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Offutt Air Force Base passed over for Space Command Headquarters

Posted at 3:35 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 23:32:39-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After reportedly making it into the top-six finalists, Offutt Air Force Base will likely not be the new headquarters for the U.S. Space Command. Instead c will be the command's new headquarters.

The role of the Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and troop communication.

That is different from the Space Force, which is a distinct military service.

This decision is disappointing for Nebraska leaders who have been advocating for Offutt throughout the bidding process.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said after the announcement on Wednesday that Nebraska will continue advocating for its place as a new administration enters.

“Even with today’s announcement, Nebraska will continue to make the case to the incoming administration for bringing USSPACECOM to the Heartland in the coming days and weeks,” said Ricketts. “When you look at the data and our competitive advantages, Nebraska remains the best place in the nation to locate this mission.”

Rep. Don Bacon worked with Ricketts, as well as Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Sen. Deb Fischer, to advocate for Offutt. Bacon says that Offutt was very competitive when it came to expense and quality.

"We had tons of positives there," Bacon said. "When they say this was the most affordable place to put a headquarters, that says a lot about our community. Not only the most affordable - the great capabilities of our schools, our medical, proximity to an airport - all that fit in."

Bacon believes the biggest barrier for securing the bid was Omaha's lack of space industries and space-trained workers. Huntsville, on the other hand, is known as Rocket City and is home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

"The one thing we cannot overcome, at least in the near term, is the large abundance of a space qualified work force," Bacon said. "We just don’t have space units or space industry here in Omaha.”

Rep. Fortenberry issued a statement, also saying they would potentially be filing an appeal.

"Clearly, this is a huge disappointment," Fortenberry said. "We put up a heck of a fight. I am proud of our effort, given our long-shot status. Offutt would have been an excellent host. We will examine the reasons for this decision and potentially launch an appeal.”

As officials in Nebraska hint at an appeal, officials in Colorado Springs - another finalist and former home to the Space Command - are claiming that the decision was less practical and more political.

“The senators' offices, had sources within the Air Force that had indicated to them that Colorado Springs was in fact the recommendation of the Air Force and only at the direction of President Trump did this go a different direction," said Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers.

The mayor notes these anonymous sources have yet to go on the record.

Bacon says while Nebraska had quality and low cost, and Colorado had a history of space industry, “Alabama had a lot of political clout there as well. So that was sort of how that probably turned.”

Securing the headquarters position could have brought in up to 800 civilian and 600 military positions to the area, according David Brown, the chamber's CEO. Offutt is already the metro's largest employer.

On Wednesday the Greater Omaha Chamber issued a statement saying it was an honor to make the case for Omaha.

"It has been an honor to work with all the dedicated people involved in making our case for the #SPACECOMM headquarters. Once again, we've shown that our cooperation, quality of life, and commitment is second to none. #WeDontCoast"

Last year, Nebraska bid $107 million in public and private money to attract the Space Command, with Brown being one of the backers. He told 3 News Now that this local money was meant to offset the estimated $1 billion cost of building the new headquarters.

Rusty Pike, Mayor of Bellevue, said he is proud of the effort made by the region to bring Space Command to the area. "We will see what happens in the coming days, weeks and months."

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