By JULIE CARR SMYTH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s rich history of aviation innovation makes it an ideally suited location for the Air Force’s new U.S. Space Command headquarters or Space Force units, a group of the state’s congressional delegates told Democratic President Joe Biden in a letter Wednesday.
The bipartisan group — Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Republican U.S. Rep. David Joyce and six others — joined a coalition of the state’s business and technology leaders and the state’s governor in making a pitch for the facility, as selection of a headquarters city has been embroiled in politics.
“From the Wright brothers to American heroes like John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, the story of modern aviation is rooted in Ohio – and Ohio is ready to meet the challenges of the future,” the lawmakers wrote, in a letter also addressed to military leaders. “Ohio’s numerous industry and university partners in the state create a synergy around national security and space that is unmatched around the country.”
The lawmakers urged locating the Space Command headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, already a hub for air and space intelligence and research, and partnering Space Force with NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center facilities at Lewis Field in Cleveland and the Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky on Lake Erie.
A decision in their favor — viewed as a longshot — would come as central Ohio makes its move to become a nexus of high-tech research and development. Centered around a $20 billion semiconductor facility being built by chipmaker Intel Corp., the hub is also set to include a massive electric vehicle project under way by Honda America and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution and Ohio State University’s new $110 million software innovation center.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and two dozen local officials made a similar appeal for placing Space Command headquarters at Wright-Patterson in 2020, before the Pentagon announced in January 2021 that the facility would be located in Huntsville, Alabama.
That decision was lambasted by Colorado officials, who said military officials had recommended to then-Republican President Donald Trump that Space Command remain at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
A General Accounting Office investigation released last year determined selection criteria were abruptly changed during the 2020 election year, which led to Republican-leaning Alabama being selected over Democratic-dominated Colorado after a meeting at the White House.
The brouhaha has put the headquarters decision back in play, even as the Air Force announced more permanent locations last week for individual Space Force missions. Those included four in Colorado Springs and none in Huntsville.
Brown said Ohio’s earlier advocacy fell victim to a “rigged process,” but this time around state leaders are moving quickly and aggressively to stay on the administration’s radar.
“We want to see Space Force units in the state, and we will be unrelenting in our pursuit of this,” he told reporters during a weekly briefing call.
Brown described Ohio as “clearly more prepared for this than Alabama; there’s no question,” with Colorado “more of an equal fight” but so far less organized.
U.S. Space Force is the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947. It organizes, trains and equips space professionals and then presents them to Space Command and other combatant commands. Space Command employs forces from Space Force, as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Another argument made by the elected officials lobbying for Ohio is that middle America has long gotten short shrift when it comes to the placement of military infrastructure.
“For generations, servicemembers from the Midwest have answered the call of duty and served in our nation’s military. Yet, the Midwest – especially since the post-Cold War reduction in the Strategic Air Command – is home to few active-duty military installations,” they wrote. “The result is that while the region provides our nation with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, few serve in the region they call home.”
Brown’s involvement in the effort comes as he seeks reelection next year in a once pivotal bellwether state that’s tacked dramatically to the right in the last several years.
Brown said the broad effort is also joined by regional economic development organizations, universities and research organizations are also participating in the effort.
“It’s not partisan, it’s not ideological,” he said.