California lawmakers have renewed their push for Vandenberg Air Force Base to be chosen as the home for U.S. Space Command headquarters after the military restarted the process to expand the number of candidates in consideration.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, wrote to the secretary of the Air Force to express strong support for selection of the Santa Barbara County base as the permanent location for the organization.
“Our Central Coast community is eager to welcome the U.S. Space Command to Vandenberg Air Force Base,” Carbajal said. “Vandenberg has garnered support for the U.S. Space Command nomination from a variety of local and state stakeholders, boasts an unparalleled talent pool, and is a prime location to host the U.S. Space Command. Nowhere is better suited for U.S. Space Command than Vandenberg Air Force Base.”
U.S. Space Command returned in 2019 as the 11th “combatant command,” joining others such as European Command and Cyber Command focused on geographical areas or unique missions.
Earlier this year, the Air Force notified governors that it would allow communities to self-nominate and restarted the effort, expanding potential candidates from six initially announced. They include Vandenberg, one in Alabama and four in Colorado.
Already, the revised screening process has brought at least one new candidate, with San Antonio joining the competition.
Once fully located, U.S. Space Command would have approximately 1,400 military and civilian personnel.
The three lawmakers touted several strategic advantages, including its existing space situational awareness through the Combined Space Operations Center, its location as the West Coast launch site for defense, NASA and commercial missions, and its proximity to the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB.
However, those also could be disadvantages since the military might hesitate to place too many vital functions at one location.
Feinstein agreed that Vandenberg “would be an excellent home for U.S. Space Command headquarters,” noting its existing missions.
“Additionally, the Central Coast’s long history as a leader in the aerospace industry means the community has a deep pool of talent ready to work with Space Command. I’m proud to join my colleagues to urge the Air Force to select Vandenberg AFB,” she said.
Final selection is expected later this year, the lawmakers said. However, a Vandenberg official said it likely would occur in early 2021.
“Vandenberg is definitely in the running,” said Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg, adding that a strategic basing team visited Vandenberg last year. “You may ask yourself, what can we as a community do to contribute to the process? Well, a lot of it you can’t affect.”
For example, proximity can’t be changed, but other factors can include school quality, support for military families such as licensure processes for spouses, medical care in the community, affordable housing and more, he added.
“Those are things that are going to be factored into this second round of scoring, and we are as excited as you all are to learn exactly how that process unfolds,” he said.
In addition to Vandenberg AFB, initial possible homes include the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, plus four bases in Colorado — Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB.
Communities could nominate themselves as candidates, but they had to meet screening criteria such as being within one of the 150 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States, within 25 miles or less of an existing base and have a livability index above 50 as determined by the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute.
U.S. Space Command is a joint organization, meaning it has members from all branches of the military and focuses on conducting joint space warfighting operations while ensuring readiness of forces and equipment.
It’s not a new concept since a similar organization with the same name existed from 1985 to 2002 while based in Colorado, making that state the presumptive front-runner in the current search.