Patrick AFB finalist for Space Force headquarters

After first being shunned, Florida is a finalist to be the home of the U.S. Space Command headquarters, the U.S. Air Force announced Thursday.

Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County is one of six finalists for the headquarters of the military’s space operations. The Air Force initially announced six other finalists in 2019, and Florida wasn’t on the list. But the Air Force restarted the selection process because of complaints that it hadn’t been transparent enough.

“It was very opaque, it was not well defined, and kind of out of the blue — Florida was completely excluded,” U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz said in a phone interview. “Florida was out of it. I mean, we were done.”

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But with the new look at sites to host the headquarters, Florida is now in the running.

The presence of NASA, private space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, universities that focus on engineering, the military presence in central Florida and the Cape Canaveral launch pads will make Florida competitive, Waltz said.

“It’s just a no-brainer for Florida to be in the final consideration,” said Waltz, a Republican who is on the House Armed Services and Science, Space and Technology committees. “Space is in our DNA. It has been for the last five decades. It’s all right here.”

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The other locations on the final list are Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Redstone Army Airfield in Alabama, and Port San Antonio in Texas.

President Donald Trump signed the Space Force into law in December 2019, creating the first new military branch since 1947. Though an independent branch, Space Force still resides within the Department of the Air Force in the same way the Marine Corps rests within the Department of the Navy. Currently, the vast majority of Space Force personnel are Air Force transfers.

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About 60 locations in 24 states were being considered for the headquarters, according to Waltz and the Air Force.

Officials will visit each of the six finalist sites and make a decision on where the headquarters will be in mid-January, Waltz said.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a statement sent by text from a spokesman, said, “Florida remains the world’s premier 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.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also touted the state’s space industry in a news release after the decision was announced.

“Florida’s Space Coast has been America’s gateway to the stars for decades, and Florida’s robust, rapidly growing and innovative commercial space industry, in partnership with NASA, is continuing to build off this historic legacy,” Rubio said.

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