There’s a ton of competition across the nation, but Kent city leaders are urging the U.S. government to pick Kent as the permanent headquarters of the United States Space Command.
The new space command center would employ an estimated 1,400 at a 1 million-square-foot facility. The center has a temporary location in Colorado Springs, Colorado. U.S. SPACECOM is responsible for preparing all military operations in space, and is supported by service members drawn mostly from the Air Force but also from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, according to Spacenews.com.
“We have a resolution to put our best foot forward and welcome U.S. Space Command with all the advantages we have here,” said Bill Ellis, city economic development director, in a Aug. 11 presentation to the City Council’s virtual Committee of the Whole meeting.
The council approved a resolution to bring the command center to Kent at its Aug. 18 virtual meeting. The city will send the resolution to President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and to members of the Washington state congressional delegation.
“The Air Force is vetting a large number of communities across the country,” Ellis said. “It will make a recommendation to the commander-in-chief, with a decision in 2021.”
Ellis said other Washington cities seeking the command center include Tacoma, Lakewood, Everett, Spokane and Vancouver. But he added the toughest competition could come from Colorado Springs and Huntsville, Alabama. Cities in 26 states are pursuing the facility.
“I don’t think anybody has the diversity in manufacturing and know how in space as we do,” Ellis said in comparison to other cities in the state. “We have the deepest bench, the largest percentage of workers and longest heritage. We have more than half of the (6,200) outer space jobs in the state. In the state of Washington, nobody would have a better claim than us.”
As the historic home of the Boeing Space Center that opened in the 1960s to Blue Origin, which is building rockets to carry people into space, Kent has a lot of positives going for it, Ellis said. The city also has land near the Boeing Space Center to accommodate the headquarters, is close to Sea-Tac Airport and just 25 miles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
“The resolution is one of several ways we the city of Kent can illustrate its commitment to this vital defense program and the community’s support,” Ellis said.
The Air Force has said it will likely select a location in early 2021, but that it will take up to six years to build the new headquarters.
The Air Force in May announced there would be an open bidding process to select the permanent location of U.S. Space Command headquarters. Any state with large military bases that met a list of criteria was eligible to compete. Responses were due June 30, according to SpaceNews.com.
“City mayor or state governors may make announcements as they deem appropriate regarding their nomination,” said Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek in a statement.
Stefanek also said the Air Force doesn’t plan to make any selection announcements until after the candidate finalist selections in November.
U.S. SPACECOM is not the Space Force that Trump has called for establishing as new military service to defend America’s interests in space, according to SpaceNews.com. Space Force would be a separate service under the Air Force.
The Air Force will assess Kent and other cities ability to host, employ and sustain the headquarters. It will focus on four primary factors, including mission, capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.
“Kent Valley has attracted a breadth of engineering and manufacturing talent that is experienced in the development of spacecraft and launch vehicles, satellites and satellite systems propulsion systems, navigation and controls, electronic equipment, robotics. …and pure research and development,” according to the city’s resolution. “These innovative capabilities are critical to the United States national security and to Space Force operations.”
USSPACECOM is temporarily headquartered in Colorado Springs with personnel and functions at Peterson Air Force Base as well as Schriever AFB, Colorado; Offutt AFB, Nebraska; and Vandenberg AFB, California.
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