Space Force Is Getting Its First 2 Bases

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Launch of a satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
The United Launch Alliance prepares the Delta IV rocket Wideband Global SATCOM WGS-10 satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Complex 37 on March 15, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)

Two key Air Force bases in Florida with space missions have been officially redesignated as U.S. Space Force bases.

During the eighth meeting of the National Space Council at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and nearby Patrick Air Force Base will now be known as "Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base."

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"Today is a Great day for our Military, Florida & America!" the vice president tweeted following his announcement.

Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, the head of the Space Force, added via Twitter that the bases' redesignations begin a "new era," "aligning them with their critical missions."

The renaming, however, has not been sanctioned by lawmakers.

In the final version of the House and Senate Armed Services committees fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act released last week, lawmakers included a provision to require that a military base -- belonging to the Air Force or any other service -- "may not be transferred to the jurisdiction or command of the Space Force until the Secretary of the Air Force briefs the congressional defense committees on the results of a business case analysis, conducted by the secretary in connection with the transfer." A similar separate provision was introduced in June.

However, only the House has approved the compromise defense bill, which President Donald Trump has threatened to veto over Section 230, which shields tech and communication communication companies from some liability over user activity.

Despite pending legislation, officials planned to press ahead with the redesignation announcement to coincide with the Space Force's first birthday, DefenseOne first reported earlier this week, citing unnamed U.S. officials familiar with the discussion.

While the move would "violate a gentleman's agreement with congressional staffers who asked the military not to rename any bases'' until the latest NDAA became law, the renaming of Cape Canaveral and Patrick was imminent, the publication reported.

Earlier this year, the Space Force began redesignating Air Force units with a space-only mission; it said it would realign and rename Air Force bases to Space Force bases accordingly.

For example, ahead of the fiscal 2020 NDAA's signing last December -- which established the sixth military branch under the Department of the Air Force -- Raymond told reporters that plans were in motion to redesignate appropriate Air Force units and locations.

"Patrick Air Force Base may be renamed Patrick Space Base, or something to that effect," Raymond said during a briefing at the Pentagon at the time.

Those plans were progressing -- until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Later in the spring, the general said ceremonies to rename bases were put on hold in order to observe proper social distancing and comply with Center for Disease and Prevention Control guidelines.

While the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral has a robust space mission that includes human space flight, service members at Patrick support those launches as well as submarine-launched ballistic missile test launches on the East Coast.

Patrick is being considered as headquarters for U.S. Space Command, the military's 11th unified combatant command that reactivated in August 2019 ahead of the Space Force.

SPACECOM, which is temporarily housed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force organizes and trains space personnel. Like the other military branches, the Space Force has its headquarters at the Pentagon.

Ahead of Space Command's reactivation, nearly a dozen elected officials tried to petition the DoD and Trump to locate it in Florida.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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