Anchorage officials are hoping the city can become the headquarters of the United States’ military command in space.
In a letter dated June 10, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy wrote that Anchorage meets all the requirements for becoming the next headquarters for the United States’ Space Command.
The Space Command coordinates military activity in space made by the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and the latest branch of the armed forces, the Space Force. It’s provisionally headquartered in Colorado after it was re-established in August of last year.
The United States Air Force sent out a letter to the governors of all 50 states in mid-May with the criteria for consideration as the new headquarters. The cities must be within the top-150 metropolitan areas by population, have an AARP Livability Index score above 50 and be located within 25 miles of a military base.
Anchorage barely meets some of those requirements. It is ranked 137th out of the 150 largest metropolitan areas by population and has an AARP Livability Index of 50 out of a 100-point scale.
Anchorage is the only city in Alaska that meets these criteria.
Mark Lester, the CEO of Alaska Aerospace, a public corporation that runs Kodiak Island’s rocket launch facility, said that Anchorage does have some assets. The state has a mix of research, military and private aerospace infrastructure at areas around the state such as UAF’s Poker Flats Research Range at Clear Air Force Station and at Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex.
“The commercial side of space is becoming more of an important part of how we access space and how we do services like communications capabilities and others,” he said.
But he acknowledged that Anchorage is a long-shot.
“It’s probably not going to be top of mind when people think about where to locate Space Command. But I think in many ways, we’re the hidden gem, but we wanted to bring forward and throw our hat in the ring and make people start to think oh, you know, what, maybe Anchorage is a great place for this Unified Command,” he said.
The self-nomination period ends on June 30. After that, the Department of Defense will assess communities for factors such as the availability of a qualified workforce, quality of schools, energy resilience and housing costs.
Air Force Magazine reported that Defense Secretary Mark Esper received numerous complaints from lawmakers about a previous selecting process, prompting the department to open up bidding to more applicants. Of the six original candidates, four were in Colorado.
A decision is expected as early as 2021 and would bring 1,400 military and civilian personnel to Anchorage.