Colorado Springs’ Peterson Air Force Base will remain the home of U.S. Space Command for at least six more years.
The selection puts to rest, at least in the short term, a battle between cities across the nation jockeying for a piece of the military’s nascent Space Force.
“Today’s announcement is historic for Colorado and the future of U.S. military operations in space,” said Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in a released statement.
Peterson, home of the original Space Command until it was disbanded in 2002, was announced as the interim headquarters after the command was re-established in 2018. In the time since, the city, the region — and the state — have been hungry to keep the command and secure the economic benefits that go along with America’s military goals in space.
It’s also been an emotional roller coaster over the past year.
Originally, Colorado Air Force bases made up four of six finalists initially announced for the permanent headquarters and President Donald Trump alluded to the Springs as a top contender in a February rally in Colorado Springs.
Then, in March, the Air Force said it was completely restarting the search for a permanent home for Space Command, arguing the initial selection of finalists had not been fully fair and transparent. At that time, Defense Sec. Mark Esper said he didn’t expect any announcement on the permanent location before the November election.
Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who serves the state’s 5th Congressional District, said the new provisional declaration from Air Force Sec. Barbara Barrett will not only keep the command in the Pikes Peak Region for another half-decade but increases the likelihood Peterson AFB will retain momentum for the permanent selection.
“It's going to be difficult, to maybe even impossible, for any other community to ever catch up with us in the next six years while we’re still moving ahead with everything we’re doing to make space big in Colorado,” Lamborn said.
The new timeline announced by the Air Force said the branch will put forward its preferred selection for a final location sometime in early 2021.
Peterson would still retain the command for years afterward even if another base was ultimately selected as the long term headquarters. Lamborn complimented this approach, as he thought it helped “take politics out of the decision.”
He was not sure if the coronavirus pandemic factored in this provisional declaration.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who has pitched Trump on more than one occasion about Colorado’s desirability to host Space Command — it was mentioned again, off-hand, when he met the president to discuss the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — called the decision “great news” in a statement.
“I will continue urging the president and the Air Force to make Colorado the permanent home of U.S. Space Command. Colorado is home to a proud military community, a critical aerospace industry, an educated workforce, and prestigious research institutions so we are the natural and best home for U.S. Space Command,” the governor said.
While closely interrelated, U.S. Space Command is a different entity than Space Force, the newly formed sixth branch of the military. Space Command brings together the current space-focused assets of all military branches under centralized leadership.