TALLAHASSEE — Florida officials maintained Thursday they can still land Space Force operations and facilities, a day after the state was passed over for the command headquarters of the newest military branch.
The new primary target is the Space Training and Readiness Command field command, or STARCOM, which is set up to handle education, training and unit testing for Space Force.
Also, there is a chance Alabama’s Huntsville Redstone Arsenal area might not pan out as the Department of Defense continues site assessments, reopening Florida as an acceptable alternative location.
“That hasn’t happened in the last 10 years. But there always might be a first time,” Jim Kuzma, senior vice president and general manager of the state aerospace agency Space Florida, said Thursday during a meeting of the House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee..
On Wednesday, U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett selected the Alabama location over Patrick Space Force Base near Cape Canaveral and four other finalists for the permanent Space Force headquarters, or SPACECOM.
In expressing disappointment, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, who chairs the Space Florida board, said in a statement she will “keep working arduously for the continued growth and advancement of the commercial aerospace industry, as well as the defense and military capability services our state and nation could benefit from.”
House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Chairwoman Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, quipped Thursday about Huntsville, “I’ll have to visit there to see what’s so good about it.”
The push to attract the headquarters was driven by economics, as the potential impacts include about 1,500 highly paid workers, 700 indirect jobs, construction costs that could approach $1 billion and the draw of accompanying aerospace, avionics and telecommunications industries.
Eight Florida communities, with the backing of Gov. Ron DeSantis, bid for the SPACECOM headquarters: Jacksonville, Pensacola, Brevard County, Miami-Dade County, Orange County, Pinellas County, Seminole County and a joint proposal from Tampa and Hillsborough County.
Patrick Space Force Base in Brevard County was the only one to make the list of finalists.
The Air Force had outlined that the command headquarters should be located within 25 miles of a military installation. Also, the headquarters had to be in a community that is among the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. and scores a 50 or higher out of 100 on the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute’s Livability Index.
Besides appearances by DeSantis and Republican Congressmen Bill Posey and Michael Waltz during a presentation on Florida’s bid, the state’s pitch included highly rated universities for the potential workforce, the ability of Space Florida to finance and lease facilities and the quality of life on the Space Coast.
Space Florida officials thought the state would have an edge as local building costs are about 20 percent below the median for the rest of the country, while financing a commercial building through the agency could have further shaved construction costs, Kuzma said. The Brevard County Northern Economic Zone offered 10 years of lease-free use of a facility.
In December, Vice President Mike Pence announced the renaming of what are now Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base.
Kuzma said Space Florida will continue to work on bringing aspects of Space Force to Florida, with the target being all or parts of STARCOM, which could be a larger facility than the headquarters.
“We have been looking throughout the state and working with all the communities around the state for what capabilities would support Space Force and their mission in space,” Kuzma said. “I’ll date myself a little bit. But if you go back to the James Bond movie, “Moonraker,” right, we’re many generations past that. But clearly, in order for combat in space, you’ll have to have robotics, artificial intelligence. We have strengths here in Florida. The modeling and simulation capability here, the Center of Excellence in Orlando, is key to looking at all the virtual reality training.”
As with the Space Force Command headquarters, a provisional training command is located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
“STARCOM will build lethality by developing combat-ready space forces and space warfighting capabilities in order to innovate and dominate in all domains — air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace,” a Space Force news release said last year.