On March 4, 2020, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett announced that the service will restart the base selection process for the U.S. Space Command, tossing out a list of finalists that heavily favored Colorado.
“We are going to re-open the process and put forward the criteria in detail and invite all who think they have a good shot at it to come and represent their communities for that possible basing,” Barrett told the House Armed Services Committee.
Barret explained that the establishment of the U.S. Space Force (USSF) in December 2019 required moving staff and opening a new Pentagon headquarters, which “reshuffles what would be the command headquarters operation. So we are re-evaluating and restarting that process.”
This spring, the Air Force expects to outline a process and criteria for the permanent headquarters. According to an early-2019 memo, the former analysis used a set of criteria to determine where the command was to be housed, which included cost, co-location with an existing military organization that will become a component of the future Space Command, access to a C-17 aircraft capable airfield, communications connectivity, administrative buildings and available base support. There has been no word on whether the new process will incorporate the former analysis criteria.
Barret concluded by stating that she expects the final decision to be made in late 2020 or possibly early 2021.
Formation of the U.S. Space Force
On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act into law, and with it, directed the establishment of the USSF as the sixth branch of the armed forces. The USSF is the space warfare service branch of the armed forces, and is the first branch of the military established since the formation of the independent Air Force in 1946.
“In military operations, space is not just a place from which we support combat operations in other domains, but a warfighting domain in and of itself,” General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the signing ceremony. “Our adversaries are building and deploying capabilities to threaten us, so we can no longer take space for granted. The U.S. Space Force is the necessary and essential step our nation will take to defend our national interests in space today and into the future.”
The USSF’s mission is to “organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. Its responsibilities include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to the Combatant Commands.”
Additionally, the USSF will be organized, trained, and equipped to provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space, as well as provide prompt and sustained space operations. The projected manpower for the Space Command is 1,450 personnel, including 390 military officers, 183 enlisted personnel, 827 civilians and 50 contractors.
For now, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs remains the temporary home for Space Command. Four Air Force bases in Colorado — Buckley, Schriever, Peterson and Cheyenne Mountain — had been finalists for the permanent headquarters. A base in California and one in Alabama had also been under consideration.
Recently, Trump implied that he — not necessarily the Pentagon — will decide where to house the Space Command. “You are being very strongly considered for the Space Command, very strongly,” Trump said during a Colorado Springs rally in February.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) said he feels “very good” about Colorado’s position when it comes to being selected as the permanent home for Space Command and re-starting the process does not change that. “I’m sure Colorado will prevail,” Gardner said. “I’m confident in my conversations with the Secretary of Defense and others that Colorado is in the best position to lead this because of our legacy in space.”