Op-Ed | Reestablishing U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs is the only serious option

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Earlier this month, leaders from the Department of Defense made their case before the Senate Armed Services Committee in favor of the creation of a new, separate military service focused on warfighting in space. During their testimony to the Senate, Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan, Secretary of the Air Force Wilson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford, and STRATCOM Commander General Hyten presented a unified front, making their case (and the administration’s) for reforming our defense space establishment. Their end goal?  To shape it into a more effective organization able to address the growing challenges in that domain.

The testimony given was compelling and the bipartisan questions illuminating, but the best consequence of the hearing was to see the Senate finally give attention to the growing space capabilities of our near-peer competitors and the ongoing militarization of space and discuss what we must do about it. We no longer need to debate whether space is a contested domain: everyone with a rudimentary understanding of the current threat environment agrees that it is. The capabilities of our adversaries, who have already realigned their military organizations to compete with us in space, continue to grow and evolve. Both China and Russia present a real threat, and we have an urgent need to regain lost momentum—we cannot jeopardize our qualitative military advantage in space by refusing to reform ossified organizations because doing so would “create more bureaucracy.”

Fortunately, our space capabilities are the best in the world at the moment. And while Congress debates the structure (and occasionally uniforms) of our future Space Force, the infrastructure, systems, and men and women who defend our space assets are currently operating 24/7 in Colorado Springs. Our community was the home of U.S. Space Command from the day it was activated in 1985 until Secretary Rumsfeld reorganized it under Strategic Command in 2002. Today, Colorado Springs remains the epicenter of our national security space enterprise.

While deliberations continue over the future of a separate military service for space, creation of a unified combatant command responsible for space continues to receive broad-ranging support. Reestablishing SPACECOM in Colorado Springs is the only serious option for providing the desired capability on the shortest, most cost-effective timeline. Between Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado Springs is home to the Joint Force Space Component Command and Air Force Space Command, both currently commanded by General John Raymond (who has now been nominated by President Trump to lead U.S. Space Command). The National Space Defense Center (the heart of space warfighting wherein the intelligence community and uniformed services coordinate and respond to threats in real time) will soon be joined on Schriever by the next-generation command and control center when the Combined Space Operations Facility begins construction next fiscal year. The dual-hatted General Raymond may bear one of the most onerous burdens in the Department of Defense, but his nomination to command a unified SPACECOM will likely roll up each of his soon-to-be three “hats” into one (and he won’t even have to move!).

Additionally, these organizations and infrastructure are only part of the story. Units in the area include the 21st and 50th Space Wings, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command-U.S. Army Strategic Command (Forward) (including the Headquarters element and 1st Space Brigade), the National Guard’s 100th Missile Defense Brigade, the National Security Space Institute, and over 70 tenant units throughout the Defense and Intelligence communities, all conducting space operations and support functions, all located in Colorado Springs. Our community currently has the infrastructure, conducts operations, and provides the training required of a new combatant command. All this is to say, ripping out these assets and starting new military constructions projects at a new location while relocating thousands of personnel would be the height of irresponsibility amid the current threat environment.

A critical component of maintaining our current advantage in space is making the transition to new a COCOM (let alone a new service) as seamless as possible. My colleagues (in the House) and I have recognized the seriousness of the growing threat to our space superiority for a few years, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to seize this moment and prioritize sustentative reforms to our defense space community.   If they are concerned about disruption ensuring continuity for the space warfighters, they have nothing to fear so long as Space Command is re-established in Colorado Springs.