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Midlands Voices: Nebraska's strengths make it a strong host for Space Command

Midlands Voices: Nebraska's strengths make it a strong host for Space Command

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Space satellite lifts into orbit (copy) (copy)

An Atlas V rocket carrying a military surveillance satellite into orbit lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in January.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is seeking a new headquarters for the growing space mission, and we are working together to bring the mission back home to the Heartland.

Last year, recognizing that our military and economic capabilities are increasingly dependent on the space domain, DOD re-established the United States Space Command. Russia and China increasingly threaten U.S. access to space and the safe operations of satellites, generating bipartisan agreement to unify command and control over America’s military space mission.

This sets the stage for a major decision by DOD soon. Just before Thanksgiving, Bellevue — home to Offutt Air Force Base and the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) — became one of six finalists to serve as the headquarters of a new unified combatant command within DOD: U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM).

Deep in the Heartland, our location has made us the ideal place to base critical national security missions through the years. Since 1948, Nebraska has been home to the global military missions that matter most to our national survival. When Offutt was selected to host the Strategic Air Command in the early days of the Cold War, we gladly took on this role, which we continue to proudly host today in STRATCOM. And from 2002-2019, America’s military space mission was a part of STRATCOM, headquartered at Offutt.

2020 is no different. We are the right place.

The selection criteria for the headquarters is straightforward: costs to DOD, mission, capacity, and community. Nebraska has resounding strengths in each of these areas.

Cost to the taxpayer is an important variable, and Nebraska is an affordable place to grow. The construction costs of this facility are significant, and our approach will help save DOD time and money. We have a long tradition of successful public-private partnerships as proven by our work on the VA clinic, the UNMC NExT project and iEXCEL. The business community’s investment in the new Omaha VA clinic helped save taxpayers $34 million, or 28% of the project’s cost. Unlike Colorado’s VA Hospital that went a $1 billion over budget with years of delays, Omaha’s VA clinic opened four months early thanks to Nebraska’s unique public-private partnership model.

With 17 years of experience, we have the vision for this mission. We understand the space economy and have the connections, commitment and cogent-thought leadership to carry on the tradition of hosting space headquarters. We thrive at supporting intricate, joint operations headquarters and are prepared for a future that supports SPACECOM. That’s why the U.S. Marines just announced Offutt Air Force Base will host the newly formed Marine Corps Forces Space Command.

Our wide-open spaces and already existing land at Offutt provide perfect capacity. Offutt is designed to allow for seamless operation of multiple missions. And with the ongoing renovations at the base, we have plenty of room to grow.

Nebraska’s people and community are what really set us apart. For decades, Bellevue and Omaha have proven an ideal home for military and military families. We would welcome thousands more, and the leaders of our community are committed to ensuring adequate housing, childcare, community services and economic development. Moreover, our academic institutions are producing an affordable and competitive workforce ripe for this new mission.

From the University of Nebraska to Bellevue University and beyond, our graduates are some of the country’s best engineers and analysts. The University of Nebraska College of Law’s unique Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program (established largely in response to interest by the U.S. Air Force) — along with NU’s Air and Space Research and Aerospace Studies programs, National Strategic Research Institute and the new National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology, and Innovation Center are primed and ready to support SPACECOM’s mission.

Working alongside our academic and economic leaders, we can make a strong case for SPACECOM to be located at Offutt. The command would benefit from all our great state has to offer, and the associated jobs would boost our space economy here in the Heartland.

This essay was signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse and U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, Don Bacon and Adrian Smith.

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