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SMDC Delivers from the High Ground

Interview with Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, Commanding General, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and Army Forces Strategic Command (ARSTRAT), and Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense; and Debra G. Wymer, Director, SMDC Technical Center

John D. Gresham: What exactly is SMDC (Space and Missile Defense Command), what are its roles and missions, and what are your duties as its commander?

Lt. Gen. Richard Formica: First of all, I would just tell you, having been absolutely new to the command, it’s been an eye-opener for me to see the breadth and scope of the Space and Missile Defense Command and to be associated with the professionals that serve here in so many varying capacities. SMDC is the Army’s Title 10 command for the organizing, manning, training, and equipping of its space and global missile defense forces, high altitude missile defense, and at the same time serves as the Army’s service component to U.S. Strategic Command.

I would say if you look at the command, look at the way we’re organized, and look at the kinds of activities we’re involved in, I would like to describe those as related to three core tasks.

Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica

Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica

The first task is to provide trained and ready space and missile defense forces and capabilities to U.S. STRATCOM, to the Army, and to the other geographic combatant commands. That’s our operations function. And I like to say that those are capabilities that we provide today.

Our second core task is to build the future of America’s space and missile defense forces. That’s our capability development function, and we like to say those are the capabilities we will provide tomorrow.

And the third core task, and the reason Ms. [Debra G.] Wymer is here to talk to you if you want to get into any specifics, is to research, test, and integrate space, missile defense, cyber, directed energy technology, and other related technologies for STRATCOM, the Department of Defense [DoD], and the Army. That’s our materiel development function. Those are the capabilities we are going to provide to the force the day after tomorrow.

SMDC is organized, and I like to say uniquely organized, to do those three core tasks and to execute three [core] functions. We have an operations function, a capability development function, and a materiel development function, and I believe one of the strengths of the command is the ability in the – I hate to use the word “niche” – in this niche area of space and missile defense to be able to provide synergy across those three functions.

Since you have taken command at SMDC, what specific efforts have you made to improve both the efficiency and the effectiveness of SMDC, in terms of delivering capabilities and tools to the warfighter?

Lt. Gen. Richard Formica: I’d say a couple of things. First of all, I would start off by saying that it’s always nice to be able to take over a command that’s in great shape, which SMDC/ARSTRAT [already was under Lt. Gen. Joe Campbell]. It was effectively providing capability for the warfighters when I got here, and they were doing just fine without me. But, the fact of the matter is that I think that we have really homed in on the three core tasks and tried to get synergy of those three core tasks.

Again, I don’t think we were doing anything new. The command was always doing that, but it was important to improve the integration among those three core tasks, the three elements of the organization, and to work hard at again improving the ability of the command [elements] to operate as one command, split-based between Huntsville [Ala.] and Colorado Springs [Colo.]. To do and improve that, we looked at how we were organized and we [“pulled the trigger” on] an effort that started under Gen. Campbell’s watch. We decided that the Senior Executive Service [SES] tier two deputy that was assigned to the command with a focus on research, development, and acquisition would be better served as a deputy to the commanding general, not [quite so] tied to what was then called the RDA or the Research Development and Acquisition Organization. [So, we] put [that person] in as the deputy to the commander, and [gave them] the mission to serve as the integrator amongst the three elements of the command. And then we merged two elements that had been below the CG into the Technical Center Ms. Deb Wymer is assigned to [run]. She had already been dual-hatted over both of them for I guess most of the last year that Gen. Campbell was in command. So, to collapse the two organizations into one, put one SES in charge, or to officially recognize that Ms. Wymer was already in charge of both, this enabled us to streamline the organizations, return some [physical] spaces and an SES billet to the Army.

When the U.S. Army stood up Army Contracting Command [ACC], we also agreed to take a contracting element inside SMDC/ARSTRAT, again, in an initiative that Gen. Campbell started, but that we completed as part of streamlining the command. [What we have done is] agreed to take that contracting office, assign it to the Army’s ACC, but under the operational control of SMDC/ARSTRAT. That enables ACC to leverage its resources to best provide contracting here in the local area and across the Army, and has maintained the great contracting support that we had prior to that. So, those are probably two of the biggest initiatives that we [worked] on when I arrived.

We also were the senior commander, so to speak, of the Army’s High Energy Laser Test Facility or HELSTF, which is at White Sands Missile Range [New Mexico]. We transferred that to ATEC [Army Test Evaluation Command], so that they could concentrate on it from a test perspective and we retained only the mission-functional area there associated with the Solid State Laser Testbed [Experiment, SSLTE], so we could focus on our mission task and let ATEC do the tests. We’ve also participated in the Army’s “efficiency looks” and have identified positions to streamline as part of that.

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John D. Gresham lives in Fairfax, Va. He is an author, researcher, game designer, photographer,...