EDITORIAL: Space Command belongs forever in Colorado Springs

The Gazette
May 18, 2020

By The Gazette Editorial Board

Colorado should celebrate Friday’s announcement making Colorado Springs the home of U.S. Space Command for at least the next six years.

The Department of the Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense designated Colorado Springs the “provisional headquarters” while inviting other communities to apply for the privilege of permanently hosting Space Command. The government set forth specific screening criteria, and Colorado Springs meets or exceeds them all. They include:

• Rank among the 150 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Colorado Springs ranks 79th.

• Be within 25 miles of a military base. Colorado Springs hosts Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, NORAD, Northcom and more. Bases covered!

• Livability Index rating of 50 or higher as determined by the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute. Colorado Springs rates 53.

The Pentagon will evaluate communities that make it through the screening on four criteria:

• Mission Related (40 points): Available qualified workforce, proximity to mutually supporting space entities, availability of local emergency response services, and location’s ease of mobility. Check all four boxes.

• Infrastructure Capacity (30 points): Adequate facilities and parking, communications bandwidth and redundancy, special access communications, anti-terrorism, force protection and security requirements, energy resilience, and operating support at a nearby active-duty base that includes medical care, child care, military housing, and transportation. The Springs checks all of the above, and few other locations have the “energy resilience” and grid independence provided by Colorado Springs Utilities.

• Community Support (15 points): Support to military families as measured by the quality of schools, professional licensure portability, cost of living, housing affordability, and access to military/veteran support programs. As home to more than 80,000 veterans who choose to live and retire here, it seems clear Colorado Springs has a military support culture second to none.

President Donald Trump expects to announce Space Command’s permanent location early next year. That means Gov. Jared Polis, Mayor John Suthers, the Colorado Springs City Council, the El Paso County Commission, local school boards, and the Colorado Department of Transportation should work to guarantee the state and community will provide what the military needs long into the future.

Start with a commitment to make swift improvements to Colorado 94 leading to and from Schriever Air Force Base.

Because of COVID-19, Gov. Polis adjusted regulations to allow portability of professional licensing. Make this change permanent and wide-ranging so an officer’s spouse can practice medicine, law, cosmetology, plumbing or other professions the moment the family transfers to Space Command.

Colorado and Colorado Springs so perfectly meet the government’s screening and evaluation criteria it is hard to imagine losing out to any other location. American taxpayers have invested heavily in Space Command right where it is today. Those investments will only grow over the next six years.

Space Command has never been more critical as China, India, and others race to dominate space and emerge as the top military superpower. We cannot afford to interrupt the progress we have made. For the sake of our defense, it would be foolish to upend Space Command and move it to an untried location.

Gov. Polis, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, and other leaders have made the case directly to President Trump and Pentagon officials and deserve credit for Friday’s encouraging announcement.

“I’ve talked to the president about it on more than one occasion,” Lamborn said. “During one of those discussions, in the cabinet room of the White House, he looked at me and said something like ‘OK, I hear you.’ I got the impression he was giving Colorado serious consideration.

“On the Senate side, Cory really has the president’s ear. He has the ability to leverage that for the good of our state and he has done so. Cory deserves all kinds of credit for today’s announcement.”

Politicians all over the country want Space Command for obvious reasons. It comes with thousands of high-wage, professional jobs filled by upstanding citizens devoting their lives to serving the country. For that reason, Pentagon officials and the president will face pressure to move the headquarters out of Colorado Springs. Any such decision would be purely political.

By all economic, cultural, geographic and strategic considerations, Colorado Springs should be the permanent home. Let’s prove what’s obvious and win the privilege to host Space Command for generations to come.

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