Harris talks to troops, elected officials about importance of space
Air Force Two landed on a windy Monday afternoon at Vandenberg Space Force, bringing Vice President Kamala Harris and her message of outer space’s importance to national security and humanity’s imagination.
It marked the first time a U.S. vice president has visited Vandenberg since Vice President Mike Pence stopped at the base in 2019.
Vice President Harris came at a time when Vandenberg is one of six bases across the country being considered for the headquarters of Space Training and Readiness Command, which supporters say could boost the Central Coast economy greatly and produce many new jobs. Ms. Harris didn’t address STARCOM in her speech but discussed norms and rules of responsible use of space and said that unlike Russia and China, the U.S. will not fire missiles at satellites. She said America is the first nation in the world to make that commitment.
On a day of tight security and Secret Service presence at Vandenberg, Vice President Harris exited Air Force Two with Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff. On the ground, she hugged U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, who was there with U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif. Afterward, a motorcade took the vice president to closed briefings, and late in the afternoon, Ms. Harris emerged on stage in a building full of members of the U.S. Space Force and Central Coast and national media.
“I think everyone here recognizes how extraordinary space is, whether it’s satellites that orbit the Earth, humans that land on the moon or telescopes that peer into the furthest reaches of the universe,” Vice President Harris told the audience during her 15-minute speech. “Space is exciting. It spurs our imagination and forces us to ask the big questions. Space affects us all, and it connects us all.
“There are so many opportunities for our countries and for all of humanity, from science to commerce to national security,” Ms. Harris said.
She went on to say that the Biden administration was proposing the largest single increase in military space capability in the nation’s history.
“And we will continue to invest so you are able to protect our interests in space, which in turn protects our interests here on Earth,” she said, with troops on stage behind her and seated in front of her.
Ms. Harris also discussed Ukraine and pointed to Russia completely violating international rules and norms established after World War II. She said she was heartened to see the world come together to condemn Russia’s actions.
Leaders of Ukraine and other nations have called the Russian actions, including its attacks on civilians, “war crimes.”
Vice President Harris also condemned Russia’s and China’s firing of missiles at their nations’ satellites as part of their efforts to develop anti-satellite weapon technology. She noted that Russia’s destruction of its satellite in November has left 1,600 pieces of debris in orbit, and there’s still debris remaining from China’s destruction of its satellite in 2007.
“These tests, to be sure, are reckless, and they are irresponsible,” Ms. Harris said.
She added that satellites are crucial to national security and infrastructure.
Earlier, Rep. Carbajal addressed the room of troops and officials, who included everyone from Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann to state Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara. Speaking to Vice President Harris, he said, “Welcome to the most beautiful place in the world, Central Coast.
“By coming here, you are reaffirming the future and the importance of our nation’s future in space,” Rep. Carbajal said.
Unlike Vice President Harris, Rep. Carbajal did mention the possibility of Vandenberg becoming the STARCOM headquarters.
Immediately after the speeches, he talked to the News-Press about STARCOM and what Vandenberg could offer it.
“I think our advantages are huge,” Rep. Carbajal told the News-Press. “We are a prime candidate strategically and geographically when you consider our proximity to aerospace technologies in the region and our world-class universities and a base with extraordinary amenities.
“And how can you beat the quality of life on the Central Coast?” he said.
“And for the local economy, it would mean billions of dollars that would be invested in creating jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Rep. Carbajal said the selection process for STARCOM is just beginning and that he didn’t know when a decision would be made.
Others speaking Monday varied from Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks to military leaders who emphasized Vandenberg’s history in outer space.
“As we enter this new age of increased space exploration, the United States must continue to lead the way in establishing norms to protect our national security and space assets,” Sen. Padilla told the troops and civilians. “Thanks to critical installations like Vandenberg Space Force Base, the United States has consistently been a pioneer in satellite imagery and innovation in space. I am committed to continuing my work in the Senate to bolster space diplomacy and ensure that space assets can be used responsibly by all spacefaring nations.”