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Space Delta 2 Boss: Don’t Just Share Info. Act on It.

Guardians need to be empowered to make their own tactical battle management decisions—and must get the training and investment needed to develop those skills, Space Force. Col. Raj Agrawal said March 5.

Agrawal commands Space Delta 2, a wide-ranging organization with personnel around the world responsible for tracking tens of thousands of objects in orbit and understanding why and when satellites and other objects move. 

But Agrawal’s delta is also responsible for space battle management. “Space situational awareness … that is knowledge,” Agrawal said during an AFA Warfighters in Action interview. “And then you go to space domain awareness, and that is a military application or understanding. Battle management takes us really to that next evolution forward, and that’s making decisions.”

Military space has traditionally been a support element for other forces, so specialists tended to see themselves as information providers, rather than decision makers.

“The translation from understanding to making decisions is where we have to train our military forces, particularly our Guardians, who may have come from other services into the Space Force where they provided a capability for other forces to make decisions with,” Agrawal said. “Now what we’re asking these Guardians and Airmen to do is … understand [when] there’s an opportunity to exploit.’”

Agrawal wants his squadrons to make decisions faster, armed with the knowledge and awareness that come from monitoring the domain. Space forces can no longer be viewed as merely support forces, because there are advantages to be gained by operating more competitively throughout the domain.

“If you put your vulnerabilities in place, your adversaries are going to look to exploit that vulnerability and to take it out,” Agrawal said. “Without the ability to protect those critical capabilities, we lose. And so you have to make fighters in space.”

Decision advantage is also a focus of Air Force leaders, who likewise want Airmen to be able to make tactical-level decisions based on “commander’s intent” rather than simply wait for direction. But adapting to that new mindset is a challenging shift, Agrawal acknowledged.

“We have to empower our tactical warfighters to be able to make decisions and move and execute without direct oversight,” Agrawal said. “We’ve trained a kind of leadership that built a model off of Predator feeds, where senior leaders could see through a camera onto the battlefield and have the perception of complete knowledge to then make decisions, sometimes from very far away. … We have to change that.”

The new head of Space Operations Command, Lt. Gen. David N. Miller, has been leading this charge, pushing for integration across deltas and squadrons as a necessary step, Agrawal said.

“What we want to do is get to where our combat space forces aren’t so dependent on that tactical direction, but know what needs to be done, how to do it, who to work with in the other mission deltas, and how to close on that target,” Agrawal said. “And then be able to operate independent of that move-by-move, play-by-play, operational C2. and that’s going to take some training, and that’s going to take some shared awareness, and that’s going to take a lot of practice and investing across the tactical force.”

It will also take manpower and focus, something that Space Delta 2 must juggle right now. The delta is responsible for orbital and flight safety for all U.S. commercial and civil spacecraft; when satellites are threatened by orbiting debris, it’s Space Delta 2 that notifies the satellite owners.

That mission will shift in the coming years to the Department of Commerce, which is establishing a space traffic management service. When it does, Space Delta 2 will be off the hook for those notifications. But it will keep tracking objects, Agrawal said, focusing its attention on military threats—and opportunities.

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