IG berates Space Command

“SPACECOM may be unable to
fully execute its mission.”


The Defense Department’s growing reliance on space-based information systems could
be compromised if the U.S. Space Command doesn’t get a handle on its year 2000
problem, the DOD inspector general said.


SPACECOM, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and its component commands haven’t
taken steps to minimize the impact bad date code could have on their mission-critical
systems, the IG said in an audit last month.


“Unless SPACECOM, along with the Joint Staff, the services, and the Defense
agencies make further progress on mitigating Y2K risks, SPACECOM may be unable to fully
execute its mission without undue disruption,” said the report, U.S. Space Command
Year 2000 Issues.


But a SPACECOM official said 90 percent of its systems meet the milestones of the DOD
five-year plan. He agreed, however, to follow the IG’s recommendations.


SPACECOM, one of nine unified DOD commands, conducts joint space operations and
provides North America with early warning of ballistic missile attacks.


SPACECOM performs its missions through three component commands: the Army Space
Command, Naval Space Command and Air Force Space Command.


Air Force Space Command runs about 95 percent of the information systems that SPACECOM
uses, including the Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment network. The network
obtains and transmits data from radars and sensors throughout the North American Air
Defense Command and SPACECOM, the IG said.


SPACECOM officials, however, haven’t compiled a complete list of mission-critical
systems the command and other services and organizations manage. As of March, the command
had identified only six mission-critical systems, the IG said.


NORAD, which has the job of safeguarding U.S. and Canadian airspace, is one of
SPACECOM’s most important customers. SPACECOM supports NORAD by providing missile
warning, space control, communication and intelligence data. The data supports the
NORAD/SPACECOM Combined Command Center in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center near
Colorado Springs, Colo.


The CMOC, with an annual budget of $175 million, is divided into four work centers: the
Combined Command Center, Air Operations Center, Missile Warning Center and Space Control
Center.


The Combined Command Center acts as the hub for the centers. It forwards critical data
from the centers to the U.S. president and the Canadian prime minister.


The Air Operations Center constantly surveys North American airspace, tracking more
than 2.5 million aircraft every year.


The Missile Warning Center detects missile launches around the world and determines
their level of threat using satellites.


The Space Control Center detects, identifies and tracks objects in space to prevent
collisions between space debris, spacecraft and satellites.


But staying warm will be the least of NORAD’s problems if faulty date code causes
systems to fail. The stakes are even higher now that NORAD is nearly finished with its
$1.7 billion ballistic missile, air, space and command center systems, the IG said.


The IG recommended SPACECOM write a year 2000 strategy that lists mission-critical
systems; identify all interfaces and prepare written interface agreements for
mission-critical systems; develop contingency plans for mission areas and methods of
testing SPACECOM systems.


In a written response to the IG, Navy Vice Adm. L.G. Bien, deputy commander of
SPACECOM, agreed with all the IG’s recommendations.


“I’m very confident our mission capability will survive the millennium
rollover,” Bien said. “To date, over 90 percent of our mission systems are
meeting the milestones of the DOD five-phased plan. The few systems not meeting
current milestones are on a schedule to catch up by Dec. 31, 1998.”    

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