BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On Dec.5, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, current chair of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, told a roundtable meeting of civic and aerospace industry leaders meeting at the headquarters of rocket manufacturer United Launch Alliance in Centennial that Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner “is a leader in supporting the military” and that he had “never seen him vote against anything for the military in the House or in the Senate.”
The meeting of Colorado’s defense community was described as being about the status of the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020), the future of U.S. Space Command, and “other defense issues.” It featured presentations by the heads of the Aurora and Colorado Springs Chambers of Commerce, highlighting the reasons why the Air Force bases in their cities should be chosen as the permanent home of the U.S. Space Command, presently housed at Peterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Colorado Springs on a temporary basis.
Space Command’s mission is to “deter aggression and conflict, defend U.S. and allied freedom of action, deliver space combat power for the Joint/Combined force, and develop joint warfighters to advance U.S. and allied interest in, from, and through the space domain.” It is sometimes confused with Space Force, a proposed new independent military branch that is expected to be approved any day. It will be a small (15,000) branch of the U.S. Air Force based in Colorado. Preliminary plans are for military personnel from Buckley AFB in Aurora and both Peterson and Schreiver AFBs in Colorado Springs to be part of it. Kevin Hougen, president and CEO of the Aurora Chamber, told the senators and industry executives that Aurora’s Buckley AFB, built in 2000, is the newest AFB, home of the F-16 fighter jet and future home to the F-35. He pointed out that Buckley houses the Air National Guard, the 460th Space Wing of the Global Surveillance & Missile Warning, the Navy and Marine Corps Reserves, and the Air Reserve Personnel Center that supports 1.3 million active, reserve, and Guard members. It is also home to the Aerospace Data Facility, a multi-agency and joint service intelligence facility. Hougen said that Buckley’s 2018 economic impact was $990,647,251 and that it supports 95 tenants, 94,000 U. S. Department of Defense service members, retirees, civilians, contractors, and families.
Dirk Draper, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, described the five military installations in the Colorado Springs area. Peterson AFB has the U.S. Air Force Space Command and is the current temporary home of the U.S. Space Command. Schriever AFB houses the control systems for all GPS satellites. Cheyenne Mountain is the home of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). The U.S. Air Force Academy has 4,000 cadets and another 4,000 staff, along with cybersecurity operations, and Fort Carson is the home of the U.S. Army’s only space brigade. Draper said that the combined economic
impact of the four facilities, excluding Cheyenne Mountain (not disclosed; likely classified) is $5.587 billion.
Inhofe listened attentively to the presentations, then turned to the NDAA, adding a political angle to the conversation. He said, “Under Obama, we had some real hits to the military. Most of our modernization programs were on life support. All that has changed. We’ve reversed the crisis. After this (NDAA) goes through, we’ll be ahead. Between 2010 and 2015 we had a 25 percent drop. While we were going down 25 percent China increased by 83 percent.”
He said that Republican senators in Arizona, Iowa, and Maine, in addition to Colorado, “are an endangered species” and that they are “being attacked with unlimited resources.” He made it clear that he believes Colorado’s Republican senator is important to his efforts to keep the military strong.
In response to a question, Inhofe said, “People need to be aware of the threat America is facing today from China and Russia. We’ve got the right leadership right now.” Gardner said he was happy to have Imhofe in Colorado and that he believed our state had a good chance of getting U.S. Space Command here permanently.
Morning Consult, which surveys over 5,000 registered voters daily, reported that, in the third quarter, Gardner had the second-lowest approval rating of all 53 Republican senators, with just 36 percent of Colorado voters approving of his job performance, 39 percent disapproving, and 25 percent saying they didn’t know.
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