Rep. Carbajal, Sens. Feinstein, Padilla Suggest Vandenberg for STARCOM HQ, Urge Transparency in Military Basing Decisions
Washington, D.C., March 22, 2021
Washington, DC – Earlier this month, Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) wrote to Defense Secretary Austin requesting increased transparency in the Department’s basing decision process, including Air Force and Space Force entities, and urging the Department to consider Vandenberg Air Force Base as STARCOM’s Headquarters.
In 2019, Vandenberg Air Force Base was selected as a finalist location for the U.S. Space Command. After public protests, the Air Force announced it would begin a new selection and evaluation process. Vandenberg AFB was subsequently left off the 2020 finalist list. Rep. Carbajal and Senator 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 AFB compared to the new slate of finalists, but never received that information. The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General is conducting a review of the basing decision due to concerns about the methodology used and the potential of political bias.
In the meantime, Space Force will soon begin the basing selection process for the new training and readiness unit, Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM). In addition to the assets that made Vandenberg AFB a finalist for U.S. Space Command headquarters, Vandenberg AFB hosts the 533d Training Squadron, where Air Force and Space Force personnel are trained in space systems, making it a logical choice to serve as the home of STARCOM.
“We understand that the Department will be conducting a basing selection process for the new training and readiness unit, Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM). We believe that Vandenberg AFB will be a top-tier candidate due to its existing training assets, including the 533d Training Squadron,” wrote the lawmakers. “We look forward to learning more about the methodology that will be used in this basing decision and respectfully request that you give Vandenberg AFB all due consideration during the evaluation process.”
“Growing Vandenberg’s space mission is a win-win for national security and the Central Coast region. The base’s existing space operation, location and room for growth make it ideal for additional Department of Defense missions, and more missions mean expanding Vandenberg’s multi-billion dollar impact on the region’s economy with more high-paying jobs in a future-oriented industry,” said REACH COO Andrew Hackleman. "We join with Congressman Carbajal and Senators Feinstein and Padilla in supporting mission growth at Vandenberg as good for the Central Coast and good for California.”
Read the full letter here or below.
March 11, 2021
The Honorable Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Austin,
Congratulations on your confirmation to lead the Department of Defense. We write you today to request increased transparency in the Department’s basing acquisition processes, especially related to Air Force and Space Force equities.
Our offices have been following the Air Force’s process for selecting the future headquarters of U.S. Space Command. In 2019, Senator Feinstein, Congressman Carbajal and then-Senator Harris sent letters in support of the nomination of Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), located in Lompoc, California, to become the permanent headquarters for Space Command. That year, the Air Force selected Vandenberg AFB as a finalist location, in addition to sites in Alabama and Colorado. We believed then, as we do now, that Vandenberg AFB’s existing space-related missions and assets, in conjunction with its proximity to the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, make it a prime candidate.
However, after public protests from the governors of Texas and Florida, the Air Force announced it would begin a new selection and evaluation process. During the second review process, Vandenberg AFB was left off the finalist list, with bases in Texas and Florida joining the new finalists. California was the only state to be included in 2019 and then subsequently excluded under the new selection process in 2020. Senator Feinstein and Congressman Carbajal wrote to then-Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett requesting information regarding the evaluation metrics used to determine the finalists and for the specific scores in order to objectively compare how Vandenberg AFB compared to the new slate of finalists. Our offices never received that information despite multiple requests.
While we understand that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has announced it will review the basing decision due to concerns from multiple states about the methodology used and the potential of political bias, we urge you to personally commit to working with Congress to ensure transparency in future basing decisions so Congress and the public will have full confidence that the Department’s decisions are made in the best interest of the country’s national security.
We understand that the Department will be conducting a basing selection process for the new training and readiness unit, Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM). We believe that Vandenberg AFB will be a top-tier candidate due to its existing training assets, including the 533d Training Squadron. We look forward to learning more about the methodology that will be used in this basing decision and respectfully request that you give Vandenberg AFB all due consideration during the evaluation process. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, and thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Dianne Feinstein Salud Carbajal Alex Padilla
United States Senator Member of Congress United States Senator
Rep. Salud Carbajal represents California’s 24th congressional district, encompassing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and part of Ventura County. Rep. Salud Carbajal is the Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.