If you want to understand the big shadow the military casts on the Pikes Peak region, just follow the money.
A recent state study into the economics of the military here shows that the Pentagon pumps more than $18 billion per year into the El Paso County economy — making up half of the military cash that comes to the entire state.
The Pikes Peak region is home to five military bases that collectively are responsible for nearly 50 cents of every payroll dollar handed out here. The military also touches a lot of lives here, with 40,000 active-duty troops and 80,000 veterans.
The most populous of those bases is Fort Carson, home to 25,000 troops including the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
There are two Air Force bases: Peterson and Schriever. The county is also home to the underground Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the nation’s nuclear-proof bunker, and the Air Force Academy, where 4,000 cadets train to be officers.
With the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the county has the largest permanent foreign deployment of Canadian troops, with more than 200 families from north-of-the-border living here.
El Paso County is also the hub for the nation’s military space efforts. Air Force Space Command controls the military’s constellation of communications as well as navigation and missile warning spacecraft.
If the other jobs weren’t enough, troops here with U.S. Northern Command are responsible for protecting the continent from attack.
The region’s bases and missions have a big bottom line, the study sponsored by Colorado’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs found — “a grand total of 100,000 total direct, indirect and induced jobs.”