Palmdale moves to evaluation phase for U.S. Space Command headquarters

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The U.S. Air Force is formally evaluating the City of Palmdale to host the future permanent headquarters for the United States Space Command. When fully established, the command will have approximately 1,400 military and civilian personnel working at the headquarters.

Palmdale has received strong support in this effort from Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor and Board Chair Kathryn Barger, and the required endorsement of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

“Los Angeles County has greatly contributed to the advancement of the aerospace industry and space exploration through many institutions such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Edwards AFB, Los Angeles AFB, NASA facilities, JPL, Cal Tech, and United States Air Force Plant 42, which have endeavored to support aerospace efforts,” said Barger. “In particular the Antelope Valley and the City of Palmdale have a long and impressive history of advancing a peaceful, secure, and accessible space domain.”

Additional support has been given from California’s 23rd and 25th Congressional Districts of Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Mike Garcia, both expressing excitement that Palmdale is now among the top communities in the running.

“We proudly refer to the Antelope Valley as the ‘Aerospace Valley’ because of its long and distinguished history as the cradle and proving grounds of aerospace and space innovation. It is the home of generations of test pilots breaking the sound barrier, astronauts testing the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, and commercial aerospace companies testing privately-owned spacecraft,” said Garcia. “Palmdale, with its vast geography to expand upon, its talented workforce, existing industry expertise and its direct access to other major nodes in the space mission is the most logical choice for the permanent headquarters for the United States Space Command. I am confident that the Department of the Air Force and the Department of Defense will come to the right conclusion regarding the future home of the United States Space Command.”

McCarthy continued the praise for the Aerospace Valley.

“The Air Force is affirming what we know to be true — our community is a centerpiece of our nation’s space enterprise,” said McCarthy. “With the incredible innovations of our commercial space companies at the Mojave Air and Space Port, and countless contributions of the AFRL Rocket Lab, China Lake, Edwards, NASA Armstrong and Plant 42, there are many reasons why our region would be a great home for Space Command, something I have personally stressed with the Trump Administration since the founding of the U.S. Space Command.”

The city has also garnered the support of Brig. Gen. Matthew W. Higer, commander of the 412th Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. “Edwards Air Force Base and Air Force Plant 42 are indescribably pleased to be a partner with the City of Palmdale and all of our communities in the larger Aerospace Valley,” said Higer. “This community — built on the spirit of innovation — makes The Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe possible.  Our region, located in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Kern Counties, is home to the best and brightest air and space leaders on the planet. Air Force Plant 42, already a vital part of our nation’s critical defense industrial base, is a natural fit for Headquarters U.S. Space Command.”

The City of Palmdale Mayor, city council and staff stand united in support for making the Aerospace Valley home to the U.S. Space Command. “The Aerospace Valley has a storied past of seeing the development of the best air and space technology over our blue skies daily,” said Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer. “Presently, engineers are designing the next generation of air superiority. As we look to the future, we believe the U.S. Space Command belongs in the Aerospace Valley.”

The next phase of the evaluation process will score communities based on how they relate to the mission, infrastructure capacity, community support, and overall costs to the Air Force. At this time, the U.S. Air Force is not publicizing the communities it is looking at.

“The Department of the Air Force has moved on from the nomination phase and has now entered the evaluation phase of the selection process,” said Sarah Fiocco, an Air Force spokesperson at the Pentagon. “We do not plan to release additional information until after the candidate selections in winter 2020.

“The Department then expects to conduct site visits prior to selecting a preferred location in early 2021,” she added. “After we announce the preferred location, we will accomplish the Environmental Analysis before rendering a final decision.  This could take up to 24 months after naming a preferred location.”

United States Space Command is the newest of the 11 unified commands in the Department of Defense. The command increases the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence, reduces decision timelines for space operations, and brings focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space. Establishing USSPACECOM is a critical step in accelerating the ability of the Joint Force to defend vital national interests and deter adversaries.

USSPACECOM is temporarily headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., with personnel and functions at Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever AFB, Colo., Offutt AFB, Neb., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson is the commander of U.S. Space Command, serving as the senior commander of all space unified military forces. SSPACECOM is distinct from and complementary to the U.S. Space Force. As an Armed Force, the U.S. Space Force will organize, train and equip space forces. As a Combatant Command, USSPACECOM actively employs assigned forces from each of the military services to accomplish directed missions in the space domain.

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The minimum eligibility requirements, as issued by the U.S. Air Force, are
• Metropolitan Statistical Areas: Be within one of the 150 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States, based on census bureau 2019 population estimates. This ensures that eligible locations can support the expected increase in staff and their families.
• Proximity to a Military Base: Be within 25 miles or less of a military base to ensure eligible locations can support service members and their families with key support services like military housing, health care, child care, commissary, and personnel and logistics support.
• Livability Index: Have a Livability Index score of 50 points out of 100 or higher as determined by the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute. This criterion ensures that eligible locations can provide a quality of life that enables U.S. Space Command to competitively attract and retain a skilled workforce. Quality of life factors measured by the index include: housing affordability, great neighborhoods, safe and convenient transportation, clean air and water, quality health services, civic/social involvement, and inclusive opportunities.

Evaluation Criteria
Relative ability of eligible locations to support the United Space Command mission. Evaluations will be scored on a weighted 100 point scale.
• Mission Related (40 points): Assessment of the available qualified workforce, proximity to mutually supporting space entities, and ability of the eligible locations to provide emergency and incident response requirements, and enable mobility.
• Infrastructure Capacity (30 points): Infrastructure requirements to include facility and parking space, communications bandwidth and redundancy, special access communications, anti-terrorism, force protection (AT/FP) and security requirements, energy resilience, and the nearest active duty installation’s base operating support to service members to include medical care, childcare, military housing, and transportation.
• Community Support (15 points): Support to military families as measured by the quality of schools, professional licensure portability, cost of living, housing affordability, and access to military/veteran support programs
• Costs to the Department of the Air Force (15 points): One-time infrastructure and transportations costs, area construction cost factor, basic housing allowance rate, and area locality pay.

Space Command is a unified combatant command of the U.S. Department of Defense and is responsible for military operations in outer space, specifically all operations above 100 kilometers above mean sea level.

The command is the newest of 11 unified commands in DOD, and increases the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence, reduces decision timelines for space operations, and brings focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space. Establishing USSPACECOM was a critical step in accelerating the ability of the joint force to defend vital national interests and deter adversaries.

The command was first established in September 1985, but inactivated in 2002. At that time, its responsibilities were merged into U.S. Strategic Command. After nearly 17 years, Space Command was reactivated on Aug. 29, 2019.

With its reactivation, the Air Force identified six locations to be the future home of the command: Buckley AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB, all in Colorado; Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and Vandenberg AFB in Calif.

On May 15, 2020, however, the Air Force announced they were revising their approach, releasing screening and evaluation criteria and allowing localities that met the criteria to self-nominate to become the future home of the command. At that time, Palmdale, Calif., nominated itself to become the future home of the command.

At the time of its reactivation in 2019, the president nominated Gen. John Raymond to be commander. Raymond later became Chief of Space Operations for the new U.S. Space Force. On Aug. 20, 2020, Army Gen. James H. “Jim” Dickinson assumed command of U.S. Space Command from Raymond.

USSPACECOM conducts operations in, from and to space to deter conflict, and if necessary, defeat aggression, deliver space combat power for the Joint/Combined force and defend U.S. vital interests with allies and partners.

Colorado Springs, Colo., remains the location for the provisional headquarters for U.S. Space Command until a permanent headquarters location is selected and facilities are ready in approximately six years. The Department of the Air Force anticipates selecting a preferred U.S. Space Command location early next calendar year.

The U.S. Space Force headquarters will be located in the Pentagon just like the other services.

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