Space Command thrives in Colorado Springs. It operates in a perfect ecosystem that combines a qualified workforce, proximity to supporting entities, public safety, transportation and community support. A better environment is not possible, no matter how incessantly politicians try to take it from Colorado.
To move the command, the Pentagon would abandon billions of dollars in existing assets. It would disrupt this critical operation at a time when we have no time to waste in keeping up with foreign adversaries racing to dominate us militarily in space.
If federal officials act irresponsibly and move the command, we worry about our friends and neighbors who devote their lives to this critical component of national security. While all finalist locations are part of fine metropolitan areas, none is as stable for Space Command politically, geographically, culturally, and tactically as Colorado Springs. Consider each of the other finalists:
Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque
Left-leaning Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has been hostile to federal employees. When the federal government offered to help with violent antifa and Black Lives Matter protests, Keller said “there’s no place” for “secret police in our city.” The employees, he said, would “try to incite violence by targeting our city and our residents.”
If the Pentagon trusts Albuquerque with Space Command, city officials will need to welcome federal law enforcement whenever necessary. The host city must not take chances with public safety. City officials should not toy with fashionable and untested public safety experiments while guaranteeing the Pentagon’s minimum “emergency incident response requirements.”
Keller and Albuquerque’s other liberal politicians were quick to reallocate police resources when activists said “defund the police.” Keller announced a new unarmed “Community Safety Department” funded at the expense of traditional cops.
“It is also reallocating resources, there’s no doubt about that,” Keller said, as quoted by Albuquerque’s KOAT Action News 7.
Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Neb.
Unions control Omaha’s public safety, and it does not always go well. The mayor, police chief, and fire chief cannot promise the Pentagon a reliable standard of public safety because they are not in control. Example: The president of the Omaha Firefighters Union, Steve LeClair, pleaded “no contest” to assaulting a Black woman at a bar in 2019.
She claimed he sexually propositioned her and used racially insulting language. The city fired LeClair, only to see the union lead a successful crusade to reinstate him. The mayor and fire chief were powerless to intervene.
Colorado Springs voters have for generations, and as recently as 2019, trounced proposals for collective bargaining contracts with first responders. As a result, Colorado Springs employs only the best firefighters and cops and pays competitive wages to attract and keep them.
In addition to public safety concerns, the Offutt option comes with high flooding risks. The base has incurred about $400 million in recent flood damage.
Joint Base, San Antonio
Liberal Democratic San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other city officials frequently clash with the military. As explained in this space Tuesday, Nirenberg blasted Pentagon officials in March for quarantining COVID-19 patients at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland — just as they quarantined patients at Fort Carson in the Springs.
When the Pentagon asked San Antonio for ambulances to transport COVID patients, Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger balked. Nirenberg did nothing to back the Air Force.
“Don’t we get to say no? What happens if we say no (to ambulance service)?” Bridger said, as quoted in the San Antonio Current. The Pentagon needs the Space Command host “to provide emergency incident response requirements and enable mobility” — part of the 40-point “mission-related” criteria. In San Antonio’s disruptive political climate, they cannot count on it.
Redstone Army Airfield, Huntsville, Ala.
Huntsville is an enviable small city that falls considerably short of providing the supporting space-related entities the Pentagon wants as a basic requirement for the permanent host.
Huntsville lacks the metropolitan amenities available in Colorado Springs and nearby Denver, some of which are important to attracting the best and brightest civilians to work for Space Command. The community’s airport offers direct flights to 10 cities, making it comparable to the Colorado Springs Airport. The nearest large, full-service airport is three-and-a-half hours away in Atlanta — the closest place to see a major-league sporting event or take in other amenities offered by a major metropolis.
By contrast, Space Command personnel in Colorado Springs are an hour or less from the country’s fifth-busiest airport, Denver International, which offers direct flights to more than 215 cities around the globe. In the Springs, Space Force personnel have easy access to big-city theater, arts, major league sports, state-of-the-art health care, and other cosmopolitan amenities.
Patrick Air Force Base, Brevard County, Fla.
On the Atlantic shore, Patrick Air Force Base lacks the geographic inland security that makes Colorado a strategically safe location for critical, high-tech military operations. Hurricanes embattle the Patrick base, which evacuated personnel for Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
Hurricane Irma destroyed 97% of the Patrick Air Force Base housing in 2017 and damaged an additional 40% of Patrick’s nonresidential facilities. The base lost power and running water. Moving Space Command to Patrick would make this critical command vulnerable every annual hurricane season, and our adversaries would count on it.
Moving Space Command would be a foolish, costly, and dangerous mistake made only to benefit powerful politicians. It would needlessly abandon billions in assets and disrupt a critical national defense component that has no time to waste. It would gamble with national security. Allow Space Command to grow, flourish, and succeed in the proven, welcoming and supportive space hub of Colorado Springs.
The Gazette Editorial Board