Colorado Springs wants to house U.S. Space Command and, if local leaders can pull it off, we might be able to get it the old-fashioned way.
The Pikes Peak region attracted Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy by bringing a dowry to the marriage: free open land.
With the Air Force openly asking for incentive packages from cities wooing Space Command, it’s the kind of gift that could pay off for decades. Space Command, with its 1,400 troops, was established in 2019 to oversee military efforts in orbit and will lavish its permanent home with contractors, civilian employees and truckloads of cash.
It is temporarily housed here while the Air Force considers where to keep it permanently. That process has been marked by political intrigue, the personal intervention of President Donald Trump, long delays and a complete reset.
The latest round of bidding for the command opened in May, with cities in 25 states now vying for the headquarters. And for the first time in memory, the Air Force has said it will consider “incentives” in the basing process.
Commonly used by corporations when they decide where to put their workforce, incentives are loosely described as free stuff. Corporations are easy to attract with tax breaks, easy financing schemes and other methods that make accountants on the receiving end smile. But the military, which spends $2 billion a day from its copious budget, isn’t easily impressed and isn’t worried about taxes. The military is in the business of spending tax money, not paying it.
The military also isn’t going to be easily wooed with low-cost leases on property, and even the offer from one town in Alabama to craft lovely new homes for Space Command’s generals won’t be enough to impress.
In the secretive space business, the military wants its own buildings, designed to meet exacting specifications for security purposes. If the military wants a building, it builds it.
But Colorado Springs has something most urban centers vying for the command could only dream of: open land next to a base. Across Marksheffel Road on the east side of Peterson Air Force Base is Banning-Lewis Ranch.
If the city could buy a few thousand acres at a reasonable price, it could be easily conveyed to the military. Already, Colorado Springs owns the land that comprises Peterson, which was offered to the Air Force on a nearly free lease.
Add the extra acres in on those military-friendly terms and Peterson gets two things it has long sought: fewer neighbors and room to grow. It might be a tough move for the city this year, with its budget slashed by the coronavirus downturn. But it needs to happen.
Locking up that piece of ranchland would secure the future of Peterson for Space Command and missions that could follow well into the future.
A few million dollars now could bring a few billion dollars later. And open land is the only meaningful gift you can give a military that has everything else.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx