STATE OF THE BASE: Buckley looks to double down on development in 2015

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AURORA | The economic impact of Buckley Air Force Base was under $1 billion in 2014, marking the second straight year the base has failed to hit its once steady 1o-figure mark.

A model of a satalite used for The Defense Support Program (DSP) hangs above a walkway on Buckely Air Force Base Sept. 26. The DSP satalites provide early warning detection of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launches from around the globe. (Courtland Wilson/ Aurora Sentinel)In his first state of the base speech as commander of Buckley’s 460th Space Wing, Col. John Wagner said that the base pumped just over $900 million into the local economy last year, which is up from the base’s roughly $800 million impact in 2013. However, the base’s impact was below the $1 billion benchmark Buckley consistently hit in the 10 years following its designation as a full Air Force Base in 2000.

Air Force officials have long pointed out that Buckley’s economic influence would wane at the start of the current decade due to a decreased need for construction projects. Recent focus on sequestration efforts and budget cuts across all branches of the military have also affected the base’s impact.

“I think (2013) was unique because of sequestration,” Wagner told reporters after the annual address.

Wagner has been Buckley’s top commander since taking over the position in June of last year.

He pointed to a new construction project as evidence that the base’s economic influence will once again surge past $1 billion in 2015.

“Given the push that we’re having now and all the infrastructure stuff that we’re doing… I can see it (Buckley’s economic impact) expanding over 2015.”

Construction is currently underway on a new medical campus on-base, including a medical warehouse, dental clinic and revamp of existing structures. The project will finally provide a home for Buckley’s medical group, which has long been without an official on-base facility. The group received a third year accreditation from Ambulatory Health Care in 2014.

“What happened is the base continued to grow and the medical group never had a home – they’ve been a traveling organization from one rental area to another,” Wagner said. “I think they’ve been in five or six spots over the last 10 years, and I mean that’s crazy.”

Buckley invested over $60 million in construction projects last year, a number three times what it was in 2011.

Despite talks of impending Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) actions heading into effect this year, Wagner said Buckley is in a uniquely secure position as a base going forward. He pointed to the importance of Buckley’s mission, which centers on global missile detection using satellites, the base’s strategic western location and its ample supply of developable land as evidence of it being a prime candidate for absorbing personnel and resources.

“I’m not concerned about a closure, I’m really trying to figure out how we can adequately accommodate expansion, because we can absorb more missions and more people, but we want to do it smartly,” he said.

Buckley was the home and/or workplace of more than 13,000 people in 2014 and created just under 4,000 indirect jobs.

Wagner also touted the strength of Buckley’s long-standing partnerships with community entity’s such as The Aurora Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the state of the base ceremony at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel in Aurora.

Lisa Buckley, chairwoman the Aurora Chamber’s Defense Council, introduced Wagner and spoke highly of his innovative style. She praised his emphasis on spousal involvement and his efforts to help create a new, civilian-friendly promotional video which was shown during the address.