Pensacola, other Florida cities remain in running for Space Command headquarters
TALLAHASSEE — Self-nominations from all eight Florida communities — including Pensacola — bidding to host U.S. Space Command headquarters have been forwarded to the Air Force by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Those eight cities now join a number of other cities from across the country vying to host the headquarters of the U.S. military’s 11th combatant command, established last year, which will oversee the space operations of all of the country’s military services.
In addition to Pensacola, the only Northwest Florida community to nominate itself, other self-nominations came to the governor’s office — after being routed through Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency — from Jacksonville, Tampa-Hillsborough County, Seminole County, Pinellas County, Orange County, Miami-Dade County, and Brevard County and its cities of Palm Bay, Melbourne and Titusville.
Brevard, Seminole and Orange counties are along or near the state’s “Space Coast,”whose 72 miles along the Atlantic Ocean include Cape Canaveral, a center of the U.S. space program.
To qualify for consideration by the Air Force, self-nominating communities had to be among the top 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areasin the country, be within 25 miles of a military base, and have a minimum score of 50 on the Livability Index published by the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute.
When Space Command headquarters is fully established, wherever that may be, it will house 1,400 military and civilian personnel.
In endorsing all eight applications — the Air Force required governors’ endorsements to indicate state support for the local efforts — DeSantis made a statewide case for Florida to John Henderson, assistant Air Force secretary for installations, environment and energy.
“Florida is home to more than 20 military installations and three combatant commands,” DeSantis wrote, adding, “Our state has a long history of support for our nation’s efforts in space through the operations of the Kennedy Space Center, the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.”
In terms of combatant command headquarters, Florida hosts Central Command, whose area of responsibility stretches from northeast Africa to south Asia, and U.S. Special Operations Command, both at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and Southern Command, based in Doral, whose area of responsibility includes Central America, South America and the Caribbean Sea.
Also in his blanket endorsement of all eight self-nominations, DeSantis notes the state’s “robust ... (and) rapidly growing” commercial space industry.
“From space launch, space systems, payload design, and manufacturing and development, to research and development, Florida’s commercial space industry represents America’s future in space,“ DeSantis told Henderson.
The Air Force had indicated months ago that it had narrowed the list of possible Space Command headquarters locations to Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal, California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Schriever Air Force Base.
But at a March congressional committee meeting, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett announced the search would be reopened. The reasons are not completely clear, but Barrett’s announcement came after members of Congress from elsewhere around the country, including Florida, began making pitches for the headquarters.
For now, U.S. Space Command is temporarily headquartered at Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base. The Air Force plans to make a decision on a permanent home for the command headquarters in early 2021, according to Henderson.
Competition for hosting U.S. Space Command is shaping up to be wide-ranging.
As just one example from outside Florida, both the city and county governments in Spokane, Washington, have filed separate self-nominations, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also has endorsed self-nominations from the cities of Tacoma, Vancouver and Everett, among others.
Elsewhere across the country, the city of Anchorage, Alaska, has submitted a nomination endorsed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy; a bipartisan group of U.S. congressional representatives from Texas have sought consideration for the city of Houston, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is pushing for Space Command heaquarters to come to Dayton, host city for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.