The nation’s newest armed forces branch has officially opened a regional command center in Tampa.
Officials with the U.S. Space Force (USSF) activated its local headquarters, dubbed SPACECENT, Friday at MacDill Air Force Base. According to a Space Force press release, the service component becomes the latest under the purview of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and supports the “growing need for space-based capabilities such as satellite navigation, communications and missile warnings.”
Space Force personnel stationed at the new base will report directly to Col. Christopher Putnam, who previously commanded the 12th Space Warning Squadron at Thule Air Base in Greenland. A longtime space-focused officer, he also served as director of Space Forces for the U.S. Air Forces-Central at MacDill.
“Just as the evolution of space as a warfighting domain necessitated the establishment of a separate service, SPACECENT provides CENTCOM a subordinate command focused solely and continuously on space integration across the command,” said Putnam in a statement. “With all domains and all components.”
SPACECENT will include 28 servicemembers, and the organization will report to Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, CENTCOM commander. According to the release, its primary function is executing space operations within the organization’s area of responsibility (AOR).
According to a CENTCOM summary, its AOR encompasses over four million square miles and 560 million people on three continents. The area stretches from Northeast Africa across the Middle East to South Asia, “among the least secure and stable places in the world.”
A CENTCOM release states that USSF personnel – known as Guardians – will work with coalition and regional partners to integrate “space activities” into shared operations. Military officials believe the added scope will help strengthen stability and security in CENTCOM’s AOR.
“Space underpins every element of warfighting in the CENTCOM region,” said Kurilla in a statement. “Since the cold war, space has ceased to be a sanctuary. It is no longer solely the realm of progress and peace.”
The USSF launched in 2019 as a separate service branch under the Air Force umbrella. Its primary focus is ensuring the safety and operation of space-based assets such as satellites and providing early warnings of incoming ballistic missiles.
U.S. Space Command is currently based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, although a move to Huntsville, Alabama, is awaiting Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall’s final approval. The branch also conducts operations from Patrick Space Force Base in Cape Canaveral.
Florida officials have long sought to expand Space Force’s presence in the state. SPACECENT’s activation in Tampa is the organization’s second geographically based headquarters, following November’s establishment of an Indo-Pacific component at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam in Hawaii.
“Space is now a domain of conquest, conflict and – for us – cooperation,” said Kurilla.