EGLIN AFB — A bipartisan group of Florida's U.S. House members has joined Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in calling for headquarters of U.S. Space Command, likely to be part of the Space Force that President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to establish, to be located in Florida.
Eglin is involved in current Air Force space operations. The 20th Space Control Squadron, part of the 21st Space Wing based at Colorado's Peterson Air Force Base, operates a massive radar array at Eglin, in addition to other space surveillance equipment elsewhere.
The squadron can find, track and target objects in Earth’s orbit, and has the capability to track an object the size of a basketball as far as 25,000 miles away. Its 250 military and civilian personnel operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Additionally, Eglin's 96th Cyberspace Test Group, established in December 2017 as the only unit of its kind in the Air Force, has been involved in testing and evaluation of the Space Fence, a new radar installation in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands.
The installation is designed to allow the Air Force to see 200,000 objects in orbit, 10 times more than the 20,000 objects — dead satellites, spent rocket boosters and stray hardware — currently being tracked.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan — the same day Trump signed the Space Force directive — 14 members of Florida's 27-member House delegation contend the state, "with its existing civilian and commercial space infrastructure and launch capabilities, is uniquely suited, and the logical choice to locate USSPACECOM ... ."
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz's signature did not appear on the letter initially because of a clerical error, but was added to the letter Wednesday, he said. Gaetz's Northwest Florida district hosts a number of military installations, including Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field.
The letter touts Florida as "the epicenter for America's space program," noting its "strong defense and aerospace industry base" and "long history of supporting America's military community."
"We hope these important factors are considered when your department makes recommendations as to where to locate the USSPACECOM headquarters," the delegation members wrote Shanahan.
In addition to Gaetz, the letter was signed by Republican Reps. Michael Waltz, Bill Posey, John H. Rutherford, Ross Spano, Daniel Webster, Greg Steube, Ted Yoho, Brian Mast, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn and Gus Bilirakis, and Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist.
"We are a natural home for the space force headquarters because we have so much aerospace talent in Florida," Gaetz said in a text message Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a former congressman, said via Twitter he was "formally sending a request to @realDonaldTrump to place the headquarters for the Space Force Combatant Command here in Florida @NASAKennedy in Cape Canaveral. This is part of Florida's history and is a logical fit for our state."
At least initially, Space Force would be part of the Air Force, although Trump had pushed for it to be a separate branch of the U.S. military.