Nov 1, 2023
This op-ed was originally posted in the Gazette
After a long-fought scrimmage that embroiled lawmakers, their states, and two Presidential Administrations, the US Air Force will permanently base Space Command in Colorado Springs. The reversal of former President Donald Trump’s decision to move Space Command out of our state speaks to Senator John Hickenlooper’s leadership throughout the basing decision process and, ultimately, the current Administration’s decision to put national security before politics.
In early 2021, the Trump administration announced Space Command would be re-headquartered thousands of miles away from its preliminary headquarters in Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama.
Proponents of keeping Space Command in Colorado have argued that the move of a defense base of this gravity would have taken over a decade to complete and shipped off thousands of high-ranking military officials and jobs. It also cast doubt on the integrity of the Pentagon’s basing process and jeopardized our military readiness at a time when space is increasingly important to our national security.
Senator Hickenlooper has long emphasized that the basing decision should center on operational readiness, not politics. Yet despite clear evidence that keeping the base in Colorado would help us reach readiness quicker, partisan politics got in the way, and their indifference to choosing the best option for our country was on full display. This is precisely what Alabama lawmakers did when one blocked the Department of Defense from routinely reallocating funds as a part of a political battle to secure a favorable outcome for Alabama. Senator Hickenlooper rightly highlighted this misuse of political power to regulate defense spending, stating that this action penalized troops for political interests. He also called out the lawmakers for intertwining special interests and blowing smoke to force a decision.
In the end, President Biden ultimately sided with the evidence and decided that the Peterson Space Force in Colorado Springs was the best location for Space Command. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the objective analysis from General James Dickinson, who argued that moving the headquarters would threaten our military readiness, which would far outweigh any minor benefits of moving to Alabama.
Although this decision was made based on preparedness, not political gains, one would be remiss to overlook the economic benefits of keeping Space Command in Colorado Springs.
The governor’s office estimated that over 274,000 people in Colorado are employed in national security aerospace, and the state leads the nation in private aerospace employment per capita. This decision preserves the nearly 1,400 jobs and $1 billion annual economic impact reliant directly on Space Command’s base in Colorado Springs. That’s a huge impact on our city’s and our state’s economy. Leaders in the business community have applauded the decision, stating that keeping the headquarters in our state will protect our jobs, continue to boost the economy, and not displace Space Command’s military and civilian workforce and their families.
During a fraught geopolitical moment in history – one in which China and Russia have proven their aerospace capabilities – our lawmakers should know better than to pit party politics against national security decisions. Using political tools to control national defense spending to further political interests is not how lawmakers should legislate nor how government should be run.
Thankfully, Colorado’s senators recognize that their job is to always put the well-being and safety of the general public first, and they fought hard to ensure US Space Command kept its home in our state.