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Airmen and guardians assigned to the 319th Combat Training Squadron enter the Moorman Space Education and Training Center at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., in 2020.

Airmen and guardians assigned to the 319th Combat Training Squadron enter the Moorman Space Education and Training Center at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., in 2020. (JT Armstrong/U.S. Space Force)

(Tribune News Service) — A small step forward in a fight Colorado lawmakers hope will keep the headquarters of U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs came Wednesday morning, at a posture hearing of the House Armed Services Committee in Washington.

The hearing was a chance for committee members to grill U.S. Air Force leaders about the department's $194 billion budget request for fiscal year 2023, and the elements within it most affecting their constituents.

For Colorado Springs' Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, it was a chance to ask questions he later said laid the groundwork for "bombshell" revelations to come from a recently completed investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

That report, requested by Lamborn last year and championed by a bevy of Colorado lawmakers, found "significant shortfalls" in the "transparency and credibility" of the process leading up to the January 2021 decision, by the outgoing Trump administration, to award the base to Huntsville, Ala.

The findings won't be public for at least another month, but sources with senior-level access and knowledge of what it contains say the conclusions paint a clear picture of a fundamentally flawed process that needs to be revisited, in the name of national security and fiscally sound spending.

"The GAO report is going to speak for itself," Lamborn said, after the hearing.

On Wednesday morning, Lamborn was the one providing that voice before the committee and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown and Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations with U.S. Space Force, which is organized under the Air Force and headquartered at the Pentagon.

Addressing his questions to Raymond during the hearing, Lamborn attempted to set the stage for the GAO's findings, keying off earlier discussions about national security, readiness and the modern ramp-up to a world where space is a "warfighting domain."

Getting a permanent U.S. Space Command headquarters up and running in Colorado Springs — its current and temporary longtime home, where much of the infrastructure and civilian workforce is already in place — is expected to be a two- to three-year process. That process in Huntsville is expected to take at least an additional three years.

"I'm deeply concerned that the urgency to receive full operational capability for our space warfighters as quickly as possible was not adequately addressed in the siting decision because of a flawed process," Lamborn said. "And I know you share my concerns regarding the rapid expansion of these threats."

Lamborn asked how quickly Raymond expected the global space threat to increase in the next two to three years.

"There's a significant threat that exists today," Raymond responded, "and it's a spectrum of threats. ... And all of our intelligence suggests that's not going to slow down."

Lamborn also addressed the issue of "co-location," cited as a reason for the Huntsville decision but which wasn't part of the siting criteria during the two-year process leading up to the 2021 announcement.

In addition to being the current headquarters of U.S. Space Command, housed at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado Springs is home to The National Space Defense Center, part of the U.S. Space Command's Joint Task Force-Space Defense, based at Schriever Space Force Base.

The NSDC is where "Department of Defense experts, intelligence and space experts work side by side," Lamborn said. "They monitor the threats, they train for the threats; that's the nerve center of space warfighting. Why in the world would we take a command and put it somewhere else when they can be right next to the NSDC?"

That line of questioning was a dead-end during Wednesday's hearing, but Lamborn later said it nonetheless set the stage for the battle to come.

"That's a critical building block in this whole process," he said, speaking with The Gazette during a break between meetings on Capitol Hill.

Lamborn added that, once the report is public, there will be more opportunities to address the issues it raises with the nation's military and political leaders, including Space Command Commander Gen. James Dickinson.

"We started down the road to get the answers we needed. General Raymond clearly said the threat is so critical that we don't have time to waste," Lamborn said after the hearing.

This is "just the beginning of the process."

Another investigation by the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General, requested last year by Colorado lawmakers, is also due out soon.

(c)2022 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Visit The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at www.gazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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