Vandenberg welcomes new members and continues push to establish U.S. Space Command headquarters
Vandenberg Air Force Base welcomed 21 new officers and enlisted members to the U.S. Space Force last week.
The ceremonial induction tradition was held on Sept. 1 in front of the Headquarters’ Building, marking a significant step forward in the development of the U.S. Space Force.
The branch organizes trains and equips forces to protect the U.S. and allied interests in space, along with developing space professionals and maturing the military doctrine for space power.
The new inductees joined amid a region-wide push to headquarter the U.S. Space Command at Vandenberg.
Organizations backing the push say the $1 billion establishment would boost the Central Coast’s economy, with 1,400 service members and international liaisons contributing locally, millions of dollars in contracts and services, and the ability to make the state a global leader in the commercial space industry.
The Regional Economic Action Coalition has provided momentum behind this push, and said in a news release Friday that this will be a “huge boost toward establishing a thriving commercial space industry on the Central Coast, attracting investment and high-quality jobs in a $425 billion industry expected to grow $3 trillion over the next three decades.”
REACH’s letter to the assistant secretary of the Air Force said Vandenberg’s region “exceeds the requirements of each basing selection criterion,” citing UCSB and Cal Poly, which produce nearly 9,000 engineering and science graduates each year, alongside the three community colleges and the region’s number of highly specialized manufacturing and tech firms.
The letter was signed by Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong, UCSB chancellor Henry Yang, Allan Hancock College president/superintendent Dr. Kevin Walthers, Cuesta College president/superintendent Dr. Jill Stearns and more.
“While the selection of VAFB is no-guarantee, the process was a tremendously valuable effort for our region to exercise a newly forming muscle of regional cooperation across political aisles, county lines and community sectors,” Melissa James, the president and CEO of REACH, told the News-Press. “The effort brought together the expertise of over 30 leaders from the U.S. Congress, CA Assembly, U.S. Space Force, the State of CA, leaders from the county governments and workforce development boards of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, five higher education institutions, and the coalition of chambers of commerce.”
Letters of support for Vandenberg have also come from Gov. Gavin Newsom, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, the mayors of Santa Maria and Lompoc, and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
“Vandenberg’s existing space-related missions and assets, along with its proximity to the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, would offer Space Command unique and unparalleled advantages,” read the letter signed by U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both D-California. “The region offers a highly qualified workforce for aerospace engineering. California is a proven leader in the technology industry, and the Central Coast is home to multiple world class research universities.”
The efforts to headquarter the command at Vandenberg received bipartisan support, including support from Andy Caldwell, the Republican candidate running this fall against Rep. Carbajal.
“I’m all for it,” he told the News-Press.
“It could have a huge benefit economically for the entire Central Coast because of the number of jobs it would create,” said Mr. Caldwell, who is a News-Press columnist.
However, he added that he does have an overall concern with the number of people who would actually qualify for these high-tech jobs, and that the general region doesn’t have the wherewithal, specifically with housing, to accommodate the people fulfilling these jobs.
Joan Hartmann, the Santa Barbara County supervisor for the 3rd District, wrote in her letter: “After careful review of the screening and evaluation criteria, we believe our community meets all minimum eligibility requirements and would earn a competitive score when assessed against the evaluation criteria.”
She stated that local housing is available on and off base within the 25-mile range, along with childcare, medical facilities, state preserves, historical parks and beaches.
In his letter, Gov. Newsom cited existing space missions in California that “support the Pentagon’s efforts to increase their investments with maximum efficiency and minimal expense.”
“Community involvement with the development of a state-of-the-art Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base has not only increased the existing footprint of defense technology companies in the region, but has also provided the Department of Defense entities with unrivaled access to new technologies for their mission readiness,” the governor wrote.
The case is now in the hands of the Air Force office, which will ultimately make the decision by early 2021.
If VAFB advances as a finalist, word will come in November.