Aurora battles Colorado Springs, 40 cities for Space Force headquarters

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AURORA | Colorado Springs was selected as the temporary home for the newly-created U.S. Space Force, but local boosters are still fighting to permanently place the military branch in Aurora. 

City government and the Aurora Chamber of Commerce formally applied Friday for Buckley Air Force Base to become “Space Command Headquarters,” possibly bringing thousands of personnel to Buckley focused on military operations in space. 

It’s the latest development in a back-and-forth competition between Aurora, Colorado Springs and about 40 other cities that heated up when President Donald Trump signed the Space Force into being last December. 

So far, Aurora has lost out to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where Space Force will be headquartered temporarily for at least six more years. Aurora was on the short list to house the operation. 

Colorado Springs also made a bid for the final decision last week along with about 40 other cities as of Aug. 31. 

Aurora City Councilmember Dave Gruber, a former senior commander at Buckley, recently led the Chamber’s pitch to the U.S. Air Force. His team aimed to distinguish Buckley from bases outside of Colorado as well as Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force base and others in Colorado Springs.

In a statement, Gruber said the Chamber of Commerce’s Defense Council put together “a very strong case to bring the Space Command Headquarters to Buckley.” 

Aurora Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Hougen told the Sentinel bringing Space Force home would be a big win for the local economy.

Without Space Force, Buckley has reliably brought near $1 billion in wealth annually to the Aurora region for the last decade. Hougen said that, if Aurora snags Space Command, about 14,000 more people would live on or near Buckley — about doubling the size of the base. Their dollars would percolate through businesses here, Hougen said, possibly catapulting the annual contribution to $3 billion.

A draft of the proposal obtained by the Sentinel stresses the existing military and private-sector infrastructure in the so-called “Aerospace Alley” of defense contractors, universities and private manufacturers that includes the Aurora region. 

Boosters stressed Aurora’s proximity to Denver International Airport and Colorado Air and Space Port, where aerospace firms Reaction Engines and PD Aerospace are crafting rocket engines and “spaceplane” technology.  

Aurora Congressman Jason Crow hosted General John Raymond at Buckley in June, where he personally made the pitch to move Space Force to Buckley. He thinks the decision would have real infrastructure and technological benefits for Space Force, especially by spreading out military might from Colorado Springs.

“You don’t always want to have your eggs in one basket,” Crow said.

Hougen said the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, which finally opened in 2018, is another gold star for the region. 

Hougen said, unfortunately, Buckley would have to build housing for the new personnel. Colorado Springs bases have already started integrating the Space Force. If a move to Aurora is in the stars, the contingent would have to uproot the interim headquarters.

Gruber said the Air Force’s final decision on placing Buckley is expected before the end of the year.

Hougen noted that, between now and then, the U.S. is enduring a contentious campaign season and presidential election. He said that politics are probably a factor in the eventual decision. 

“We have not been what I would call the friendliest state toward the president,” Hougen said. 

Crow acted as a House of Representatives impeachment manager early this year in efforts to remove Trump from office. He said the Space Force decision won’t be dictated by President Trump’s political whims or grudges, although he thinks it’s reasonable people would believe that’s the case. Gov. Jared Polis has also been critical of Trump, particularly to the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Polis stumped for both Aurora and Colorado Springs Monday in a statement. 

“The Air Force should make the smart choice and select Colorado as the permanent home of U.S. Space Command. Whether it’s our resilient economy, our proud military heritage, our thriving aerospace industry, our terrific  schools, or our highly educated workforce and esteemed research institutions, Colorado truly has it all,” he said. 

This story was updated with comments from Aurora Congressman Jason Crow.