Space intelligence functions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base face both risk and opportunity in the national quest for a new U.S. Space Command headquarters, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and others said Wednesday in the Dayton Development Coalition’s first virtual “Fly-In” event.
“With Space Force, we do face some risk at our base,” Turner said. “That is of course that we currently are the site for space intelligence. NASIC and other offices and agencies at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base provide a significant amount of the analysis and the assimilation of all source data to be able to understand what our adversaries are doing in space.”
Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, the sixth U.S. military branch, indicated in his own remarks that change is possible, saying Space Command leaders are exploring whether they will have a separate intelligence center or new functions to meet force needs.
“We are still trying to determine whether that means a separate and distinct national space intelligence center or some other arrangement or relationship with NASIC as it is today or other parts of the intelligence community,” Thompson said.
He added: “What I can say for sure is there’s a tremendous foundation of knowledge and expertise in NASIC today, of the infrastructure, the systems, the data, all of that that NASIC has built are a tremendous national asset in space, and I have no question and no doubt that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — the individuals and infrastructure and people today in NASIC at Wright-Patt — will be a key part of any future space intelligence.”
This is a concern Turner has expressed for some time. He has spoken with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other Pentagon leaders about the possibility that some NASIC functions could be somehow diluted or moved from Wright-Patterson to a new Space Command location.
Thus far, they have all made a “strong commitment to make sure” space intelligence functions remain anchored at Wright-Patterson, Turner said.
“This gives us a great opportunity for us to ensure that we solidify our role in intelligence,” the Dayton Republican said.
Thompson added: “There is absolutely no question that we need to grow and improve the intelligence enterprise associated with the space domain and the Space Force. NASIC today and for years has provided tremendous foundational intelligence about space systems, what they are, what their capabilities are.”
He added: “We need to add layers of what I’m going to call operational and tactical intelligence on top of that — what tactics do our adversaries use, how effective are their weapons, what tactics might be deployed.”
But the three-star general also stressed the “vital role” Wright-Patterson has played in the growth of the nation’s aviation power, and he expressed confidence in the base’s future.
“We can envision probably only a growing role for Wright-Patt,” Thompson said when asked a possible base role in Space Force.
Thompson said the Pentagon is looking for an area that provides a strong quality of life, is located close to a military base, in “livable cities and livable metropolitan areas,” with a population and highly skilled workforce available for Space Command jobs. A relatively large and sophisticated metropolitan area that’s not “necessarily huge” is preferred, he said.
“It would certainly not be a surprise to find that Dayton would meet all that criteria and would be a great candidate,” Thompson said.
Dayton does meet all of the requirements for the Space Command headquarters, said Jeff Hoagland, the coalition’s president and chief executive.
The latest Defense Authorization Act includes the full $182 million of funding for the long-planned NASIC headquarters expansion, which is Wright-Patterson’s largest construction project in its history, Turner said.
“When I was first elected, there were 19,000 people inside that (Wright-Patterson) fence. And now we have 30” thousand, Turner said.
Even if the Dayton region doesn’t land the Space Command headquarters, it should some ancillary missions, said U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy.
Turner has called Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to ask him to help the state “speak with one voice,” supporting one application from the state of Ohio for Space Command headquarters, and on Tuesday, DeWine endorsed Dayton’s bid.
“We could have easily had another major metropolitan area stepping forward,” Turner said.
For 35 years, coalition leaders and community allies have flown to Washington, D.C. for a few days to speak with political leaders about Dayton’s needs and priorities. Wednesday’s event was the organization’s first “virtual” gathering.