Space

Southern Arizona may have to rethink its game plan if it wants to stay on the frontier of the space exploration industry.  

The University of Arizona recently paid for a much ballyhooed Deloitte Consulting study touting Tucson as the center of a “Southern Arizona Space Ecosystem.” And of course, academic tongues are wagging.

In my experience, institutions have their own institutional version of reality, and the University of Arizona, despite all its good intentions. is no different, nor does it have a monopoly on omniscience. 

Maybe what they should be considering is actually more political than academic or scientific?

The hard reality is, with John McCain’s passing and the exit of Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona’s D.C. seniority status plummets from near-first to near-last. In retrospect, McCain really brought home the bacon for Arizona as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee in the Senate. PriceWaterhouse Coopers, the giant global accounting firm, noted in (pre-tumor) 2016 that Arizona was America’s No. 1 “aerospace supply-chain state.”

No doubt there will be a local chorus of denial that any changes will occur; I suggest readers take Missouri citizenship on this particular claim. Fact is, the long knives are already out for Arizona’s pork. Currently, the City of Tucson’s growth is encircling Davis Monthan AFB, which is not lost on Air Force leadership. Nor are the steadily growing calls for peace and quiet from residents. But D-MAFB generates anywhere from $5 billion to $8 billion in direct, secondary and tertiary economic activity.

Maybe, it’s time for political leadership, combined with organizations like Southern Arizona Leadership Council, to use this UA study for the generation of some additional alternatives? 

Space is going to be the “high ground” for the battle platforms and operations in the future. It’s no mere coincidence that Washington has just proposed the creation of a separate U.S. Space Force. I also know in the contest for political spending on space operations, Colorado, Texas and California will win those battles. This idea transcends Trump. 

So what to do? Play to our strengths with some shrewd repositioning. I see an entirely different “anchor-tenant” at D-M. And one that brings along a lot of subsidiary operations.

A separate U.S. Space Force will want to have its own national laboratory, just as separate components of the defense and energy establishments have now. With a well-crafted local plan, Tucson could make a compelling case for just such an installation. All the pieces of the puzzle are on the table. We just need to put ’em together ahead of the pack. 

Why wait for D.C. to propose (aka mandate) a plan? Isn’t this the definition of “visionary leadership”? 

Sellers is a South Park Republican who resides in Oro Valley. His background is in federal technology-transfer commercialization. His email is readbill19@usa.net