San Antonio is one of six finalist communities that house the headquarters of the US Space Command – the unitary combatant command responsible for the command and control of space operations for all of our armed forces.
For those of us familiar with the extraordinary and diverse properties of Military City, USA, the shortlisted San Antonio came as no surprise. While much has been said about what makes San Antonio such a natural partner for Space Command, I would like to focus on two considerations that will be crucial in the final location decision: (1) the practical issues of funding, construction, crewing to operate and maintain command; and (2) ensure it operates with a culture that prioritizes innovation, improves the use of new and emerging technology, and eliminates bureaucratic processes. San Antonio offers the best solution in both respects.
• Financing and construction. While there are already buildings that can accommodate Space Command on a short-term basis (including the current facilities in Colorado Spring), none of these buildings have been built to the standards our modern Space Command requires. Each proposed site will require new construction to avoid disrupting the mission. Port San Antonio is a political subdivision of Texas, not a federal facility. Hence, it can deliver a newly built, bespoke, and fully forcible facility at commercial prices and without the delays associated with federal military construction programs. The dollar savings are substantial. The real benefit, however, is the time. The recently built US headquarters for strategic commands at Offutt Air Force Base took 12 years to deliver and cost $ 1.3 billion. We’re on a Race Years business and any place other than San Antonio is bringing us back.
• Manning. Few communities outside of Washington, DC host the number and variety of collaborative workers calling San Antonio home. Joint Base San Antonio, the military’s largest Joint Base, is home to over 200 missions from all services, including the Brooke Army Medical Center, the 16th Air Force, and the Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command. San Antonio is also home to other agencies, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, that will complement the Space Command’s mission.
• Operational. Port San Antonio is located on Kelly Field (which supports current flight operations) and offers quick access to the globe from the central location of San Antonio. The Port and San Antonio also offer world-class commercial and military cybersecurity capabilities that help secure and defend Space Command’s networks and support a strong and resilient command and control company.
• Sustainable. Port San Antonio offers a commercial rental structure that ensures that the facility is consistently maintained and supported according to commercial standards. This is both a savings and value for Space Command. In addition, Port San Antonio has received recognition for its emerging technology campus and will soon open an innovation center that will provide entertainment, education and amenities well beyond what is normally found in military facilities. San Antonio itself is one of the big cities in our country with fantastic schools, medical facilities and support for the military and their families. Similarly, the rapidly growing tech and aerospace sectors in San Antonio will facilitate Space Command’s ability to recruit and retain talent for the civilian workforce.
While Space Command does not directly conduct research and development or acquisitions, it cannot fulfill its responsibility for directing space operations without ensuring that the forces it controls are prioritizing innovation, embracing the use of new and emerging technology, and removing bureaucratic processes.
San Antonio and Texas offer unmatched opportunities to innovate in defense acquisition. Traditional defense purchase cycles last months, if not years, and often involve few traditional defense businesses. In contrast, Texas has adopted a model that combines commercial, academic, and government skills in a way that enables access to technology and solutions at commercial pace. The success of the Army Futures Command in Austin, just an hour north of San Antonio, was compounded by a vibrant trading cluster exemplified by the National Security Innovation Council, made up of commercial, academic, and military leaders from across the state.
Port San Antonio is itself a recognized center of innovation. Recent successes include Plus One Robotics (which has received national attention for its monitored autonomy software that allows robots to operate in uncontrolled environments), XYREC (which is a laser ablation system with the world’s largest mobile robot and a 20 kW Laser), Reckon Point (named by Aviation Week as one of eight startups in the world that are transforming aviation), and the WEX Foundation (a space architect-led student study funded by NASA and a robotic Mining and additive manufacturing system for moon or Martians developed apartments).
After all, San Antonio has earned the title of “Military City, USA” with its extensive support for military operations and personnel. This brings Space Command and its people the strong community connections it needs to fully protect our nation and interests.
San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and the technology and innovation sectors are really exploding. The decision of where to locate the US space command involves a number of interconnected and complex elements, and no other city fulfills these elements as thoroughly as San Antonio. As Space Command defends the vital interests of the United States in, to and from space, San Antonio stands ready to host the command with unmatched synergy and support.
Edward A. Rice Jr. is a retired four-star general in the Air Force and served as the commander of the Air Education and Training Command from 2010 to 2013.
Editor’s Note: This is an Op-Ed. Therefore, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to reply or have your own editorial to submit, please contact the Military Times Senior Editor Howard Altman. firstname.lastname@example.org.