Is this the same as the Space Force?
No, though they are related. U.S. Space Command, often referred to as USSPACECOM, was first stood up in 1985, though it later merged into U.S. Strategic Command. President Trump re-activated Space Command in August 2019, reflecting the military’s growing reliance on satellites and the need to track and protect them and other space operations.
The Space Force was established in December 2019 as the sixth branch of the armed forces. Based at the Pentagon, as are all other service branches, it is part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy. Its service members, along with those from the other branches, will support Space Command’s mission to prepare the country’s military operations in space.
Where would the headquarters be located?
The Air Force has identified a 27-acre parcel on base, close to the nearly completed state-of-the-art facility built to support the Combined Space Operations Center. While most mission-critical personnel and activities would be located on base, some offices could wind up being located off base nearby.
What would it mean for the region?
In addition to playing a critical role in national security and space innovation, the region would benefit from significant economic investment and impact.
The $1 billion headquarters would be home to a 4-star general, international liaisons and 1,400 high-level military personnel encompassing aerospace engineers and technicians; computer and information system scientists, managers, and analysts; electrical engineers and technicians; mathematicians; mechanical engineers and technicians; operations research analysts; space scientists; statisticians; and training and development managers.
It would also mean millions of dollars in contracts and services for construction and design, engineering, healthcare, technology and mission-related activities for firms across the region.
And it would provide a huge boost toward establishing a thriving commercial space industry on the Central Coast, attracting investment and high-quality jobs in a $425 billion industry expected to grow to $3 trillion over the next three decades.
Who’s supporting the possibility?
Vandenberg’s candidacy has garnered broad support from local and state officials. Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, and a regional coalition of education and business groups organized by REACH have joined local governments in penning letters of support.
REACH is operating as the official point of contact for the effort and convened a team that included representatives from local government, chambers of commerce, education and the military to compile the extensive data the Air Force requested.
Doesn’t Vandenberg already do space stuff?
Yes! Vandenberg is already home to the Combined Space Operations Center, where U.S. and allied personnel track objects and activities in space, CSpOC is part of the Vandenberg-based Combined Force Space Component Command, one of two field organizations that support the Space Command.
As the Western Range, it’s also the long-time West Coast launch site for the Department of Defense and NASA as well as several commercial launch enterprises.
Isn’t SPACECOM already headquartered in Colorado?
Small, temporary headquarters have been established at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. But the Air Force always intended to look around for a suitable long-term spot to bed down. It opened a competitive process in March, which attracted bids from sites in as many as 26 states. Those that met the initial criteria, including Vandenberg, were invited to submit extensive information about their ability to host the HQ, including workforce, infrastructure and space-related entities.
So what happens now?
The Air Force Strategic Basing Office will review submissions by November and identify a short list of candidates for further evaluation and in-person visits. A final decision is expected in early 2021. The new HQ is planned to be operational by 2026.