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Frank Campo

Frank Campo has been named state commander of veteran’s honor society.

Several events have been held in North County this year to learn what has been happening at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Earlier in the year the base hosted the Santa Maria and Lompoc Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon. The guest speaker was former Wing Commander Col. Christopher Moss, who was excited to announce that Vandenberg was in the running for the possibility of having two new units assigned to the base.

The first would be an MQ-9 Reaper Squadron, which would bring 24 remotely-piloted aircraft here. In addition to the aircraft, there would be support personnel assigned to the base to fly, work and repair the aircraft.

The second unit would train airmen in combat-related skills. Col. Moss indicated almost 3,000 new personnel would be working on the base should both of these moves be approved.

In early November, the annual Salute to Veterans, sponsored by the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce, invited newly-installed Wing Commander Col. Michael Hough as keynote speaker. Col. Hough discussed recent and upcoming launches at Vandenberg. For decades, the base has been a focal point for national defense and private companies to conduct launches. Until recently, Vandenberg was the only location in the United States to safely launch rockets into polar orbit.

Col. Hough said that is no longer the case. Companies at the Eastern Range at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida are now capable of conducting polar orbit launches.

Additionally, SpaceX is building a launch facility in Texas. SpaceX has facilities in Brownsville. If you look at a map of the United States, Brownsville is at the southern tip of Texas. It appears that both polar and equatorial launches could be made from this location.

I am told the reason so many aerospace companies are looking at Texas and Florida is that both states are courting these companies, and they do not have the rigorous environmental regulations in place, as California does.

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On Nov. 28, the Air Force announced that the new MQ-9 Reaper squadron will be relocated to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. There were many items that made Tyndall a more-qualified base over Vandenberg. One, is the new wing will be assigned the Air Combat Command (ACC). Tyndall is the host to several ACC units already. Another item that made Tyndall more lucrative is the buy-in from the state of Florida, which is courting the defense and aerospace industry and does not have heavy restrictions on the environment.

Many may ask what’s wrong with having environmental laws in place. I guess nothing, until national defense comes into play.

Recently, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been successfully launching rockets into space and these rockets have become more and more advanced. It is reported that the latest launch conducted by the DPRK has the capability to reach the eastern United States. Hawaii as well as the territory of Guam and Marianna Islands have been conducting air-raid drills.

The Missile Defense Agency is currently looking at locations on the West Coast to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

With aerospace companies looking at relocating or conducting business out of our area because of arduous regulations, the economy loses hundreds of jobs and thousands of dollars. So, when does the defense and safety of the United States supersede the environmental regulations of the state of California?

Frank Campo is a board member of the Committee to Improve North County and an Honorary Squadron Commander for the Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base.