What’s next for US Space Command?

The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC are joining the list of Coloradans asking the new administration to delay the decision to move the headquarters to Alabama. The Air Force claims the choice was not politically motivated.
Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 11:28 PM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Multiple groups, city officials, and lawmakers in Colorado Springs are hopeful the new Biden administration will take another look before the headquarters of U.S. Space Command moves to Alabama.

The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC wants the decision delayed. Critics in Colorado believe the choice to move the headquarters from Peterson Air Force Base to Huntsville, Alabama was politically motivated.

“Two weeks ago today the secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, went into the White House with the recommendation that said U.S. Space Command should be permanently based here in Colorado Springs at Peterson Air Force Base. It was politics, presidential politics, that changed that decision,” said Reggie Ash, the chief defense development officer at the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.

Some Colorado leaders believe former President Donald Trump decided to move the headquarters to Alabama in a surprise move. The state includes lawmakers who objected to the 2020 election results.

“We’re working very closely with all of our elected leaders, and especially with Gov. Polis, Sen. Bennett, and Sen. Hickenlooper and their staffs, to encourage President Biden to suspend that decision to allow the new Secretary of Defense Austin to review that decision,” said Ash.

Reggie Ash says defense and aerospace make up roughly 40 percent of the local economy. Local leaders say the application from Colorado Springs was unmatched.

“There is no way that any other community in this country could score higher,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “I assure to the residents of Colorado Springs that the city has made an extremely strong case to be the permanent home of Space Command and then we had every indication that the Air Force was impressed by our presentation and the community commitments we made in support of space commands future.”

The Chamber estimates nearly $130 million has gone towards the proposal. A breakdown from the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC is below:

The commitments described below have been thoughtfully assembled by our public, private and non-profit partners and have an estimated value of approximately $129.4 million.

Land Control with Flexible and Preferred Terms ($36.3 Million Value). Over 1,500 acres of PAFB, which includes a large amount of undeveloped land, is provided to the Air Force through leases with the City of Colorado Springs at nominal rates, which provides for maximum flexibility and agility regarding future expansion and development opportunities. The original lease has been supplemented numerous times over the years to accommodate Air Force projects and infrastructure upgrades and the City is committed to future lease modifications as necessary to accommodate USSPACECOM and supporting facilities. The estimated value is based upon a recent appraisal of 600 acres in close proximity to PAFB, which appraised at $24,000 per acre.

Land Transfer to Benefit Peterson-Schriever Infrastructure ($8 Million Value). The Colorado State Land Board, working in collaboration with the Peterson-Schriever Garrison, has 640 acres to the United States Air Force. This transfer will keep the Schriever Air Force Base ground antennas’ line of sight free of tall structures and will help to ensure the United States continues to dominate the space domain. The estimated value is based upon $12,500 per acre obtained from industry experts.

City Sales and Use Tax Refund on Construction Materials ($10.8 Million Value). The City of Colorado Springs is committed to providing a sales and use tax exemption via a refund relating to the purchase of construction materials incorporated into buildings constructed in support of USSPACECOM. The refund on the purchase of construction materials will be in the full amount of the City sales and use tax at the rate in effect at the time of construction, currently 3.12%. These refunds will allow the facilities to be delivered to the Air Force at a reduced cost. The estimated value is based upon approximately $700 million in facility construction with 50% of the cost attributed to construction materials.

County Sales and Use Tax Refund on Construction Materials ($4.3 Million Value). El Paso County has a 1.23% use tax on building construction materials. In support of USSPACECOM, the County is committed to providing an exemption of these taxes for any buildings constructed and owned by the Federal Government for USSPACECOM. To further support the effort, the County has agreed to provide this exemption to vendors in advance of building permits to ensure savings are realized up front or at the time of purchase. In addition, the County will assign a member of their Sales & Use Tax team to coordinate with the Regional Building Department to ensure a smooth process for USSPACECOM and all general contractors on the project. As with the City rebates, the County exemption will allow the facilities to be delivered to the Air Force at a reduced cost. The estimated value is based upon approximately $700 million in facility construction with 50% of the cost attributed to construction materials.

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) Commitments ($53.5 Million Value). Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) is committed to investing approximately $25 million towards on-site generation. In addition, CSU is committed to utilizing Economic Development Special Contracts, which provide for credits to offset to the cost of utility infrastructure, reduce utility rates or a combination of both. Credits under Economic Development Special Contracts are based upon marginal CSU revenue resulting from net new utility consumption. The value of these credits is estimated to be $28.5 million based upon projected new and existing load (electric consumption) over 10 years.

Support from Non-Profit Foundations ($5 Million Value:The Anschutz Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation, the Daniels Fund and the Chapman Foundation have pledged to continue this legacy of support in areas such as K-12 and higher education, affordable housing and healthcare. These four foundations have committed to providing $5 million over two years for the future Child Development Center expansion at PAFB in support of USSPACECOM and other critical missions.

Astronautical Engineering Degree Program ($11.5 Million Value). On December 16, 2020 the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs confirmed that it will launch a new Astronautical Engineering degree program to be operational in 2022.

Silver Spruce Golf Course Redevelopment (Value TBD).. Through a private-public partnership model, the City could provide quality golf facilities in close proximity to the base in the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch development. A working group/task force with PAFB and City representatives has been convened to more fully develop this concept. Upon confirmation from the Air Force that it would like to proceed, we can begin implementation immediately.

Peterson Air Force Base has housed the command since its original inception from 1985-2002. Peterson again became the headquarters following Space Command’s reestablishment in 2019.

The state is still spending thousands of marketing dollars to reverse the decision. Just last week, Colorado’s economic development council authorized a $30,000 campaign. The money will promote defense and aerospace.

11 News reached out to Air Force Public Affairs to ask what factors led to Alabama as the new home for U.S. Space Command. They claim the decision was not politically motivated. A statement from the press desk is below:

Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama was selected by the former Secretary of the Air Force to host U.S. Space Command headquarters based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and cost to the Department of Defense. Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs. The former Secretary of the Air Force thoughtfully considered all input, feedback, staff analysis, best military advice, changes in the strategic environment, and what evaluation criteria is the most important before making her decision.

The final decision is not expected until the Spring of 2023. The Air Force needs to conduct an environmental analysis in Alabama. The Chamber points out that an environmental review has already been done in Colorado Springs because the location was considered a front-runner.

“There was a process in 2019, as well as the process that was completed two weeks ago, where the best military advice was Peterson Air Force Base right here in Colorado Springs,” said Ash.

The new Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has said that he will review the decision. The Chamber hopes the ultimate choice is based on merit.

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