Colorado Politicos Fighting to Keep Space Command in Springs

Will Colorado get to keep Space Command?
Will Colorado get to keep Space Command? Photo-illustration by Getty Images/Nataniil and Jay Vollmar
Still arguing that then-President Donald Trump's decision to locate Space Command headquarters permanently in Alabama was improperly motivated by partisan politics, members of Colorado's congressional delegation are fighting to ensure that not a dime is spent on a move just yet.

"Doug Lamborn and I passed an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act that, if it survives through conference committee, would prohibit the [Department of Defense] from spending any money to start the process of relocating Space Command, pending the outcome of both investigations. That underscores the importance of ensuring that nothing is done, and none of that movement occurs, until those investigations are done," Congressman Jason Crow, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 6th Congressional District, said during a press call on October 18. Lamborn, a Republican, represents El Paso County in Congress.

The Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General for the Department of Defense are currently investigating whether the decision to choose Huntsville, Alabama, instead of Colorado as the permanent headquarters of Space Command was made in an appropriate manner.

"We have been told by the department that results are expected sometime in spring of 2022," Crow noted.

Since the Air Force announced in January that the Redstone Arsenal would become the permanent headquarters of Space Command, Colorado Democrats and Republicans alike have contended that the move was Trump's way of rewarding a deep-red state that had supported him during his presidency. Although the federal government said that the Trump administration's decision was based on an objective evaluation, the Inspector General announced an investigation in February, and the Government Accountability Office launched its own investigation in March.

Claims of objectivity were undercut when Trump recently admitted that it was his call to choose Alabama as the permanent headquarters of Space Command; it had been temporarily located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs since 2019.

"I single-handedly said, 'Let's go to Alabama,'" Trump pronounced in an August appearance on an Alabama-based talk show. While Alabama won out as Trump's choice for the permanent headquarters of Space Command, the combatant command will remain at Peterson, now formally known as Peterson Space Force Base, for at least four more years.

Crow, Lamborn and other members of Colorado's congressional delegation are pushing hard for the Space Command headquarters decision to be reversed.

"Colorado is where the nation's work comes together. It is the nexus of national security space operations for the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, and it's why, from a national security perspective, Colorado is the most strategic choice by far for the permanent home of U.S. Space Command headquarters," Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said in the October 18 call.

It's no wonder that the Colorado members of Congress are pushing so hard, since Space Command will bring 1,400 jobs and create an economic impact of more than a billion dollars a year, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. And that financial estimate doesn’t include the up-front capital investments that will generate even more money for construction companies and other businesses, not to mention plenty of contracts for nearby aerospace companies.

Last week, Crow, Bennet and Lamborn toured Peterson and Schriever space force bases, which are both located in El Paso County, in addition to Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora.

"When the threats and competition Jason and I were learning about from countries like China and Russia in space are continuing to grow in a dramatic fashion, the last thing we can afford is to squander time or talent or taxpayer money. We have unique military and intelligence community space assets that we've already paid for, already built. It creates an ecosystem that can't be rivaled by any other state," Bennet said.

One of the key selling points of locating Space Command permanently in Colorado Springs is that the Department of Defense has invested $20 million in communications infrastructure connecting bases in the city over the past fifteen years. Such infrastructure would need to be built out in Alabama if Space Command were to permanently move there, advocates for a Colorado headquarters point out.

Space Command is often confused with Space Force, but they are not the same. Space Command, which previously existed from 1985 to 2002, is America’s eleventh combatant command, an organizational unit that brings together branches of the military to focus on one region, such as Africa, or one aspect of defense, such as the cyber realm.

Space Force, on the other hand, is one of the eight uniformed service branches of the U.S. military, like the U.S. Army or Navy. Space Force, a creation of the Trump administration, is housed within the U.S. Air Force, just as the U.S. Marine Corps is housed within the U.S. Navy.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.