Schriever embarks on Phase 1 of IOE
By Scott Prater
Leadership here is beginning to implement a fundamental change in the way the host wing performs its mission.
The initial three-year phase of transforming nine operations centers into one all-encompassing operations center started when the concept was developed in October of 2008. But, the new Integrated Operations Environment will be comprised of more than just walls, desks, computers and communications equipment; it represents a fundamental transformation in the way satellite command-and-control systems and network operations will function at Schriever.
The key initial phase involves the design and construction of a new 20,000 square-foot IOE. Right now, the IOE is slated to occupy modules 18 and 20 on the third floor of building 400. That space is currently occupied by the 3rd Space Operations Squadron’s operations floor.
“The first part of phase 1 will be to relocate those folks, and that will probably take us out to the end of the year,” said Maj. Francois Roy, 50th Operations Group wing integrated operations chief. “Then we’ll basically renovate the entire space and move personnel, workstations and terminals from the individual space and network operation centers to the IOE.”
The new IOE will include a conference room capable of holding 109 people, video telecommunications displays, to communicate with the Joint Space Operations Center and other essential organizations, the center of the operations floor (where crew leadership will reside) and concentric rings from which the mission of the space and network operations squadrons will be conducted.
Airmen have conducted the satellite and network operations mission here for nearly 25 years, so why do Air Force leaders believe a fundamental operational shift is necessary?
The 50th Space Wing’s satellite fleet is growing. The wing may have six additional satellite systems online by 2010, and the total number could potentially approach 15 in the years ahead, according to Major Roy. The wing supports eight different command and control systems as well as five separate antenna programs. And, it is currently operating nine different space operation centers, while each satellite operations system is independently monitored, tasked and controlled.
“On Dec. 23, 2008, Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander, Air Force Space Command, sent out a letter of intent stating we need to rethink the way we perform satellite operations,” Major Roy said. “He indicated that we need to reduce duplication, improve interoperability and integrate all of our functions at all levels. In essence, we need a common interoperable command and control system.”
General Kehler indicated that the current infrastructure is stovepiped, which limits integration within or across the various constellations. The Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communication System, Wideband Global Satellite Communication System and Milstar satellites all have dedicated and separate command and control systems.
“What we’re looking for is to create common look and feel displays so that regardless of what satellite system you operate, you can jump on and basically understand the functionality of any of the ground systems,” he said.
Major Roy compared the common look-and-feel concept to renting a car.
“You jump in and you already know how to operate that car because it has a common look and feel,” he said. “It may take a short time to learn where the turn signals and the headlights are, but you understand how to operate it nonetheless – and that’s what we’re looking for with an interoperable command and control system.”
The path to an integrated operations environment will be paved through a three-phase implementation plan. During Phase 2, which is slated to begin during 2012 and cover a two-year span, the wing anticipates inviting its joint partners, such as the 53rd Signal Battalion and NAVSOC, to join the IOE. Phase 3 (2014 and beyond) will involve the implementation of an interoperable command and control system, which will be developed by the Space and Missile Systems Center.
“The timing for implementing this transformation is very good,” Major Roy said. “Brig. Gen. John Hyten, AFSPC director of requirements, is providing a roadmap of where we are and how we get to the vision that General Kehler desires. Everybody is moving toward that goal and the Space and Missile Center is now looking at how to integrate the various stovepiped command and control systems.”
Once the IOE becomes fully operational, it will replace the eight command and control centers currently functioning at Schriever. Airmen who now focus specifically on operating one satellite will soon become proficient at operating multiple satellites under the control of the 50th Space Wing. And, systems will be fully integrated to provide interoperability, better efficiency and effectiveness.
For satellite operators at Schriever, the change represents significantly more than a bricks-and-mortar move.
“For your operators out there, there is definitely going to be a culture change in the way they normally do business,” Major Roy said. “Right now, they come to work, they sit down, and over a course of eight hours they’ll do a number of various satellite supports. But, we’re working toward where we get away from that routine tracking, telemetry and control mission and move toward a construct where we’re actually providing space effects to the warfighter. We’re thinking in that terminology and not just sending a command to a satellite then waiting for a response to come back.”