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Florida Nominates Pinellas, Hillsborough, 6 Other Locations For Space Command Headquarters

SpaceX launches GPS 3 for the U.S. Space Force from Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX
SpaceX launches GPS 3 for the U.S. Space Force from Cape Canaveral.

The Air Force’s Space Command is looking for a new home. Eight Florida communities want the new headquarters and have submitted bids. In total, 54 communities nationwide are vying to host the location which promises new jobs and economic development in host communities.

Space Command is different from the newly-created Space Force, which is a brand new branch of the military — joining the Air Force, Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Marines. Space Command is what’s called a unified combatant command. There are eleven of these organizations which each have a central commander and focus on one war fighting domain, but include resources from across the U.S. military. Three are headquartered in Florida.

For example, Central Command, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, oversees military operations in the Middle East, Egypt and parts of south Asia. Southern Command in Doral oversees military planning and operations in South America, and Special Command in Tampa, oversees special operations.

Space Command goes all the way back to 1985, but was put on hiatus in 2002. It was reactivated last year to focus on space as a warfighting domain and its temporary headquarters are eat Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Now the Air Force is searching for a permanent home. Brevard, Orange, Seminole, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, along with the cities of Jacksonville and Pensacola, all submitted nomination letters to the Air Force. The state agency Space Florida helped prepare the nominations for Governor DeSantis’ approval before sending them off.

With the new headquarters comes 1,400 new military and civilian jobs as well as contracting opportunities for new business.

“It’s a very talent rich project and development to have in your state,” said Space Florida’s Dale Ketcham. “That can’t help but be something that any economic development authority as well as just a community, you’re bringing in good people.”

For Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, Florida has two advantages over the competition: A booming private space industry and access to human capital.

“That interplay and that interaction between the private sector and the public sector is critical. We have that at Cape Canaveral in the Space Coast and Florida,” said Waltz. “The other piece is talent and having the the human talent from STEM fields that is needed to sustain a force for the future.”

State leaders echo that sentiment. Governor Ron DeSantis, along with guidance from Space Florida, approved the eight bids last month.

Not only is Florida’s private space sector booming, state leaders argued, it is also an attractive place for people to live, which attracts fresh talent as the private aerospace sector continues to grow.

“Florida’s in a very strong position to provide an environment [where] that kind of talent will want to come and set up shop  — happy to join and participate in the U.S. Space Command if it’s located in Florida,” said Ketcham.

A permanent headquarters in Florida will bring more government and military contracting opportunities for private companies which could continue to help the state’s aerospace sector grow.

“The military wants to come here to take advantage of commercial space, but the military remains a significant customer to commercial commercial space,” said Ketcham. “There’s opportunities to build on synergies with the growth of both a customer and a contractor and the the cross pollination that will come from having both workforces meeting [in Florida].”

But competition is fierce. More than half of U.S. states have submitted proposals, with 54 individual letters submitted to the Air Force. In Florida, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor highlighted MacDill Air Force Base, which is already home to two combatant commands. Orange county touted its rich simulation sector. Brevard has the Space Coast as well as the 45th Space Wing.

“Colorado remains the front runner and there’s a lot of competition out there for this,” said Ketcham. “What this command offers in terms of its contribution to the community, contribution to the state, as well as being a real feather in the cap to whatever community is able to land this — it will pay dividends far beyond just the 1,400 jobs that are identified.”

With bids submitted, the Air Force will now send out questionnaires to the applying communities and make a final decision next year. After reviewing the questionnaires, the Air Force will deliver the recommendation to the President sometime next year.

Despite the competition, Congressman Waltz remains optimistic one of Florida’s bids will come out on top.

“I think all of those things can come together really made a compelling case for Florida to be the next headquarters of the Space Command,” said Waltz.