The plea to President Biden to keep US Space Command at its current headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base came in a letter signed by a cross-party group of Coloradian lawmakers, including Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and the seven representatives of the state. They said: “Space has become an increasingly critical and contested domain that is at the heart of our economy, our communications and our national security. President Putin’s lawless and reprehensible aggression against Ukraine in violation of international rules and norms underscores the urgency for America to maintain its superiority in space.
Space Command – which, in its current iteration, was created in 2019 – is one of the US military’s 11 combat commands.
According to lawmakers, “U.S. Space Command plays a pivotal role in defending satellite systems that provide GPS navigation, national security communications, internet and cellular services, and missile warning and defense.”
On August 24 last year, it was announced that US Space Command had reached “Initial Operating Capability” – a military term meaning the “minimum usefully deployable form”.
According to US Space Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. John E. Shaw, full operational capability will not be achieved until permanent Combatant Command headquarters is selected.
The announcement that the US Army post of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama was the preferred final location for US Space Command was made in January last year.
Alongside Peterson Space Force Base – the original and current interim home of U.S. Space Command – other candidate locations included Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Joint Base of San Antonio and Space Force Base Patrick in Florida.
Rumors abound that Redstone Arsenal’s selection was made in part due to political pressure from then-President Donald Trump, although the Pentagon has repeatedly insisted that the Alabama venue was chosen after months of careful deliberation.
Mr. Trump himself stirred that particular pot, however, telling the hosts of the Alabama-based comedy radio show “Rick and Bubba” on August 20 last year that he “single-handedly said , ‘let’s go to Alabama'”.
Whatever reason Redstone Arsenal was chosen, the Air Force estimated it would take about two years to complete an environmental review of the new site – leaving Space Command, for now, based in Colorado and only to its initial operational capability.
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Lawmakers told President Biden, “We remain deeply troubled that the decision to relocate USSPACECOM undermined the two most important factors for any critical baseline decision: protecting national security and minimizing costs.
“At a time of rapidly increasing threats in space, particularly from Russia and China, USSPACECOM cannot afford any operational disruptions and must achieve full operational capability as quickly as possible.”
“Moving Combatant Command Headquarters will slow progress toward full capability – a delay we cannot afford at this difficult geopolitical moment in history.”
To illustrate the point, the group pointed to an incident last November, in which the Russian Defense Ministry destroyed a former Soviet satellite during an unannounced test of an anti-satellite weapon system.
The resulting hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris forced people aboard the International Space Station (ISS) – including five NASA astronauts and two cosmonauts from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos – to take refuge in SpaceX Dragon and Soyuz capsules in each orbit. lab went through the cloud.
Russia later confirmed the nature of the test – but denied it posed a risk to the ISS, saying: “‘The United States knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, have not posed and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.
However, at the time, General James Dickinson of US Space Command said, “Russia has shown a willful disregard for the security, safety, stability and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations.
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The lawmakers added, “We must respond to rapidly advancing threats in space by building on the investments already made in Colorado and our mission in space, without wasting time, money, personnel and additional resources by moving USSPACECOM.”
Colorado, they noted, also sports at the National Space Defense Center, which coordinates unified space defense operations; the National Reconnaissance Office’s Aerospace Data Facility–Colorado, which disseminates intelligence to various US agencies and allies; as well as national security communications systems, lawmakers said it would be “extraordinarily expensive to rapidly replicate elsewhere.”
The group concluded its letter to President Biden thus: “We understand that the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense will soon release reports examining the decision to found USSPACECOM.”
“We urge your administration to carefully review both reports and ensure that the basic final decision takes into account the findings, as well as the national security and cost implications.”
Alongside Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, the letter to President Biden was signed by Representatives Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn of the Republican Party and Democratic Representatives Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Joe Neguse.