Spacecom's earlier incarnation started in 1985, when the United States was still involved in the Cold War. In 2002, it was shuttered and folded into U.S. Strategic Command.
During a presentation in Washington today sponsored by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond, the Spacecom commander, explained some of the ways the new command will be different from the old.
One difference is scope, Raymond said, noting that today's Spacecom is a geographic combatant command.
"The last combatant command was a functional combatant command," he said. "This combatant command has an area of responsibility that's 100 km above mean sea level, globally, and higher. We did that to solidify space as a warfighting domain and to allow us to have a clear, tighter partnership with the other geographic combatant commands and other combatant commands that we have to operate with."
The new Spacecom will work much closer with partners — not just with American partners, but with other nations as well. One of Spacecom's operational components is the Combined Force Space Component Command, Raymond said. "Combined" applies to an organization involving partnerships with foreign allies, as compared to a "joint" command, for which the partnerships that are limited to U.S. military services.
"Based on the Five Eyes order being releasable, we now have partners that have signed up to it," the general said said. "We now have a combined command that is going to provide great advantage for our nation and for our partners."
The United States, along with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, make up an intelligence partnership called "Five Eyes." The U.K. was the first of those U.S. partners to sign on to be part of the U.S.-led Operation Olympic Defender, which started in 2013 as an effort to deter hostile actions is space.
Raymond also said today's Spacecom will enhance partnerships with the joint force as well.
"We've got a tighter link to our joint warfighting partners," he said. "We're going to stand up integrated planning elements of space professionals that will be embedded in all the combatant commands we partner with."
An integrated planning element for Stratcom is already in place, and small teams are working with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. European Command. Teams will be formed for the other combatant commands as well, Raymond said.
Today's Spacecom also enjoys a closer relationship with the intelligence community.
"If you look at the mission statement of the command, we are to protect U.S. and as directed, partner satellites," the general said. "A couple months ago, we came to an agreement with the intelligence community. Today we operate on what we call a unity-of-effort basis."
Under that agreement, he said, during times of a heightened state of readiness in which decisions must be made quickly, Spacecom will make those decisions.
"The intelligence community will take direction from the U.S. Space Command commander to protect and defend our nation's critical capabilities," he said. "In higher states of conflict, we'll work tighter and they will take direction, so we can make sure we can ... defend the capabilities that we rely so importantly on."
While a U.S. Space Force has not been established, Raymond said, he remains confident that Congress will do so.
"We are very hopeful that ... we will get a sixth branch of the armed forces that will be a Space Force," he said. "It's a national imperative that we do this. U.S. Space Command will only be as good as the capabilities that a Space Force will provide."