News from the Department of Defense that Peterson Air Force Base is the preferred location for the nation’s new Northern Command has city and county leaders launching a “community transition team” to assist military brass “with the inevitable needs that will arise as a result of this decision and those that may follow.”
At a news conference hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, community leaders said they wanted to be “proactive” in their approach now that the city’s Peterson Air Force Base is the preferred alternative site for NORTHCOM.
The command (NORTHCOM) was created because of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The four-star command will become the Pentagon’s 10th so-called unified command and will provide the nation’s defense against terrorists, coordinating the military’s response to such attacks and the military response to natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes or earthquakes.
The command’s addition to the Colorado Springs military complex could be a major boost to the region’s economy. However, details are not likely to be announced until after a commander in chief is named.
“The chamber recognizes and thanks Senator Wayne Allard and Congressman Joel Hefley for their representation of the assets of our local military installations to the Pentagon,” said Will Temby, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. It is also appreciated the decision is military, not political, Temby said.
The chamber wants to be proactive in welcoming the DOD’s environmental impact study committee, Temby said. There are two other “preferred alternative” sites – Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, and Norfolk Naval Station, in Virginia. A decision will come within 30 to 90 days, following completion of the environmental impact studies at each site.
The transition team assembled by the chamber is comprised of civic leaders, elected officials, realtors, educators, and Colorado Springs’ city manager Lorne Kramer.
“Should Peterson Air Force Base be selected, we believe the overall impact will be positive,” Temby said. Stationing the Northern Command here would be a significant moment in the city’s history, he added, putting it up there with efforts to locate what then was “Camp Carson” in 1941.
Some transition team members will help with relocation of personnel, others would work with demands on local infrastructure, and others would help with the command’s integration of personnel into the region.
While local leaders are rolling out the red carpet, Colorado’s entire congressional delegation signed a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urging them to name Peterson Air Force Base as the location of the Northern Command.
“NORAD already has in place critical communication lines and other vital command support infrastructure which can more easily absorb the needs of a new command,” the letter said. “Moving NORAD, or parts of NORAD, may prove to be cost prohibitive.”
Economic impact on the region is an unknown, but would probably be significant, officials said. Even the number of personnel involved is unknown, but estimates run from a few hundred to as many as 1,000.
Along with locating the Northern Command in Colorado Springs, locals are also betting NORAD head General Ralph Eberhart will be its commander. Eberhart has overwhelming support for the post, Allard told the Business Journal.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairperson of the joint chiefs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 5 that there will be “really three parts” of the new command. NORAD will be one major part, he said, noting that the new commander would also run NORAD, as Eberhart already does. Myers was head of NORAD just prior to Eberhart, and that certainly won’t hurt efforts to locate the headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base.
Allard is ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Subcommittee. “This is not only great news for Colorado Springs, but all of Colorado,” Allard said. The decision to place the command in Colorado Springs is based on three criteria, Allard said – sound infrastructure, high quality personnel, and overall cost to taxpayers.
“Clearly the fact that Colorado is already the home to NORAD and the U.S. Space Command helped greatly,” Allard said. “This new command should have a very positive economic impact not only on the Colorado Springs economy but the Colorado economy… to what degree is yet to be determined.”
Information provided by the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Space Command said NORAD, along with the U.S. Joint Forces Command, will design the implementation plan for NORTHCOM. Until NORTHCOM starts operating, NORAD will continue to oversee the air defense aspects of homeland security.