The U.S. Space Command based at Peterson Air Force Base is leaving Colorado Springs and will become part of the Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha.
Discussions about the merger have been going on for months, and an announcement was expected within the next month. However, Nebraska Congressman Ben Nelson reportedly leaked news to a reporter that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had already signed off on the plan, causing Rumsfeld to announce his decision yesterday.
Colorado’s U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Subcommittee, said the decision is a setback, but the locating of Northern Command in Colorado Springs will more than offset the loss of U.S. Space Command.
“I am obviously disappointed to see the U.S. Space Command leave Colorado Springs for Omaha,” said Allard. “Colorado Springs, though, will continue to play a leading role in United States Space Defense with the Army and Air Force Space Commands at Peterson Air Force Base, the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) and the new Northern Command (NORTHCOM) which will focus on homeland security for North America.”
The Business Journal sought a comment from the command at Peterson Air Force Base, but calls were not returned.
Offutt Air Force Base is one of the sites considered for Northern Command. As proposed, U.S. Space Command’s absorption by Offutt’s SAC would result in a new command.
It would combine America’s missile warning complex, a rocket defense program now under construction, and the nation’s nuclear missile launching machine into a single command.
The U.S. Space Command is one of nine unified commands with a budget of about $67 million. Nearly 800 people work at the command, which combines the efforts of Army, Air Force and Navy. About half of those people are expected to move to Offutt AFB.
The move will not affect the Army or Air Force Space Commands, which will remain at Peterson AFB.
There is reason to combine the two commands, some say. It makes no sense to have two separate commands when so much is at stake, one source said.
Gen. Ed Eberhart heads the Space Command, which gives Colorado Springs bragging rights as the nation’s “space town.” The command monitors satellites and missile launchings around the world, as well as protecting military computer systems from hackers, viruses and other attacks.
Offutt manages the U.S. nuclear attack capability.
Loss of the U.S. Space Command initially would not have a crippling effect on Colorado Springs, said Rocky Scott, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation.
“In the long term, it will depend on where the military contractors want to be.”
Scott said he does not believe Colorado Springs was beneficiary of the Northern Command at the expense of the U.S. Space Command.
The new command is tentatively named Global Operations Command (GOCom) and would tackle three threats identified by Rumsfeld.
They are missile defense, cyber operations and protection of space resources.