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Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., attends the ceremony for Barbara Barrett, the 25th secretary of the Air Force, last week at Polaris Hall at the

Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Fort Carson will get a long-awaited improvement to an entrance gate east of the post's airfield thanks to an $18 million federal grant, Sen. Cory Gardner announced Wednesday.

Gardner told The Gazette that the federal Department of Transportation money also will spur development of an industrial park west of Fountain that could fuel job growth in southern El Paso County.

"The money is on its way," the freshman Republican said.

The money for Fort Carson is part of a wider grant that will funnel $43 million into road work statewide. The Fort Carson Gate 19 project aims to upgrade an unpaved road leading from Interstate 25 to the post and a temporary gate that has seen increased use thanks to Fort Carson's galloping growth over the past decade. Other work includes improvements on Colorado 94 near Schriever Air Force Base, long a priority for the military, Colorado Springs U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said in an email.

Cory Gardner's uphill battle for re-election | Lynn Bartels

"This will increase our nation's military readiness due to the strategic nature of the missions conducted in our community," said Lamborn, a Republican.

In a wide-ranging interview, Gardner expressed frustration that Congress has yet to pass a pair of key defense bills, including a past-due measure to fund the Pentagon and another that sets policy including the creation of a separate Space Force.

Gardner is facing re-election in 2020 and has a host of Democrats, including former Gov. John Hickenlooper, vying to face him.

The senator dodged a question on his thoughts on a Democratic push to impeach President Donald Trump. But he had plenty to say about what he perceives as hyper-partisanship that has gridlocked the House and Senate for much of the year.

"This revenge mentality of the place is starting to create some significant national security issues," Gardner said.

The military is now operating on a short-term funding bill set to expire in two weeks.

But efforts to push through a permanent funding bill are shipwrecked in the Senate, where bickering between the parties has blocked the budget thus far.

"This is something that came out of committee and we have tried several times to get it to move on the floor," Gardner said.

The budget includes a 3.1% pay raise for troops and more than $300 million for military projects in Colorado.

The Democrat-controlled House has passed a version of the measure, but the full Senate has yet to act.

Also trapped between the chambers is the National Defense Authorization Act, a measure that sets policy, including creating the Space Force, and allocates Pentagon cash to projects. Some of the opposition to the measure is tied to House efforts to block a Trump administration move to raid military coffers to pay for wall construction along the Mexican border.

"I think the opposition to everything we're trying to do has created a huge mess," Gardner said.

Gardner has voted to back the wall, something Democrats have used as a rallying cry in the race to unseat him, but thinks lawmakers need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to defense policy.

He said without enabling legislation from the policy bill, the military could basically cease its role around the globe.

"This is something that has passed for more than 50 years," he said.

There are some talks on Capitol Hill about scaling down ambitions in the authorization act to make it more palatable to the warring sides. But Gardner said he's not buying the so-called "skinny bill," because it would lack provisions including the new Space Force.

Gardner said he's leaning on the Pentagon to ensure Colorado Springs keeps the lion's share of the military's space missions.

The Pentagon tapped Colorado Springs to temporarily house its new U.S. Space Command, which oversees the satellite efforts of all military branches. But the Pentagon and the White House have yet to announce the command's permanent home, a decision that's months overdue.

Insiders speculate that the Trump administration could hold the decision as a political poker chip to play during the 2020 election cycle.

Gardner said he's pressuring the Pentagon and the White House to decide the issue in Colorado's favor. 

The senator said he's also pushing against another temporary measure to fund the Pentagon. The "concurrent resolutions" lock Pentagon spending at 2019 levels and don't allow new programs, Gardner said.

Instead, the senator wants Democrats and Republicans to come together on a permanent Pentagon financing plan.

"We need to pass this," he said.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

City Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's City Editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom has covered the military at home and overseas and has cover statehouses in Denver and Olympia, Wash. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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