Space has received a lot of attention recently, from its recognition as a vital national interest, to the creation of the U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force, to commercial tourism becoming a reality. All the while, the world has watched other countries, namely China and Russia, enhance their space capabilities in the form of hypersonic missiles and destructive anti-satellite tests.
Despite these challenges and their discussion in the press, both friendly and adversary space capabilities are generally protected under shrouds of secrecy and whispered about in dark corners of secret information facilities. If only military commanders at the highest levels had a team of joint space professionals embedded in their staffs to break down these communication barriers and help them understand the space domain and applications of space power … but wait, they do.
Space Command has deployed space planning elements to each combatant command around the globe. In the past, Army and Air Force space professionals were assigned to these commands in small numbers, but they did not possess the expertise to represent all space mission areas. Nor were those teams large enough to influence the space enterprise across all headquarters.
Space Command’s newly minted Joint Integrated Space Teams (JISTs) do just that. With the help of space-savvy soldiers, the teams integrate and improve multicombatant command integration across plans, operations and exercises, thereby ensuring holistic multidomain responses throughout the continuum of conflict.
Geographically dispersed space planning teams were envisioned from the earliest days of Space Command’s inception. In fact, the Joint Staff identified these teams as part of the new command’s initial operating capability in its April 5, 2019, order providing guidance for establishing Space Command.
Shortly after the command’s activation on Aug. 29, 2019, joint space professionals were assigned to JISTs at most combatant commands to provide expertise, integrate space into military campaigns and contingency plans, and satisfy Unified Command Plan responsibilities. Of the 10 JISTs, four were originally led by Army colonels. The Army still leads three, second in number only to the Space Force.
The JISTs are not to be confused with Space Force service components. According to the Joint Space Integration Terms of Reference, co-signed by Space Force and Space Command on Sept. 17, 2021, the Space Force organizes, trains, equips and provides service components to combatant commands to support warfighting, while JISTs facilitate planning, operations, exercises and security cooperation.
That said, it is beyond the scope of this article to address the requirement for Space Force service components. Instead, know that JISTs are a reality and are growing in size and responsibility as a result of Army leadership.
‘Eyes, Ears, and Hands’
In a Feb. 4 presentation titled “JIST Mission Design: Global Space Support to [Combatant Commands],” Gen. James Dickinson, commander of Space Command, provided his intent to the JISTs. He directed them to integrate seamlessly across staffs, serve as the command’s “eyes, ears, and hands,” and educate others on space capabilities.
In short, JISTs are Space Command’s forward-deployed space integrators and problem-solvers at the strategic level. Personnel assigned to JISTs receive specialized training at the National Security Space Institute, such as the Space 200 course and the Joint Space Targeting Course. That is not to say each JIST is created equal.
Each JIST is staffed according to current events and anticipated challenges. For example, the JISTs at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the U.S. European Command cap out at 14 joint space professionals each. The U.S. Cyber Command and the U.S. Special Operations Command will have 10 space integrators each, while the U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Southern Command will max out at eight each. The remaining combatant commands are envisioned to have six or fewer JIST members each.
Each JIST director distributes their team’s talent to various directorates to accomplish their mission, primarily focusing on intelligence (J2), operations (J3), plans and policy (J5) and training and exercises (J7). No JIST is 100% staffed yet, but that is one of Space Command’s top priorities.
JISTs bridge the levels of war within combatant commands. JISTs focus on the strategic level by providing space-related input to campaign plans, operations plans, integrated priorities lists, security cooperation efforts, global force management and other projects requiring cross-combatant command coordination.
JISTs also influence the operational level by working closely with each combatant command’s director of space forces. This director serves as the space coordinating authority (normally delegated from the joint force air component commander) for the theater, providing support across space mission areas including satellite communications, GPS optimization, missile warning and operational planning for contingencies, like noncombatant evacuation operations.
Bridging this gap ensures the warfighter’s space needs are met “from the ultimate high ground to the last tactical mile,” as Space Command’s mission statement says.
How Teams Work
To help paint the picture of what a JIST provides and how it operates, imagine you are an Army space planner and analyst assigned to Space Command and embedded in the Future Operations Division (J35) with the U.S. European Command JIST. Your teammate embedded in the European Command intelligence directorate alerts the JIST director of indications and warnings that a crisis is imminent.
Before you know it, European Command receives a planning order from the Joint Staff, and the European Command J35 establishes an operational planning team to conduct an accelerated version of the joint planning process.
You immediately cancel your weekend plans and alert the Space Command J35 and the director of space forces about European Command’s efforts so they can initiate necessary planning and provide substantive input to European Command’s plan. Space Command’s J35 convenes its own operational planning team to develop flexible deterrent options. These options are developed into a concept of operations, approved by the Space Command operations directorate, and passed on to the JIST for inclusion in European Command’s plan. If these options require specific forces or capabilities to deploy, you work with European Command’s Global Force Management Branch to submit a request for forces.
Behind the Scenes
There are many other actions happening behind the scenes to assist the JIST in developing courses of action. For example, your JIST teammate in the plans and policy directorate pulls the approved plan off the shelf and provides you with relevant products. Your JIST teammate in the training and exercises directorate explores concepts of operation that were tested in previous joint exercises for potential inclusion in the plan. The JIST directors meet virtually to discuss leveraging cross-combatant command effects. Senior leaders inject directed courses of action based on their experience and expertise. Finally, the director of space forces’ staff sends you planning products they create based on similar contingencies.
All the while, you are educating European Command’s senior leaders on what Space Command is bringing to the fight. You use layman’s terms, since technical space capabilities and effects are not widely understood.
One of the most difficult problems you will encounter is keeping your colleagues grounded in reality. Hollywood portrays space incorrectly, and a fair number of senior leaders and professional staff officers do not understand what is in the realm of the possible. For example, you may be expected to answer questions like, “Why can’t Space Command give the warfighter more Wi-Fi?” or, “Why can’t you move a satellite to increase GPS accuracy and communication strength?”
Your role is to educate others and ensure space operations are portrayed correctly; when you cannot, your Rolodex connecting you to Army space operators in the know is worth its weight in gold.
Investing in Space
The establishment of Space Force and Space Command caused many to wonder about the future of Army space. Although some MOSs, like 25 series, 29 series and 40A, are ideal candidates for interservice transfers to the Space Force, the Army requires these specialists to conduct multidomain operations, just as it requires aircraft and watercraft despite the existence of the Air Force and Navy. In short, Army space is a combat multiplier and provides warfighters with a decisive advantage.
The Army must continue investing in space capabilities to enable joint force commanders. From educating soldiers about space doctrine, to training them on their brigade combat team’s space-enabled equipment, to increasing opportunities for space-related professional military education, the Army can develop space warfighters capable of leading JISTs.
These doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities (DOTMLPF) investments, coupled with the Army’s inherent ability to generate world-class planners, produce a win for the Army, the joint force and the nation.
The importance of the space domain has captured many audiences in recent years, resulting in the creation of new capabilities and organizations. One of these organizations, Space Command, created JISTs, tailored them appropriately and deployed them to each combatant command to integrate all things space into plans, operations and exercises.
Through dogged pursuit of space planning expertise, the Army leads nearly half the JISTs, and the team directors’ span of influence is significant. From the strategic to tactical levels, in every combatant commander’s area of responsibility, the JIST is the joint force commander’s go-to element for integrating space into multidomain operations.
By investing in space capabilities across DOTMLPF, the Army will continue its leading role in contributing to peace through strength in the space domain.
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Lt. Col. Jeremy Sauer is an Army strategist and the Joint Integrated Space Team director at the U.S. Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany. Previously, he served as director of strategy, plans and policy at Joint Task Force-Space Defense. He has a master’s degree in international political economy from the Colorado School of Mines.
Col. James Bushong is an Army space operations specialist and the Joint Integrated Space Team director at the U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He was the first JIST director at the U.S. European Command and NATO. He has a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.
Col. Kenneth Klock is a former Army space operations specialist and is a U.S. Space Force Guardian and commandant of the National Security Space Institute, Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado. He was the first Joint Integrated Space Team director at the U.S. Central Command. He has a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.