Leaders say siting US Space Command at Buckley would be ‘largest’ economic boon in Aurora history

An F-16 takes off from Buckley Air Force Base to take place in flight exercises, Aug. 15, 2017.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

AURORA | Colorado officials are pitching the state’s existing aerospace industry as the foundation for why U.S. Space Command should be based in the state, and local business leaders say siting the headquarters in Aurora would likely be the biggest economic development venture the city has ever seen.

Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora is one of six bases that are rumored to be finalists for getting the command center.

Aurora Chamber of Commerce president Kevin Hougen said the command center would first bring close to 1,500 jobs and then eventually grow to around 15,000 employees over a number of years if it were to be located in Aurora.

“Those jobs would be a ‘multiplier’ with research grants, manufacturing, higher education training, eventual space launches with the new Space Port at Front Range Airport, tourism, and conferences with (worldwide attendance),” he explained. 

Hougen said “in a perfect world” the city would also be able to recruit the Space and Missile Center, located in El Segundo, California. It controls the purchasing of space assets. 

“Another challenge,” Hougen said of that effort. “But what a great opportunity.”

Hougen is enthusiastic about what the command could mean for the local economy.

“The Space Command in Colorado is what we want, and if by chance it’s Buckley AFB, it would be the largest economic development project Aurora has ever seen today and into the future,” Hougan said. “We are a Mile Closer to Space!”

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, located at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs.

Many local, state and federal lawmakers have advocated for the command center to be placed in Colorado. Aurora Congressman Jason Crow said in a letter this week he specifically wants it at Buckley.

“Buckley AFB is a critical Air Force asset in a thriving community that is already home to advanced space assets and hundreds of space-oriented businesses large and small,” the letter said. “We have been performing the space mission for over 30 years. We are ready to continue leading space into the future and would welcome USSPACECOM openly.”

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.

A bustling aerospace industry already exists around Buckley. In the letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Crow highlighted the existing Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley — it employs some 4,000 professionals, 850 of whom are NASA personnel.

“These professionals work around the clock, 365 days a year, to keep our country safe from evolving threats domestically and abroad,” the letter said. “The existing workforce, operational infrastructure and talent pool in and around Buckley AFB resulting from ongoing ADF-C operations will fully complement USSPACECOM’s mission.”

Denver’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Hougen and other local leaders signed the letter.

Crow told the Sentinel the Air Force has been quiet about a possible timeline of deciding on when to make an announcement about the command center, but he feels that Aurora is well-positioned with a skilled workforce, top aerospace programs at nearby colleges and by him being the only combat veteran in Colorado’s delegation. Crow said his experience and position within the Armed Services Committee would be helpful with the program.

”It would be very huge for the economy, that’s not an understatement to make,” he said. “It’s certainly a big deal, and we have a strong case to make.”