Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

We might be entering 2021 shortly, but in many ways, the world looks more like 2025 or even 2030.

The accelerated adoption of new technological behaviors in response to the pandemic — from videoconferencing to online learning — shows usage has reached levels not forecasted for many years. Satellites in space make this activity possible.

Space is increasingly central to our economy, particularly here in Colorado, and to our national security. Our success in this domain is paramount. The choice among six candidate locations for U.S. Space Command’s permanent home must be based on capabilities. Colorado is the clear winner in that regard, as affirmed by the selection of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs as Space Command’s temporary location.

The case for Colorado is particularly compelling given our rich and enduring space and national security ecosystem distinguished by a powerful confluence of industry, government, academic and philanthropic forces. We have a proven track record of collaboration among these entities, especially when the nation’s interests are at stake.

Colorado’s aerospace economy is the nation’s second largest and the first per capita, with more than 500 companies and suppliers that generate over $15 billion annually. From the largest NASA and Department of Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance, to small supply companies, Colorado is home to nearly 200,000 space-related jobs.

The University of Colorado has a longstanding commitment to providing nation-leading discovery and support in space to industry and government partners. Our four campuses position CU and the state as major players in addressing our country’s most pressing needs in the civilian and national security domains.

CU Boulder remains the No. 1 public university recipient of NASA research funding, and is among the nation’s top-ranked undergraduate and graduate aerospace engineering programs. Its National Security Initiative is connecting researchers with federal and industry partners to support Colorado’s national security engagement.

UCCS — a pioneer in cybersecurity education and training — will break ground on a new cybersecurity facility this spring, further elevating our status as a critical workforce pipeline for the Pikes Peak region’s national security economy.

CU Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus are partnering with industry and federal agencies to address critical technology gaps and provide enhanced combat casualty care for those serving on the front lines.

This year, I convened the National Security Advisory Group with experts on CU’s four campuses to identify existing strengths and collaborative opportunities to enhance our support for current and future national security-related projects and initiatives, especially in space, medical care and cybersecurity. CU’s campuses continue to work together to leverage our collective strengths to bolster Colorado’s robust aerospace enterprise.

Strong philanthropic partners have helped CU and other universities expand their support for space. Contributions from the Anschutz, El Pomar and Lane foundations are supporting UCCS’ cybersecurity expansion, and with the Anschutz Foundation’s support and encouragement, we plan to expand UCCS’ engineering building, allowing us to educate more engineers. We are also moving toward adding an astronautical engineering degree to support Space Command’s talent needs.

CU is not alone in training Colorado’s future aerospace workforce and tackling society’s biggest challenges through research and discovery. Colleges and universities statewide are building upon niche strengths and collaborating to support our industry and government partners and their workforce and research needs. Colorado’s institutions boast strong aerospace programs, substantial industry partnerships and outstanding academic and research programs, all of which will continue to serve Colorado and Space Command well.

Colorado’s higher education institutions are also known for their military-friendliness. CU has more than 5,600 active duty, reserve, National Guard, veteran and military-dependent students. We remain firmly committed to active military, returning veterans and their families.

Colorado’s powerful convergence of academic, industry, government and philanthropic assets set us apart from the pack. We are uniquely positioned to meet Space Command’s needs and help advance its mission and strategic priorities.

As 2021 approaches, let us hope the DoD continues to recognize our dynamic and unrivaled space and national security ecosystem and keeps Space Command in Colorado.

Mark Kennedy is president of the University of Colorado.

Mark Kennedy is president of the University of Colorado.

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