Military leaders, active-duty personnel and civilian partners gathered at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday morning for the unveiling of a new command at the base that is expected to play a significant role in the United States' defense efforts beyond Earth.
The Combined Force Space Component Command was formally established during an hourlong ceremony at the base that also included the unfurling of the command’s new flag and the assumption of command by Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, who will lead the unit. The Combined Force Space Component Command, which will have branches at three other military installations, will serve under the recently established U.S. Space Command.
“I’ve watched the maturity of space operations here at Vandenberg up close for many years, and the next stage of growth is without a doubt the most significant in joint and combined force history,” Whiting said during the ceremony.
The establishment of the Combined Force Space Component Command is unrelated to the U.S. Space Force that has been proposed by President Donald Trump as the nation's sixth military branch.
The Combined Force Space Component Command, which will be headquartered at VAFB, has a stated mission to “plan, integrate, conduct, and assess global space operations in order to deliver combat relevant space capabilities to combatant commanders, coalition partners, the joint force and the nation.”
This year, Lompoc city leaders helped jump-start a conversation that not only could lead to the annual plover restrictions — and occasional closures — at Surf Beach becoming a thing of the past, but that could also lead to the construction of a new boardwalk, the reopening of the estuary at Ocean Park for various watersports and activities, and the return of recreational fishing at the beach.
At VAFB, that work will take place at the Combined Space Operations Center that was established in 2018 with partners from allied nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
Other installations that will have a major role in the Combined Force Space Component Command include the Missile Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado; the Joint Overhead Persistent Infrared Center at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado; and the Joint Navigation Warfare Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Gen. John Raymond was named the commander of the new U.S. Space Command by President Trump during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in late August. Although more than a month had passed since that public acknowledgement of the U.S. Space Command and its Combined Force Space Component Command, Raymond said Tuesday that it was important to have a ceremony at VAFB, particularly with the servicemen and women, including those from allied nations, in attendance.
“The way I describe it is like we went to the justice of the peace and made it official, and now we’re back for the church service in front of family and friends,” he said.
He then turned his attention to the military personnel and civilian partners in attendance and told them directly: “This is your organization — you’re the ones that are going to make this organization soar to even greater heights than it is today.”
Raymond said the goals of the new command can be described by four Ds:
- Deter aggression;
- Defend space capabilities;
- Deliver those space capabilities; and
- Develop ready and lethal space forces.
Raymond noted that other countries and forces have in recent years ramped up efforts to catch up to the U.S. when it comes to space capabilities. Those potential adversaries, he said, are growing both economically and militarily and have their sights set on taking away the advantages that the U.S. and its allies enjoy in space.
The U.S. military's space operations are headed by two White House cabinet positions, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Fo…
“Today we send them a very strong message … that they’re not going to succeed,” Raymond said. “Today is a huge step forward to preserving the advantages of space for every American, for every citizen of our allied nations — we are the best in space, and today, with our partners, we’re even better.”
Raymond noted that the U.S. does not necessarily want to engage in warfare in space. The country would like to prevent that, he said.
But, he added, “if deterrence fails, we cannot assume that U.S. and allies’ space superiority is a given. This national imperative demands that we be prepared to fight and win. … Our national security depends on it.”
Whiting, whose office will be at VAFB, said after the ceremony that it “remains to be seen” if the new restructuring will lead to more personnel being stationed at VAFB. He noted, however, that “some of our key allied partners, like the United Kingdom, have already agreed to send additional people here, so we’re going to see more international presence and then over time we’ll see if it brings in additional U.S. military presence.”
Whiting, who is also the commander of the 14th Air Force at VAFB, said he was excited for the future and to remain on the Central Coast.
“American dominance in space has never been surpassed — and never will be,” he said.
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.
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