Feinstein, Padilla & Carbajal Urge Air Force to Consider Vandenberg as Permanent Base for STARCOM

Delta IV Heavy carrying the NROL-71 satellite lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Credit: ULA)

WASHINGTON (Dianne Feinstein PR)—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Representative Salud Carbajal (all D-Calif.) today expressed support for making Vandenberg Space Force Base the permanent location for the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) amid reports that the previous U.S. Space Command basing decision was based on politics, not merit.

“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 in a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall. “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.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

September 10, 2021

Mr. Frank Kendall
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force
Washington, D.C. 20330-1670 

Dear Secretary Kendall:

We write to express support for Vandenberg Space Force Base as the permanent location of the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) and to ask that you ensure the selection process is based on a rigorous and objective evaluation of each proposed site.  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. 

We are also concerned about the decision to temporarily base STARCOM at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  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.  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.

We trust that under your leadership, future basing decisions will be carried out in an impartial manner and will follow established processes.  We look forward to working with you and your staff on behalf of Airmen, Guardians, and their families.  Thank you for your consideration, and please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.  

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Salud Carbajal
Member of Congress 

Alex Padilla
United States Senator 

Sens. Cruz, Rubio, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan American Space Commerce Act

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ted Cruz PR) – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation, along with Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), today introduced the bipartisan, bicameral American Space Commerce Act. At a time when the U.S. has steadily decreased its dependence on foreign rockets and launch infrastructure, the American Space Commerce Act would continue to bolster U.S. leadership in the space industry, enhance public-private partnerships with American companies, and further increase U.S. innovation. In addition, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. This bill was introduced previously in June 2020.

Upon introduction, Sen. Cruz said:

“America’s ingenuity and leadership in space is crucial, and our commercial partners are continually playing a huge role in expanding access to the final frontier. The American Space Commerce Act allows for full expensing of space launch property, creating a tax environment that empowers this next generation of space explorers rather than holding them back with bureaucratic barriers. I am proud to once again join this bicameral, bipartisan effort to ensure America maintains a competitive edge in space through partnerships that bolster space commerce and civil space exploration.”

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Rubio, Scott, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan American Space Commerce Act

Sen. Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Marco Rubio PR) — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral American Space Commerce Act of 2020. At a time when the U.S. has steadily decreased its dependence on foreign rockets and launch infrastructure, the American Space Commerce Act would bolster U.S. leadership in the space industry, enhance public-private partnerships with American companies, and further increase U.S. innovation.

U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced the House version of the legislation (H.R. 6783). The legislation is supported by the Aerospace Industry Association, Blue Origin, Boeing, Space Florida, SpaceX, and ULA.

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Lawmakers Seek Review of U.S. Air Force Decision Not to Award Funding to SpaceX

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceNews reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) are seeking an independent review of the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance for the development of new launch vehicles. California-based SpaceX was not awarded any funding.

In a Feb. 4 letter addressed to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Feinstein and Calvert — both with strong ties to the space industry — argue that the path the Air Force has chosen to select future launch providers creates an unfair playing field. Although SpaceX is not mentioned in the letter by name, it is clear from the lawmakers’ language that they believe the company is getting a raw deal because, unlike its major competitors, it did not receive Air Force funding to modify its commercial rockets so they meet national security mission requirements.

Feinstein and Calvert in the letter ask Wilson to “review how the Air Force intends to maintain assured access to space while preserving maximum competitive opportunities for all certified launch providers.” A copy of the letter was obtained by SpaceNews.

At issue are Launch Service Agreement contracts the Air Force awarded in October to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance. The three companies collectively received $2.3 billion to support the development of space launch vehicles that meet national security requirements. The Air Force started the LSA program in 2016 to ensure future access to space and to end its reliance on ULA’s Atlas 5 and its Russian main engine.

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