26 Jun 02. The Pentagon will merge the nation’s missile attack warning network and the military’s forces that can launch long-range strikes at suspected nuclear, chemical and biological arms sites, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday.
He said President George W. Bush approved the plan to merge the U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command into a new single command responsible for both early warning and defense against missile attack, as well as long-range U.S. attack.
Headquarters of the new command will be at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where the Strategic Command is now located, Rumsfeld told reporters. He said Bush would soon nominate a commander for the unit.
Defense officials told Reuters on Tuesday that combining Space Command and its warning satellites with Strategic Command’s bombers and missiles would fit into Bush’s planned new doctrine allowing pre-emptive strikes against states and groups seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. military currently has nearly a dozen such major commands worldwide. They are responsible for large geographical areas and issues including homeland defense.
“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,” Rumsfeld said, adding the move would also save money.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference with Rumsfeld that he was satisfied with the latest major change in the U.S. military’s “transformation” into a leaner and more mobile force for the 21st century.
“I’m very comfortable with this new structure that we are creating,” Myers said. “The merger should, and in my view definitely will, increase military
Myers said Pentagon leaders had also discussed the possibility of merging the new Northern Command — which will be in charge of the military homeland defense of the United States – and the Southern Command, which is charged with U.S. military operations in Latin America.
He said any such new merger was not expected immediately.
The new command has not yet been given a name, but officials said it would likely be headed by Navy Adm. James Ellis, the current head of Strategic Command.
The Strategic Command oversees the U.S. arsenal of nuclear missiles, which can be fired from submarines, long-range bombers or from underground silos.
The Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, headed by Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart, is responsible for overseeing dozens of satellites and ground sensors that warn the military of missile launchings around the globe.