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Pentagon Takes A Closer Look At Port San Antonio For Space Command Headquarters

Port San Antonio and Paul Flahive, TPR

Pentagon surveyors met with San Antonio officials this week to discuss the city’s bid to house U.S. Space Command. San Antonio is one of six finalists competing for its new headquarters.

Since May, the city has waged a public campaign to attract the unified command, which pulls from the different military branches and oversees operations in space. It’s provisionally headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and employs about 1,400 people.

In a virtual meeting Monday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg, City Manager Erik Walsh and other local officials took questions from a Pentagon site selection team about San Antonio’s candidacy, focusing on factors like its infrastructure, existing military missions, quality of life and community support.

“I think we left it all on the table,” said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, head of the City Office of Military and Veteran Affairs. “My personal opinion about this is that, no matter what happens, the fact that we were elevated to the top six puts us in a pretty high tier.”

The Pentagon team didn’t tip its hand as to the front runner, according to Ayala.

Several San Antonio sites were brought up for the Pentagon’s consideration, including Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and Brooks City Base. But Port San Antonio, formerly Kelly Air Force Base, rose to the top of the heap.

Compass Rose Ingenuity serves grades K-6 in Port San Antonio.
Courtesy Paco Felici/Port San Antonio
Compass Rose Ingenuity serves grades K-6 in Port San Antonio.

Surveyors asked technical questions about the buildings and utility overlay at the Port, which they toured earlier this month. The team was particularly curious about the Port’s offer to construct a new, custom-built facility for Space Command headquarters because it would save time.

“They're very interested in the cost,” Ayala explained. “You know, what would it cost to either refurbish buildings or start from scratch? If they refurbish a building on base in the other cities, it's going to take military construction money to do that. Military construction takes between six and nine years once it gets approved and they go through the specifications. The Port can do it in less time.”

The Port is adjacent to the 16th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio, which focuses on cyber warfare.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Dec. 18 from the Texas Congressional delegation in support of Port San Antonio as the new headquarters.

“Proudly known as Military City USA, San Antonio, Texas, has the largest presence of cyber and intelligence capabilities outside of the national capital region and a storied legacy of military service,” the letter said. “Home to thousands of servicemembers, military families and veterans, the city would welcome SPACECOM HQ with a patriotic community that takes pride in its leading role in defending our country. Joint Base San Antonio played a momentous role in the Space Force’s nascent history by hosting its first recruits for basic military training, and its proximity to Port San Antonio makes the city the ideal location for SPACECOM HQ.”

The Air Force is expected to choose the command’s new home in January. The other finalists are Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Patrick Air Force Base, Florida; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Current plans have the new headquarters opening in 2026.

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Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.