The Air Force will choose the home for U.S. Space Command this summer, and Colorado remains in the lead, lawmakers were told Tuesday.
The Air Force announcement confirmed documents obtained by The Gazette last month, showing that four Colorado bases — three of them in the Pikes Peak region — were competing with locations in California and Alabama to permanently house the new unit, which will oversee the space efforts of all armed services.
“The next step will be to complete site surveys and analysis of each candidate location for its ability to meet mission requirements, capacity, environmental impact and cost criteria,” the Air Force said in a news release.
The final release of the memorandum on basing decisions scuttles last-minute efforts by competitors including Florida to land the command. It also shows that Colorado Springs, temporary home for the command as it is being formed, likely will get to keep it. In March, the Trump administration announced that the command initially would be formed here with Peterson Air Force Base’s Gen. Jay Raymond as its boss.
Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station are three of six finalists for the command. Schriever and Peterson also have the facilities needed to house it, making them inexpensive alternatives.
The other Colorado finalist is Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, cheered the final release of the military’s worst-kept secret.
“Colorado is proud to support our nation’s military space operations today and into the future, the signing of this memo today is great news for our state,” Gardner said in an email. “I look forward to reviewing the Administration’s proposal for expanded space operation and development.”
Colorado still must beat out Alabama and California. Alabama has made a strong push in Congress to put the command at its Redstone Arsenal. But it does not now house big pieces of the military’s space enterprise, so it could prove to be an expensive and unpopular option.
In California, Vandenberg Air Force Base is a finalist as well, but it too faces challenges. Vandenberg is best known for launching satellites rather than controlling them in space. And military expansions in California have met as many protests as cheers in recent years.
In Colorado, local leaders may hear more about the Pentagon’s space plans when President Donald Trump gives the Air Force Academy’s graduation address May 30.
The president, who has spent the past year pushing a separate Space Force for satellite troops, swapped places with Vice President Mike Pence to give the Air Force Academy talk, leading to speculation that he’ll make his space initiatives a centerpiece of his speech.