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Florida Makes 'Very Strong Case' For Patrick Air Force Base As Space Force Headquarters

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Space Florida leaders on Tuesday praised aerospace facilities and commercial operations in the state, as site selectors inspected Patrick Air Force Base as a finalist to be the permanent command headquarters of Space Force.

Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello told the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors that Florida has made a “very strong case” for the Brevard County military base south of Cape Canaveral, which is one of six finalists for U.S. Space Command headquarters.

“We're already part of a support network for three combatant commands,” DiBello said during a virtual meeting Tuesday. “We're one of the most military-friendly communities and a very military-friendly state. We have a very large number of active-duty reserve and guard personnel and military dependents and more than 68,000 veterans, which is a good 11 percent of our population. And that's indicative of the fact that this is a great place for a military facility to locate and to operate.”

The growth of the commercial aerospace industry throughout the state enhances the appeal of Florida for serving as the “launch pad for national security missions in space,” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, who serves as chairwoman of the Space Florida board of directors, told the Enterprise Florida board in a video.

“The natural symbiotic relationship between the demands of national security and our ever-expanding commercial presence makes Florida the ideal location for this command,” Nunez said. “The collaborative benefits of sharing the same community with SpaceX, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, Firefly and Relativity, and those who will follow, best position the U.S. to dominate challenges in space.”

DiBello noted that U.S. Air Force officials were onsite Tuesday, conducting an engineering and tactical-focus review of Patrick Air Force Base in the effort to select the command headquarters of Space Force, the new military branch created by President Donald Trump.

The Air Force has outlined that the command headquarters should be located within 25 miles of a military installation, be among the top 150 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the U.S. and score a 50 or higher out of 100 on the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute’s Livability Index.

Patrick Air Force Base was the only Florida location to make the shortlist.

Other remaining candidates to host the new combatant command, which will house about 1,400 military and civilian personnel, are Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Port San Antonio in Texas, and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

The headquarters for Space Force is the Pentagon, as are all military services.

SPACECOM, established in August 2019, remains temporarily housed at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs.

Peterson AFB and the Army’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville are the only locations that also were finalists when an initial search for a permanent command locale was conducted. No Florida location was a finalist in the initial search.

The current shortlist was announced on Nov. 19 and the site-selection team is expected to hold a virtual meeting Dec. 21.

A final decision is expected early next year.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Jim Turner - News Service of Florida