Space Command Launches in Colorado Springs

Colorado, we have lift-off.

Today, September 9, the U.S. Space Command hosted a ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to recognize the establishment of the country's eleventh combatant command.

"This is a different command, built for a different time, built to compete, deter and win in an extremely complex and quickly evolving strategic environment," newly anointed Space Commander General John J. Raymond said at the ceremony at the base, which will temporarily house Space Command headquarters. Combatant commands combine multiple branches of the U.S. military to either focus on a strategic area, like transportation, or on a geographic area, like a continent — or space, as it were.

The first version of Space Command launched in 1985 at Peterson Air Force Base but was closed in 2002 as the U.S. began to focus its military might on ensuring homeland security and fighting foreign terrorist organizations.

Although the homeland security and terrorist threats remain, the Space Command ceremony today included a reference to the Cold War.

click to enlarge General John J. Raymond (right) will lead Space Command. - U.S.SPACE COMMAND
General John J. Raymond (right) will lead Space Command.
U.S.Space Command
"It's not an overstatement to say that we're at another Sputnik moment," General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the ceremony in reference to the Soviet Union sending the first satellite into space, in 1957. "And you could argue that the stakes are much higher than they were in the late 1950s and early 1960s."

Dunford, who is the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S., painted a somewhat bleak picture of the threats faced by the United States. "We're once again in an era of great power competition," he said. "The competitive advantage that we enjoyed after the Cold War has also eroded."

He cited Russia and China as the two main threats in space, acknowledging North Korea and Iran as lesser but still significant threats.

Raymond laid out the four areas of focus for Space Command: deterrence, the defense of U.S. and allied interests, the delivery of space combat power, and the development of ready and lethal space forces, noting that deterrence is the priority.

"We do not want to fight a fight that extends into space," Raymond said.

Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Governor Jared Polis are asking the Trump administration to permanently establish Space Command in Colorado. (California and Alabama each have a base in the running for the permanent headquarters.)

It should be noted that Space Command is not the same as Space Force, the proposed futuristic astronaut war-fighting force that the Trump administration is pushing. Whereas Space Command has bipartisan support and backing from defense-industry stakeholders, Space Force has received major pushback from prominent defense experts for being a potential massive waste of money.
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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.