ORLANDO, Fla. - After months of backing from Florida leaders to host the re-established U.S. Space Combatant Command, it appears the Sunshine State is unlikely to house the 11th combatant command, according to a short list of possible locations released Tuesday by the U.S. Air Force.
Separate from the yet established Space Force, the U.S. Space Command was previously created in 1985 to coordinate the use of outer space by U.S. military branches and disbanded in 2002.
President Donald Trump directed the secretary of defense in December to reestablish a unified combatant command, to be called U.S. Space Command.
"The USSPACECOM establishment will accelerate our space capabilities to address the rapidly evolving threats to U.S. space systems, and the importance of deterring potential adversaries from putting critical U.S. space systems at risk," according to the Air Force.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida was the logical choice to host the combatant command 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.
However, during a private luncheon on Tuesday officials with Space Florida, Florida's spaceport authority, said at this stage the Sunshine State does not appear likely to host the U.S. Space Command.
"Right before this event, we were informed there is a pretty good probability of a press conference where the secretary of the Air Force may announce that the original six sites will go forward," Space Florida Chief Operating Officer Jim Kuzma said.
The comments were first reported by Emre Kelly, with News 6 partner Florida Today.
Kuzma's remarks come after a report from CNN in April, based on an Air Force memorandum obtained by the news outlet, showing a list of six military bases that could house the military's newest combatant command and Florida did not make the short list.
Air Force officials confirmed Tuesday the possible locations did not include Florida. Four Colorado locations, Buckley AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB, did make the cut, along with Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
If Florida is off the table to host U.S. Space Command it may come as a surprise to the Florida governor and lawmakers who, as recently as last week, publicly advocated for the headquarters to be in the Sunshine State.
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, Florida-R, disputed the CNN story based on the Air Force memo.
"We are absolutely still in the game!" Waltz said in a May 10 Facebook post.
Despite the Air Force candidate list, Space Florida officials said the space port authority was still working to determine a path forward.
"We fight on," said Dale Ketchum, Space Florida’s vice president of government and external relations.
The secretary of the Air Force ultimately makes the decision of where to place the new headquarters.
"The next step will be to complete site surveys and analysis of each candidate location for its ability to meet mission requirements, capacity, environmental impact and cost criteria," according to the Air Force statement.
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