Nebraskans Want More Space
By Governor Pete Ricketts
January 12, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
Over the past six weeks, Nebraskans have been rallying to bring U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) to our state. This tremendous support for the military is common practice in our state. Nebraskans honor our servicemen and women, and our residents take great pride in hosting strategic missions that protect our nation.
In December 2019, Space Force became the newest branch of the U.S. military. Its mission is vital to national security. We depend on spaced-based services for navigation, communication, and commerce. Center pivots use GPS technology to irrigate crops. Airplanes communicate with satellites to chart flight paths and safely transport people through the skies. Satellite technology helps facilitate financial transactions. Satellites relay television signals into millions of homes connecting people to news broadcasts and entertainment. These are just a few of the ways satellites orbiting the planet in space affect our day-to-day lives. Additionally, our armed forces rely on space technology to keep the United States secure. For instance, missile detection systems rely on spacecraft in orbit to monitor the Earth’s surface for activity. The possibility of a foreign aggressor, such as China or Russia, seeking to jam GPS signals or knock out satellites is a real threat. The United States needs to achieve space dominance to ensure our strength on the world stage and to preserve the peace and safety of America.
Nebraska has put forward a compelling bid to bring SPACECOM to Offutt Air Force Base (AFB) in Bellevue. Our state is one of six finalists to host the command. We expect the Department of the Air Force to decide on a site this month, and we’ve made a great case for Nebraska. Our state has the talent, commitment, and resources to successfully host SPACECOM. Our central location is also the ideal place for global operations aimed at defending every corner of our nation.
Our first competitive advantage for hosting this mission is our people. Nebraskans are patriotic, and we give tremendous support to military families and veterans. In November 2020, SmartAsset ranked Nebraska as the 7th best state for military veterans. None of the other states competing for SPACECOM ranked in the top fifteen. There’s no better relationship anywhere in the nation than between the community of Bellevue and Offutt AFB. With its affordability, great schools, and vibrant economy, metro Omaha is a desirable place for military families to live.
The academic resources in Nebraska are second-to-none in the fields of national defense and security studies. In 2013 the University of Nebraska College of Law became the first U.S. law program to offer a doctoral degree in Space Law. The University of Nebraska is home to the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI), one of the few university-affiliated academic centers conducting research exclusively for the Department of Defense. In September 2020, the U.S. Strategic Command awarded NSRI a $92 million, five-year contract. NSRI has now received nearly $300 million in research contracts since 2012. In February 2020, the Department of Homeland Security awarded the University of Nebraska Omaha a ten-year, $36 million grant to serve as the national headquarters for a new counterterrorism center. This continuing investment shows the confidence of the federal government in Nebraska’s ability to deliver research vital to our nation’s security. Additionally, University President Ted Carter is former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy and a retired Vice Admiral. He has the leadership experience and qualifications to maximize the University of Nebraska’s contributions to the national defense.
From an operational standpoint, headquartering SPACECOM at Offutt AFB makes perfect sense. The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the 55th Wing, and the 557th Weather Wing at Offutt AFB already play key roles in supporting the military’s space mission. From 2002 until 2019, U.S. space operations were based in Bellevue as part of STRATCOM. The 55th Wing is the Air Force’s premier unit for global intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The 557th Weather Wing is the Air Force’s meteorological unit. The presence of these complementary, space-related missions is why the U.S. Marine Corps chose Offutt as home for its newly formed space unit this fall.
Our state also has a track record of completing groundbreaking public-private partnerships on time and under budget. For instance, local investment in the Veterans’ Affairs ambulatory clinic in Omaha saved taxpayers over $30 million. This community support also allowed the clinic to be constructed ahead of schedule even with the disruptions of the pandemic. Private-public partnership also paved the way for the innovative iEXCEL program at UNMC, which uses state-of-the-art simulation technologies to train doctors. Last year, the Legislature and community donors pledged a combined $600 million—contingent on a $1 billion federal investment—for a prospective partnership with the Department of Defense on a cutting-edge disaster response medical project at UNMC. In similar fashion, Nebraska has pledged $107 million in public-private funds to offset the estimated $1 billion of costs to build SPACECOM headquarters in Bellevue.
This spirit of partnership extends beyond our state’s borders. We’ve engaged leaders across the Midwest to recruit SPACECOM to the Heartland. Governors of neighboring states, both Republican and Democrat, have written letters to support SPACECOM coming to Nebraska. Adjutant Generals of the National Guards in a half-dozen states have expressed support of SPACECOM being based at Offutt in Bellevue. President Carter has recruited Kansas State, the University of North Dakota, and Purdue to join with the University of Nebraska to develop academic programs to meet the anticipated needs of the U.S. Space Command.
Public and private sector leaders have worked incredibly hard, and very closely together, to give Nebraska the best possible chance of landing SPACECOM. If you have questions about our bid, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244. This is another great example of Nebraskans coming together to grow the Good Life. I appreciate everyone who has partnered with us to shoot for the stars!