An F-16 takes off from Buckley Air Force to take place in flight exercises, Aug. 15. US Rep. Mike Coffman is asking for $15.8 million to extend the buffer zone at Buckley, in order keep development a good distance away from the base. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

 AURORA | If there is to be a U.S. Space Command, Arapahoe County commissioners, like a growing list of Colorado lawmakers, want it in the Mile High state.

The board penned a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson supporting further defense and space missions this week. It comes as a memo obtained by CNN points to three states that have apparently made the final cut for future home of the military’s newest combatant command: Alabama, California and Colorado. Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base is reportedly one of those finalists.

“As an ambassador to United States Air Force 460th Space Wing Space Command Commander’s Group, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of capitalizing on overlapping capacity and capabilities,” said Commissioner Bill Holen in a statement. “Basing U.S. Space Command in Colorado will allow even greater coordination of national security and space interests to meet transformative space threats.”

This command structure plan is separate from a proposal to create a new military division dedicated to space-based warfare, so far dubbed U.S. Space Force. It also would be independent of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, currently located at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs.

Buckley AFB, tasked with guarding the nation from nuclear security threats, creates a multitude of economic development opportunities for the region. At this year’s State of the Base address, Col. Troy Endicott, commander of Buckley’s 460th Space Wing, reported the base pumped more than $990 million into Aurora’s economy. 

Locally, Buckley invested about $157 million in Aurora through construction jobs, materials and other services, according to Air Force calculations. The base supported about 4,300 local jobs.

“The economic impact is really based on base construction,” Kevin Hougen, president and CEO of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, told the Sentinel after the address. “With payroll and purchasing … it’s really not that far off from one year to the other.”

Buckley and Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs have anchored a handful of other private companies to set up shop in Colorado, including offices for Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and Raytheon. 

Adding to the region’s defense and space sector is the recently designated space port in neighboring Watkins and the creation of Colorado Skies Academy, a charter school due to open in the Cherry Creek School District next year specializing in aerospace training.

“Our state ranks first in the nation for its concentration of aerospace jobs, with 27,190 private sector employees and 28,140 military personnel working directly on space,” the Arapahoe County letter said. “With a payroll of more than $3.5 billion, Colorado also has the nation’s strong partnerships with space enterprise.” 

Others have been vocal about the command being in Colorado, too. The entire Colorado Congressional Delegation and Gov. Jared Polis have all urged the U.S. Department of Defense to put the U.S. Space Command in Colorado.

They sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in March and extended an invitation to Colorado.

“As the epicenter of national security space, Colorado is the prime location to house national efforts to ensure continued U.S. technological superiority, global leadership and capabilities in space. For these reasons, it is in the nation’s best interests to base U.S. Space Command in Colorado,” the letter said.

When Florida lawmakers requested to then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that the command be based there, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Aurora, joked to a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee that the location of Colorado is far better.

“With all due respect to my colleague from Florida, Colorado is a mile closer to space than Florida is and a great place for space assets.”

Sentinel Staff Reporter Quincy Snowdon contributed to this report.