BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County’s Patrick Air Force Base is still in the running to host the military’s 11th unified combatant command known as the U.S. Space Command.
Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force John Henderson sent letters to six locations Thursday notifying local governments that they are moving onto the next phase in the selection process. Brevard County Commissioner Bryan Lober and Gov. Ron DeSantis both received the letter for Florida.
Not to be confused with the U.S. Space Force, the branch under the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Space Command oversees national security missions in space, many of which already launch from Florida’s Space Coast. The U.S. Space Command was previously established in 1985 to coordinate the use of outer space by the branches of the U.S. military but later disbanded. In 2019, it was established as the 11th combatant command.
Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado-- which is the temporary home of the USSPACECOM-- Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska are also among the six finalists.
During the next phase, the Air Force will conduct both virtual and in person site visits at all six locations. Officials should have more details about the next phase next week, according to the letter.
The U.S. Air Force is expected to make the final decision early next year.
Space Florida Vice President Government & External Relations Dale Ketcham said Colorado is the favorite but Florida is “in the game,” unlike last year when an early list of front runners was released and Florida didn’t make the cut.
The competition to host the U.S. Space Command has been fierce, involving a lot of political will power and among Florida officials, garnering bi-partisan support.
Space Florida, Florida’s spaceport authority, along with Enterprise Florida and the Florida Defense Alliance, have been working to gain support for a Florida USSPACECOM headquarters location. Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa, Miami-Dade and Orlando were also nominated by DeSantis to host the combatant command but did not make the final list.
“Today’s announcement provides an exciting opportunity for Brevard County to continue to make the case that the national security needs in space can best be met by taking advantage of the unique and powerful capabilities available in Florida,” Space Florida said in a news release.
DeSantis has said Florida is the logical choice because the state is already home to three central commands: Central Command and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and U.S. Southern Command in Miami.
“I’m pleased that Florida has been selected as a finalist to host the nation’s U.S. Space Command,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Florida remains the world’s premiere gateway to space, and with our state’s long history of supporting our nation’s efforts in space, Florida provides the perfect location for this new headquarters. I look forward to the possibility of bringing the U.S. Space Command home to Florida.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned, and later Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired this week, urging Florida be in the running. He also led a delegation urging Henderson to consider one of eight Florida locations.
Last year, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Orlando) and other U.S. representatives from Florida sent a letter to Trump in support of establishing U.S. Space Command in Florida.
The other candidate locations will also have elected officials vying for their states.