Florida’s congressional delegation and governor are pushing hard for the Pentagon to base its future U.S. Space Command in the Sunshine State.
A bipartisan group of House members led by House Armed Services Committee (HASC) members Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.) on Tuesday sent a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, encouraging him to base the USSPACECOM headquarters in Florida.
“Florida, with its existing civilian and commercial space infrastructure and launch capabilities, is uniquely suited, and the logical choice to locate USSPACECOM headquarters to counteract” growing threats in the domain posed by near-peer adversaries, the letter said. The lawmakers also highlight the state’s substantial defense and aerospace industry presence and “long history of supporting America’s military community.” The letter was co-signed by 11 additional Florida representatives.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) also expressed his support for bringing U.S. Space Command to the so-called “Space Coast,” saying on Twitter that he plans to reach out to President Trump and personally push for the command to be based in his state, specifically at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
“This is part of Florida’s history and is a logical fit for our state,” he said.
The U.S. military currently houses three combatant commands in Florida: U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command are both based at MacDill AFB in Tampa, while U.S. Southern Command is located in Doral in the Greater Miami area.
Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a Florida headquarters may not make the most sense for U.S. Space Command because it would require starting from scratch, “without any existing facilities or personnel for this function.”
Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska makes sense “because that’s where the function resides today as part of” U.S. Strategic Command, Harrison said in an email to Defense Daily. “It could remain in existing facilities and would require little if any new construction” unless the headcount were increased, he added.
Colorado bases such as Peterson AFB or Schriever AFB could also be more likely options because “that’s where USSPACECOM used to be and that’s where a lot of the operations are conducted today,” Harrison added. Air Force Space Command is currently based at Peterson AFB. “They would probably need to kick some Army and non-space Air Force units out in order to make room for it, so there would be some [military construction] costs,” Harrison said.
Trump signed off on a directive for the Pentagon to begin standing up a new combatant command dedicated to space this past December (Defense Daily, Dec. 18, 2018). The U.S. military previously had a U.S. Space Command from 1958 to 2002, when it was merged with U.S. Strategic Command.
Shanahan told reporters in January that the Defense Department had identified a candidate to lead U.S. Space Command, but that individual had not yet been officially nominated (Defense Daily, Jan. 29).