be led by Navy Adm.
James Ellis, the current strategic commander, because the Space
Command leader, Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhardt, will take over
the Northern Command.
The Space Command manages the military's satellites, including
the sophisticated space-based sensors that can detect missile
launches, and directs information and computer warfare
The Strategic Command controls the intercontinental range,
nuclear-armed missiles buried in hardened silos and those
carried on 18 ballistic-missile submarines, and the Air Force
bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Rumsfeld said the two commands will merge "into a single entity
that will be responsible for both early warning of and defense
against missile attack as well as long-range conventional strike."
That statement indicates that Rumsfeld intends to put a national
missile defense system, when it becomes operational, into the
new command, said retired Army Col. Dan Smith, a senior
analyst with the Center for Defense Information.
Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing, "The missions of SpaceCom
and StratCom have evolved to the point where merging the two
into a single entity will eliminate redundancies in the command
structure and streamline the decision-making process."
He said the merged command also would be responsible for
information operations, the effort to attack an enemy's
computer systems while defending U.S. cybernetworks against
Analyst Smith said the merger "essentially is going to reduce, a
little bit, the number of people" in the commands.
But he raised the question of the new command's relationship
with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or
NORAD, which has responsibility for using the Space Command's
warnings of an attack to alert the Strategic Command and the
civilian national leaders.
NORAD currently is under the Space Command and will become
part of the Northern Command.
Rumsfeld also has been considering merging the U.S. Southern
Command, which is responsible for military operations in
Central and South America, with the new Northern Command,
which oversees operations in Canada and Mexico as well as the
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, said merging the two commands was under consideration
and would be examined again because there might be some
benefit in looking at the Western Hemisphere as a whole.
But that merger was not being studied now because after the
"very, very big changes" already announced in the unified
commands, "we're thinking we probably ought to let this settle
out for a bit before we tackle some more big issues," Myers said.
Rumsfeld supported Myers' view, but added that merging the
two hemispheric commands makes sense because "any time
there is a seam, a line between two commands, there are things
that happen at that seam. And they can be difficult."