TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s aerospace agency has been working to bring a Space Force training site to the state after the command headquarters for the fledgling military branch landed in Alabama.
Mark Bontrager, vice president of spaceport operations for Space Florida, told members of the Florida Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee on Wednesday his agency is learning from the headquarters selection process to prepare for when bidding gets underway for training locations.
“About 16,000 of those people need to be trained and equipped from the very beginning of the time from when they raise their right hand and show up as a young enlisted officer in that force,” Bontrager said.
Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said Florida is well-positioned among states that could compete for the training locations because of a workforce that has decades of experience with the space industry.
“We have such a locus of space activity here, and therefore we have trained warfighters already,” DiBello said. “We are also looking carefully at the fact that we have a very, very strong modeling-simulation and digital-domain capability throughout the state, but certainly in Central Florida that is an essential element of training the warfighter of the future.”
Vandenberg Space Force Base, northwest of Lompoc, Calif., is already serving as one of the locations for the Space Training Readiness Command, or STARCOM, program.
Bontrager said it’s important for Florida to land part of the training process, as Space Florida leaders will have to repeatedly return to the facilities throughout their careers.
Space Force was created less than two years ago. In January, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., was selected as the preferred location for the command headquarters, based on factors that included infrastructure capacity, community support and costs. A provisional headquarters remains in Colorado Springs, Colo., pending the permanent site being ready.
Patrick Space Force Base near Cape Canaveral was a finalist for the headquarters in a bid backed by Space Florida.
In December, former President Donald Trump’s administration renamed Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base as Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base. There are only seven such named installations in the nation.
Bontrager said the Air Force in the command-headquarters selection process didn’t fully take into account what Florida offers, such as “unique financing capabilities” through Space Florida.
He added that Space Florida and Enterprise Florida, the state’s business recruitment agency, have continued to meet with Air Force and Space Force leaders in advance of the training-center selection process that could begin in the next 30 to 60 days.
“We are in the process of finalizing a statewide statement of capability that we are going to be able to bring to help the Air Force and Space Force understand those assets and capabilities that already exist in Florida and can be positioned in support of that Space Force mission,” Bontrager said.