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Schriever Air Force Base on Tuesday. Photo by Molly Van Wagner

Schriever Air Force Base would see a $148 million building boom, and $71 million would go to Fort Carson under a budget proposal offered by the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The $750 billion Defense Department budget aims to deter growing threats from China and Russia, said Elaine McCusker, the military’s top accountant.

“China and Russia will not fight us the way we have gotten used to fighting,” she said Tuesday during a Pentagon news conference.

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The Schriever money would build a “consolidated space operations center” at the military’s home for satellite operations. The building boom accompanies growth of the secretive National Space Defense Center at Schriever, which brings together intelligence and military experts to plan for wars in orbit.

Fort Carson would get a new set of company operations facilities to house ongoing growth, including a security force assistance brigade, which soon will push its population to nearly 26,000 soldiers.

The $219 million would double Pentagon construction spending in the state from 2019. It marks the biggest planned 2020 U.S. investments by the Army and the Air Force.

The White House has said some of America’s biggest threats are in space, driving President Donald Trump to call for a separate “Space Force.” But the Pentagon’s planned investment in that service is a relatively paltry $72 million for 2020.

Much of that money would go into setting up the U.S. Space Command, a headquarters to oversee all military space efforts.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel and readiness panel, had no immediate comment on the budget but did call for the Pentagon to put the U.S. Space Command in Colorado. The Pikes Peak region already is home to Air Force Space Command, which oversees most military space missions.

Lamborn joined the rest of the Colorado delegation in a letter to the Defense Department urging the move.

“As the epicenter of national security space, Colorado is the prime location to house national efforts to ensure continued U.S. technological superiority, global leadership, and capabilities in space,” the lawmakers wrote. “For these reasons, it is in the nation’s best interests to base U.S. Space Command in Colorado.”

Air Force Maj. Gen. John Pletcher said the space headquarters money will cover “initial personnel and operating costs.”

While Trump has issued proclamations on the Space Force, it still must be approved by Congress. And with Democrats running the House, the proposal’s future remains in doubt.

Military space spending overall would top $14 billion in 2020, with $1.7 billion for rockets and $3.4 billion for Global Positioning System and infrared satellites.

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U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs would see another cut under the Trump plan, falling to $185 million for operations in 2020. That’s down from $205 million in 2018, a nearly 10 percent drop, and is mirrored by falling budgets across the largest commands.

The budget continues to add money for missile defense, with cash for more interceptor missiles operated by the Colorado Springs-based 100th Missile Defense Brigade.

The military has conservative plans to grow its ranks in 2020. The Army plans to add 2,000 active-duty soldiers for a total of 488,000; the Air Force, 2,300 airmen to hit 332,800.

Troops also would get fatter paychecks under the Defense Department plan, with a 3.1 percent hike.

But the Pentagon spending plan has some problems before it gets to lawmakers. The proposed budget relies heavily on one-time “overseas contingency operations” money, a line item that’s usually used to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For 2020, the Pentagon wants to pull $98 billion in “base” spending out of the wartime fund in addition to $66 billion for deployments.

The use of wartime money allows the Defense Department to skirt mandatory budget cuts that come from the Obama-era “sequestration” deal that targeted federal deficits. The sequestration cuts were put on hold in recent years but are to return for 2020, carving at least $50 billion from Pentagon spending.

Lawmakers have shown reluctance in the past to use the war fund to pay for peacetime needs.

Ryan McCarthy, an Army undersecretary, acknowledged the financial trickery but said it is needed to stave off cuts.

“We recognize in this fiscal climate we could face flat or declining budgets,” he said.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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