U.S. Space Command could spend another 10 months in limbo after President Donald Trump spurned a full-press lobbying effort from Colorado and steered clear of a commitment.
The president wasn’t off his plane before Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis got aboard to twist Trump’s arm in a bid to keep the command that’s temporarily housed at Peterson Air Force Base. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Republican U.S. Rep Doug Lamborn tried their charms to win the command. No decision.
Trump did praise Colorado Springs while claiming his title as the father of the new Space Force that serves here.
“You are being very strongly considered for the space command, very strongly,” Trump told a capacity crowd of 10,000 inside The Broadmoor World Arena and hundreds more who stood outside in the cold to watch him on a screen set up for the event.
Trump said he will decide where to house the command by the end of 2020, possibly after the November election. The decision was originally due last summer, and the delay has gone unexplained by the Pentagon.
Trump’s implied personal involvement in the decision is a rarity for the White House, which in the past two administrations has steered clear of basing decisions which are generally settled in the Pentagon.
Colorado Springs leaders have pushed for nearly a year to win the command against competition from California, Florida and Alabama.
The local campaign included handing out thousands of red T-shirts and caps by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC in a bid to woo the command.
Colorado Springs would get to keep hundreds of troops in the deal, and could gain hundreds more as the command grows. The command also brings a checkbook, which could mean billions of dollars for Colorado space firms as the new command buys the tools it needs to assure American dominance in orbit.
Polis said he remained hopeful.
“Colorado is the perfect home for Space Command and I was excited to have the opportunity to remind President Trump why that’s true,” Polis, who greeted Trump in a business suit and jogging shoes, said in an email. “Colorado is home to a proud military history … I think after his visit to Colorado Springs, the president will see that Space Command’s permanent home should once again be in Colorado.”
Knowing his audience in Colorado Springs, a military bastion, Trump sprinkled defense issues into a speech that ranged from attacks on the news media to excoriation of his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton. At nearly 100 minutes, insiders said Trump’s talk was his longest since hitting the 2020 campaign trail.
“We have rebuilt our military in the past three years,” Trump said. “Don’t tell anybody but we spent $2.5 trillion. But when it comes to our safety and security, we don’t worry about budgets.”
Trump also praised Gen. Jay Raymond, Space Command’s boss, during his remarks.
“He’s on the list of the most incredible men you have ever seen,” said Trump, who huddled briefly with Raymond at Peterson Air Force Base.
Raymond’s command grew out of growing concern that rivals including Russia and China will develop space vehicles, weapons and jammers that could take out America’s constellation of military satellites in a war.
Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal is a primary competitor for the command, because it already houses the Army’s space headquarters and is backed by a powerful congressional delegation that is leaning hard on the Pentagon.
Some local insiders worried that by delaying the basing decision, President Trump could be leaning toward moving it elsewhere in a bid to win more 2020 votes.
But Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, in his remarks from the rally stage, said possession is 9/10ths of the law.
“United States Space Command and Space Force are operating out of Colorado,” he said, drawing cheers.
Space Command at its temporary home in Colorado Springs is now comprised of about 350 troops split between Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases.
The command is built to oversee all wartime actions in orbit in the same way that Central Command deals with conflicts in the Middle East and the North American Aerospace Defense Command keeps watch on the continent’s skies.
The command was established by a congressional measure in 2018, and got its leader and flag in a White House ceremony last year.
The command’s headquarters oversees several space units in town, including the Missile Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base.
It also has troops in Nebraska and California.
The command is growing alongside a new service branch that’s getting its start at Peterson.
The Space Force is being built from what used to be Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs. The new service now has just one officer: Raymond, the top commander, but will grow to several thousand troops as airmen are shifted to it.
The headquarters of the Space Force is officially in the Pentagon, but its biggest units and Raymond call Colorado Springs home. Top space units here include the 50th Space Wing, the 21st Space Wing and the 310th Space Wing.
But Trump, who didn’t take questions during the stop, left America’s future in space surrounded by mystery.
“I will be making a big decision on the future of the Space Force as to where it is going to be located, and I know you want it,” Trump told the crowd. “I will be making a decision by the end of the year.”
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