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Boehnke pushes for Space Academy in Washington

Rep. Matt Boehnke spoke on Tuesday to fellow members of the House Innovation, Technology and Economic Development Committee about two bills he sponsored this session, House Bill 2596 and HJM 4015, both of which tie in to what he called the nation’s “space race 2.” 

“I believe we’re in a spot right now where we can lead the way in the State of Washington,” Boehnke said during Tuesday’s public hearing on HB 2596. “This allows us to lay the foundation for success.”

HB 2596 would direct the Department of Commerce to conduct a study on the development of new policies that foster innovation in the space sector of the economy. The study would also be responsible for examining how educational and job training in the “space economy” would be developed. The results of that study and a set of recommendations would be due to the state legislature by Oct. 31, 2021. 

The efforts to expand Washington’s involvement in the emerging space sector stem from the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, which created a United States Space Force under the U.S. Navy. The currently-existing United States Air Force Space Command is now looped into the new space force. 

Other members of the committee likened the inclusion of the space force in the U.S. Air Force to the separation of the Air Force from the Army, which it was a part of until after World War II. Up until then, it operated as the Army Air Corps until its dissolution in 1947.

“We evolved over the years in how these other branches spun off,” Boehnke said. “Our roles and responsibilities keep continuing to adapt and evolve.”

HJM 4015 would have the state ask the federal government to establish a federally-funded Space Academy in Washington, similar to Westpoint Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. or the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. It would be the only U.S. military academy west of the Rocky Mountains, according to the bill analysis, and would tie in with the aerospace and manufacturing sector of Washington’s economy.