XENIA — U.S. Rep. Mike Turner isn’t ready to put odds on the region’s chances of becoming the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Command.
But he said one thing is 100 percent certain.
“The one thing that I can call is that we’re going to do an excellent job in making a case,” Turner told the Gazette via phone Tuesday. “It’s a tough call.”
In May the Department of the Air Force announced that it would accept nominations for the headquarters’ location based on three specific criteria: the location must be within one of the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., based on 2019 population estimates from the Census Bureau; the location must be within 25 miles or less of a military base; and the location must have a livability index score of at least 50 points out of 100, based on statistics kept by AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
The Dayton metro statistical area ranks 73rd according to the Census Bureau, while the area has a livability index score of 53. And of course WPAFB is within 25 miles of just about anywhere in the immediate area.
The region, likely bolstered by the presence of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, made it through the first cut of possible final destinations to land the 11th war-fighting command for the Department of Defense. Space Command — which is responsible for military operations in outer space — is temporarily headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., with additional personnel and functions at Schriever AFB, Colo., Offutt AFB, Neb., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Applications can be made beginning in 2021 and it’s estimated that construction of Space Command will take six years. Roughly 1,400 military and civilian personnel jobs come with the headquarters, plus a likely number of well-paid contractors and industry representatives. It equals a potential economic boom.
“Adding Space Command or any other new missions would certainly include growth at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but more than that, it would recognize the next generation of work,” Turner said. “We’ve always had aerospace and space tied together at Wright-Patterson. As space grows, we want to make certain that we’re a part of it and we aren’t just limited to the space portions that we have.”
Landing Space Command won’t be easy, despite the area already being home to one of the most important air force bases, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), and 30,000 military and civilian employees.
“We’ve got obviously some stiff competition in Colorado, which currently has the command, and Texas and Florida that are active in launch,” Turner said. “We’re making our case. We’re working diligently. We continue to put together a package, working directly with the governor making certain we speak as one voice as a state.”
Turner said they want to avoid a bidding war, during which the richest community or state likely wins.
“This is really a work force issue, a facilities issue, an access issue, and proximity,” he said. “We do very well on all four.”
Turner said WPAFB can support the needed technology and missions, has the work force to fill positions, and has historically been able to host commands that have leadership positions.
Gov. Mike DeWine thinks Greene County is the perfect location for Space Command.
“We think we should not only be competitive but we ought to win this,” he said when asked about it during his biweekly Zoom conference with media. “This is where those jobs belong. We’ve got so many things going for us at Wright-Patt.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.