San Antonio leaders vying for U.S. Space Command headquarters

'The economic impact would be significant,' Mayor Nirenberg said

U.S. Space Command (U.S. Space Command)

SAN ANTONIO – A behind-the-scenes push by local and regional leaders has put San Antonio in the running for another major military installation, city officials confirmed on Thursday.

The Air Force is searching for a permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command, a recently established military command that is charged with war efforts in space. Currently, its operations are based in Colorado Springs.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Governor Greg Abbott and members of the San Antonio congressional delegation have written letters to Air Force leaders at the Pentagon within the last two months asking that the Alamo City be considered. Abbott also nominated Houston and Fort Worth.

“The economic impact would be significant,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg told KSAT in a statement Thursday.

The San Antonio Express-News first reported the story on Wednesday, writing that San Antonio “survived the initial cut” of about 100 cities that answered the Air Force’s May call for interested cities to apply for the headquarters. The newspaper reported that a final decision is expected in January, and that the headquarters would take about six years to develop.

The lobbying efforts have happened largely behind closed doors and not been discussed publicly until Wednesday’s report, speaking to the early stages of the negotiations.

Juan Ayala, director of the office of military and veteran affairs for the City of San Antonio, told KSAT that the city is now in the “evaluation phase” of the selection process, which will run through October.

“The City, Joint Base San Antonio and other community partners are completing a series of questions the Air Force has asked us to answer,” Ayala said, adding that finalists will be named in November.

“We have the largest presence of cyber and intelligence capabilities outside of the national capital region,” Nirenberg said in a statement to KSAT. “And we have a public-private military and civilian infrastructure that’s required, including medical and military support networks, housing, transportation and veteran services, as well as electric, water, gas and telecommunications that are all critically important.”

Nirenberg wrote a letter to John Henderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force, on June 9 confirming that Military City USA meets the criteria laid out by the Pentagon.

“Our diverse population and exceptional quality of life will provide HQ USSPACECOM with a large pool of highly skilled workforce consisting of transitioning military personnel, veterans, and their spouses,” Nirenberg wrote, adding that San Antonio is home to four military installations, including the largest joint base in the U.S.: Joint Base San Antonio.

In Abbott’s subsequent June 24 letter to Henderson he wrote that San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth meet the criteria laid out by the U.S. military. It isn’t immediately clear whether the other two Texas cities are still in the running.

“There is no place more supportive of military missions, and no place more welcoming to our service members and their families, than the State of Texas. We also have the resources, universities, and human capital necessary to support something as important to the nation’s future as Space Command,” Abbott wrote.

Members of the San Antonio congressional delegation — Will Hurd, Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Henry Cuellar and Chip Roy — wrote Henderson on July 24 “expressing strong support” for San Antonio’s nomination by Nirenberg and Abbott.

The letter cites the 75,000 uniformed and civilian personnel that call San Antonio home. “Our community already provides excellent options for housing, schools and other amenities for an unparalleled quality of life for service members and their families,” the lawmakers wrote.

Space Command is separate from but complementary to Space Force, the fourth branch of the U.S. military established last year.

From the Space Command website:

“United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) is the newest of the eleven unified commands in the Department of Defense (DoD). USSPACECOM increases the ability of the Joint Force to project power and influence, reduces decision timelines for space operations, and brings focused attention to defending U.S. interests in space. Establishing USSPACECOM is a critical step in accelerating the ability of the Joint Force to defend vital national interests and deter adversaries...

General John “Jay” Raymond is the commander, USSPACECOM as well as Chief of Space Operations for the United States Space Force, serving as the senior commander of all space unified military forces. USSPACECOM is distinct from and complementary to the U.S. Space Force. As an Armed Force, the U.S. Space Force will organize, train, and equip space forces. As a Combatant Command, USSPACECOM actively employs assigned forces from each of the military services to accomplish directed missions in the space domain.”

About the Author:

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. Previously, he worked at the San Antonio Express-News and the Texas Observer.