The commander of U.S. Space Command, Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, speaks at an Aug. 29 White House ceremony marking the reestablishment of U.S. Space Command. Credit: DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Air Force has received nominations from 26 states that want to host U.S. Space Command headquarters, the service announced July 5.

“We were pleased with the strong response the Air Force received from across the country,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement.

The Air Force did not disclose which 26 states have submitted bids. The service plans to choose a location for U.S. Space Command headquarters in January 2021.

“City mayor or state governors may make announcements as they deem appropriate regarding their nomination,” said Stefanek.

The Air Force on May 15 announced there would be an open bidding process to select the permanent location of U.S. Space Command headquarters. Any state with large military bases that met a list of criteria was eligible to compete. Responses were due June 30.

U.S. Space Command was established in August 2019 as the military’s 11th unified combatant command. The future headquarters will have approximately 1,400 military and civilian personnel working there. The command is temporarily based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

The Department of the Air Force will now move to the evaluation phase, said Stefanek. “We do not plan to make any further selection announcements until after the candidate selections in mid-late November.”

Service leaders will visit sites around the country prior to selecting a preferred location in January 2021.

“After we announce the preferred location we will accomplish the environmental analysis before rendering a final decision,” said Stefanek. The environmental reviews could take up to 24 months.

The selection process will draw intense scrutiny from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized the open bidding process a waste of resources, calling it a “moondoggle.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...