Defense and Aerospace

The North American Borderplex provides access to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) largest military complex for homeland-security research and development. Additionally, a unique collection of border-security entities creates an ideal environment for partnership opportunities. The regional military complex, consisting of Fort Bliss, White Sands Missile Range, and Holloman Air Force Base, is comprised of more than 7,100 square miles of DoD – controlled ground and airspace – providing a unique environment for military-related activities and support.

Defense & Aerospace

The North American Borderplex's Value Proposition

Our region contains an extraordinarily broad combination of major missions concentrated in one geographic area. Specialties include:

  • Land and Air Unit and Joint Training
  • Joint Power Projection (pre-and-post-deployment activities)
  • Professional Military Education
  • Coalition and Allied Forces Training
  • Maintenance & Repair
  • Research, Development, Test and Evaluation
  • Intelligence (JTF North)
  • Space
  • Medical
  • Installation Management

The Borderplex is also home to a significant presence of U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice agencies deeply engaged in homeland security, law enforcement, and cross-border trade activities. Among these agencies are:

  • Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS)
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Drug Enforcement Agency, El Paso Intelligence Center (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • NASA
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Department of State - Investigation Services
  • U.S. Secret Service (USSS)

In addition to the presence of major corporate and government entities, the Borderplex region provides many advantages to the defense and aerospace sectors. Our six global inland ports of entry (road, rail, and pedestrian), two airports serving destinations across the U.S. and Mexico, and a border trace with urban, suburban, and rural environments provide venues for the potential testing, assessment, and deployment of homeland/border security technologies. Our modern telecommunications infrastructure provides exceptional fiber optic connectivity and capacity. And, our mild climate, stable geology, and comparatively low costs for manufacturing, distribution, and R&D help make the Borderplex an attractive place to live and conduct business. 

Educational Institutions

The North American Borderplex is home to a strong, vibrant group of colleges and universities that provide world-class post-secondary education. Some of our centers of higher learning have research centers focused on defense and homeland security challenges. These include:

  • UTEP Center for Defense Systems Research
  • UTEP National Center for Border Security & Immigration (NCBSI)
  • NMSU Physical Science Laboratory

Fort Bliss — Regional Military Complex

Fort Bliss extends over 3.2 million acres, 80 percent of which is located in southern New Mexico. Fort Bliss is home to the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division and is a centerpiece of the Army’s Brigade Combat Team Modernization efforts. Each year, more than 100 countries receive air-defense artillery training at Fort Bliss. The installation is home to missions such as the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Joint Task Force North, Brigade Modernization Command, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, and more. It is a permanent node on the Joint National Training Capability network allowing participation in joint live, virtual, and constructive training events worldwide while remaining within the confines of the regional complex.

Holloman Air Force Base

Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) is located in Alamogordo, N.M., approximately 80 miles north of El Paso. Proximity to Army formations at Fort Bliss provides exceptional close air support training and tactics development, and equipment test and evaluation opportunities. HAFB also maintains and delivers Air Transportable Clinics and Base Expeditionary Airfield Resources, a critical capability for worldwide agile combat support.

Another unique and important capability resident at Holloman AFB is the 46th Test Wing. The unit operates world-class test facilities for high-speed sled track testing, navigation, and guidance system testing, radar signature measurements, weapon systems flight testing, and serves as the Air Force Liaison for all Air Force programs tested at the adjacent White Sands Missile Range.

White Sands Missile Range

Doña Ana County, New Mexico is home to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), with the headquarters located 20 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and 45 miles north of El Paso, Texas. WSMR is an active military installation that is part of the Army’s Developmental Test Command, which reports to the United States Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC). It is part of the Department of Defense’s designated Major Range and Test Facility Base and ranked number 10 in military value among all 97 of Army’s CONUS installations.

White Sands Missile Range provides support to the Army, Navy, Air Force, DoD and other entities for:

  • Experimentation
  • Testing
  • Research
  • Assessment
  • Development
  • Training

Building upon decades of experience testing weapons systems for all DoD services, WSMR can merge live and simulated operations across many geographically separated test ranges. WSMR is also focusing on operational training and experimentation of joint forces in conjunction with neighboring facilities. These partnerships, along with WSMR’s unique land and airspace, provide exceptional capabilities for initiatives like the Joint Cruise Missile Defense. NASA, universities, private industry and foreign militaries also have access to WSMR’s capabilities and infrastructure. In anticipation of aggressive changes outlined in DoD and Army transformation initiatives, and increased emphasis on joint operations, WSMR is expected to play a key support role in the development of DoD weapons systems of the future.

Defense & Homeland Security Opportunities

The size and capabilities of the regional military complex, combined with new Army and Air Force missions coming to the region create a range of opportunities for private companies who aim to develop, manufacture, and provide defense/homeland security technologies, and services. These opportunities include:

  • Research, Development & Testing
    • Basic and Applied Research conducted by local universities
    • Developmental and Operational Testing on regional military installations, ports of entry and borders
    • Test support services
    • Medical Research at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Texas Tech University, and area medical centers (combat medicine, TBI, PTSD, etc.)
  • Maintenance and Repair
    • Full range of ground equipment and fixed and rotary wing aircraft requiring support.
  • Modernization Support
    • Modeling and Simulation
    • Engineering Services
    • Systems Integration
    • Vehicle / Equipment Retrofit
  • Training & Education Support
    • Modeling and Simulation
    • Training Services
    • Range Support
    • Existing network of manufacturing facilities, suppliers, support resources, and skilled labor particularly focused on system components and electronics.

Population / Economic Impact on the Region

A net gain of approximately 20,000 additional active-duty personnel (2005 to 2013) brings total Fort Bliss military personnel to approximately 30,000. Additionally, Ft. Bliss directly employs over 8,000 civilians. According to a 2013 UTEP study, the annual economic impact of Ft. Bliss on the regional economy is over $6 billion.

Commercial Space Transportation

The North American Borderplex is emerging as a global hub for the commercial space transportation industry. Our region is home to a number of unique assets in fields such as manufacturing, research, infrastructure, and corporate presence. 

The region’s universities, including New Mexico State University, Universidad Autónoma de Cd. Juaréz, and the University of Texas at El Paso spend millions of dollars annually in research and development in areas including space related materials testing, communications, operations and data analysis from multiple astronomical observatories, and in the emerging field of formation flying space based telescopes.

Mexico is currently the world’s top destination for aeronautics manufacturing investments. Cd. Juárez is positioned to capitalize on the burgeoning aerospace industry in New Mexico and Texas.

Furthermore, our region is home to state-of-the-art launch and reentry facility, Spaceport America. This launch site, contiguous to White Sands Missile Range, provides test and development capability, facilitated also by NASA White Sands Test Facility. These unique assets, both enable commercial and military operations, and attract diverse operators and companies to our region. Virgin Galactic global operations headquarters at Spaceport America, along with UP Aerospace’s engine manufacturing capabilities, our region is gaining momentum as a commercial space hub for one of the most exciting new industries of the 21st century. 

Borderplex 2020 Commercial Space Taskforce

The Borderplex 2020 Commercial Space Taskforce was formed in 2016 by a group of leaders in the commercial space industry who felt that increased communication and collaboration across the region were necessary for continued success in the Borderplex region. 

Taskforce efforts have centered on three main focus areas: events, infrastructure, and education. Among the highlights of efforts by our Taskforce members is the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight. Held annually in Las Cruces, the ISPCS conference brings together global leaders in the commercial space industry to help grow the emerging industry.  

Other initiatives have included advocacy for infrastructure development, education programs, and public events including the upcoming Space Festival,, to promote the commercial space industry to a wider audience. 

Spaceport America at sunrise