Last month, the Air Force announced six finalists in its competition to permanently host the newest Combatant Command, the U.S. Space Command. This suggests that the Air Force is close to finalizing a selection process that was completed a year ago and then reopened due to political pressure, despite the HQ’s crucial role in national security. Among the six finalists still being considered, one location is well above the other: Colorado Springs – the makeshift home of the US space command for at least the next six years.
Colorado Springs has always been the focus of the military’s space operations. That was true when I was the 14th Air Force Commander in charge of all of the Air Force’s space operations, and it is true now. My 40-year career in the Air Force began in 1968 when I entered the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy. I have returned to the city many times during this career and have always been impressed with the tremendous support the community offers to our military families. With over 85,000 veterans in the area, supporting our airmen and soldiers is part of their social identity. There is no place where our military families are more welcome or supportive.
Community support is important to all military units, but the number one reason to join the new Combatant Command in Colorado Springs is because of its national security implications. Our advantage in space began to decline when the previous US space command was disbanded in 2002. As our adversaries continued to gain momentum with anti-satellite and other space-based capabilities, and both China and Russia demonstrated their ability to attack our satellites, President Trump announced the restoration of the U.S. space command in August 2019.
With the renewed focus on space as a war zone, it is important to consider how the U.S. Space Command is carrying out its mission, which is heavily focused on monitoring, controlling and defending our assets in space, as well as working closely with other critical strategic commands our national defense such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the US Northern Command, which are tasked with the defense of our home country and are also located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Most importantly, the U.S. space command is already in Colorado Springs and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in new military space infrastructure in the area. Relocating US space command from its current location in Colorado Springs and these important military partners would have the real potential to disrupt operations, disrupt the mission, and endanger our national security.
In addition to the region’s extensive military presence and existing space infrastructure, the aerospace industry in Colorado Springs is also an important driver of innovation in our space missions. The Catalyst Campus in downtown Colorado Springs has an established partnership with Air Force Research Labs as well as Space Command, NORAD, and Northern Command. In addition, the Catalyst Campus brings together large and small businesses, entrepreneurs, academics, and warfighters to develop breakthrough solutions that enhance our technological advantage in space. The internationally renowned Space Foundation is headquartered in Colorado Springs, where the world’s leading meeting of space professionals with almost 15,000 participants takes place every year. With over 500 aerospace and defense companies including these industry leaders, it is clear why Colorado has the largest concentration of aerospace workforce in the country and is at the forefront of the latest aerospace and defense innovations. Colorado maintains its industry leadership with a talent pipeline fed by a world-class university system that receives more NASA research funding than any other and has produced 20 astronauts.
Now that the Air Force has completed its analysis of the best place to permanently host the U.S. Space Command, there is only one clear choice. Only one location in the country has the existing military and commercial infrastructure, existing aerospace workforce and talent, and a community focused on serving military families. In the race for Space Command, Colorado Springs is clearly light years ahead of us.
William R. Looney III is a retired four-star general in the Air Force.
Editor’s Note: This is an Op-Ed. Therefore, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you’d like to respond or have your own editorial to submit, please contact the Military Times Senior Editor Howard Altman. email@example.com.