The Central Coast has formally submitted its proposal for Vandenberg Air Force Base to become the permanent home of U.S. Space Command, putting the region into a race with multiple communities across the nation.
The stakes are high with an estimated 1,500 personnel, led by a four-star general, and others expected to make up the organization.
U.S. Space Command headquarters, temporarily located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, would be operational at its new home in about six years, according to defense estimates.
The field of candidates could be trimmed by November with the shorter list of candidates moving on for further evaluation before a final decision in early 2021.
In 2019, defense leaders brought back U.S. Space Command as the 11th “combatant command,” joining others such as European Command and Cyber Command focused on geographical areas or military functions.
Space Command is not the same as U.S. Space Force headquarters, which will be located at the Pentagon alongside the counterparts for the other branches of the military.
The Defense Department initially included Vandenberg among a list of a possible Space Command homes, but decided earlier this year to broaden the search and allow communities to self-nominate.
In addition to being home to the West Coast spaceport, the Central Coast is home to a pair of key universities — Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and UCSB in Santa Barbara — producing 9,000 graduates in engineering and science each year, local officials noted.
One letter supporting U.S. Space Command’s location on the Central Coast includes leaders of the two universities and three community colleges.
As proof of the regional approach to the campaign, other signers included local leaders such as Kristen Miller, president and chief executive officer of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the Santa Barbara County chambers of commerce, and Joe Halsell, board president for the Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara County along with San Luis Obispo County leaders.
“Pulling together this significant effort served to prove out what we already knew: that the Central Coast, with a burgeoning aerospace ecosystem, educated workforce and world-class higher education, offers all the ingredients to support the U.S. Space Command’s mission and people,” Andrew Hackleman of REACH said.
“I enthusiastically support the base’s application to be the permanent home for U.S. Space Command,” said Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, whose district encompasses the base. “Our region is well-suited from a strategic, economic and resource standpoint to be Space Command’s home.”
She noted the regional partnership that has formed to support the effort.
“VAFB may be one of many U.S. military installations, but it has always been Lompoc’s Gateway to the Stars,” Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne said. “Our community fully supports the mission-critical responsibilities that Vandenberg has delivered over the decades and welcomes the next chapter of being the permanent home for USSPACECOM. We are here to support the new mission, service members and their families, and are confident that VAFB is the ‘right stuff.’”
The headquarters would be located on a 27-acre parcel at the base, close to the nearly completed state-of-the-art facility built to support the Combined Space Operations Center.
Boasting more than 100,000 acres, Vandenberg has long been touted as the third-largest Air Force base.
Unsurprising applicants for U.S. Space Command include the Space Coast in Florida and Colorado Springs, Colo., the presumptive front-runner.
Others seeking the plum designation include communities in Washington, New Mexico, Texas and Ohio.
A few long-shots also have entered the race, including Sterling Heights, Mich., a suburb of Detroit.