Florida Gov. DeSantis calls on Trump to base Space Force at Kennedy Space Center

By CHABELI HERRERA | The Orlando Sentinel | Published: February 20, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — In the midst of a day dedicated to the space industry in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis called on President Donald Trump to put at least part of his new military branch, Space Force, on Florida’s Space Coast.

In a tweet, DeSantis said Tuesday he was formally requesting the president place the Space Force Combatant Command at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

“This is part of Florida’s history and is a logical fit for our state,” DeSantis tweeted.

DeSantis also named Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez chair of Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, adding that “her bold leadership will lead the agency to greater heights in this exciting new age of space exploration.”

Trump signed a scaled back version of his plans for a Space Force military branch Tuesday. The directive, called Space Policy Directive 4, lays out plans for making Space Force a part of the U.S. Air Force, instead of its own independent military branch, much like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy.

Congress still has to approve the plan, but if passed, Space Force would be the first new military branch since the formation of the Air Force in 1947.

Space Florida has already been pitching Florida as a possible headquarters location for Space Force or U.S. Space Command, the nation’s 11th unified combatant command, which also is in the works, said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations at the agency.

“We have been working for a while with members of the federal delegation about making a strong case that it come to Florida,” Ketcham said. “Particularly given the fact that if it’s here, it’s near where the bulk of the activity, the business end of the launch activity occurs and it’s in a state with three other combatant commands.”

Doral-based Southern Command, near Miami, handles Central and Southern American and Caribbean operations. Central Command in Tampa is responsible for West Asia, parts of North Africa and Central Asia, and the Middle East. Also in Tampa, Special Operations Command oversees the military branches’ special operation missions.

Colorado, though, has a strong case for Space Force, too. That’s where the current Joint Functional Component Command for Space is located, and where historically the bulk of military space operations have taken place.

Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base are primary launch sites located on military bases, so both could be potential sites, as well.

“I would say there is a case to be made for some piece of the Space Force being located in Florida,” said Laura Seward Forczyk, owner of space consulting firm Astrolytical, but Colorado likely has the upper hand.

As for Space Force, Seward Forczyk said the more “incremental approach” of the new space policy directive will likely be better as Space Force is rolled out.

“This is a cautious intermediary success so that some progress can be made moving forward,” she said.

The news comes as hundreds of space industry leaders gathered at the Capitol for Florida’s 26th annual Space Day.

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