U.S. lawmakers are asking that Vandenberg Space Force Base be given a fair chance at being considered as the permanent location for the Space Training Readiness Command (STARCOM) program, saying the decision to select other sites for U.S. Space Command was “based on politics, not merit.”
In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Congressmember Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara expressed support for Vandenberg — which was selected as a finalist location for U.S. Space Command in 2019, then left off the list in 2020 — to be considered as the final site for STARCOM, a Space Force training program that, according to its website, exists to “develop space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures” and to “prepare combat-ready forces to fight and win” in space.
“As you know, Vandenberg Space Force Base already plays an important role in space training and operations. Vandenberg trains space operators at the Air Education and Training Command’s 381st Training Group; manages missile testing; and launches satellites into polar orbit,” the members wrote. “Further, Vandenberg’s proximity to California’s world-renowned aerospace industry, universities, and research institutions makes it well-suited to support the permanent establishment of STARCOM.”
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The letter also asked that the selection process be based on a rigorous and objective evaluation of each proposed site, and the lawmakers expressed worries about why other locations have been chosen as the temporary sites for Space Command and STARCOM.
“We are concerned about reports that the previous Administration’s decision to establish U.S. Space Command at Redstone Arsenal was based on politics instead of the merits, and ask you to ensure this does not happen in future basing decisions,” the letter said. “We are also concerned about the decision to temporarily base STARCOM at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.”
In March, according to another letter from the same lawmakers to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Carbajal and Feinstein sent several requests to both the Air Force and Defense Department, asking for more information about the metrics used to determine the finalists in order to objectively determine how Vandenberg compared to the new slate of finalists, but they never received that information.
The recent letter expressed hope that Vandenberg would still be given a fair chance as a permanent training site. “We trust that under your leadership, future basing decisions will be carried out in an impartial manner and will follow established processes.”