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Colorado Springs military getting $130M for construction, but Trump's space force plan delayed

By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: July 29, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — A defense policy bill that passed the House and is headed for Senate approval would funnel more than $130 million to Colorado Springs-area bases for construction and the biggest pay raise in years for troops, but stops short of President Donald Trump’s dream of a separate military service for space missions.

The space force plan isn’t dead, but it is delayed for at least a year as Congress ponders Trump’s June proclamation ordering the Pentagon to clear the way for a new space service to fill roles now held by Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs. The new defense measure increases Space Command’s role, establishing it as a single point of control for all military space missions.

Aurora Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said lawmakers got a bit of sticker shock when they examined all the changes that are necessary to create a new armed service, including establishing a new Washington, D.C.-based headquarters for space and giving the space force troops and equipment for everything from military police and chaplains to cooks and lawyers.

“That runs counter to everything we have tried to do to streamline the Department of Defense,” Coffman said.

Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a supporter of a separate space service, said government can’t move as quickly as Trump can tweet. Congress last year asked the Pentagon to study a prospective space force, and reports on the idea aren’t finished.

“President Trump has said some bold things in that area, but these things don’t happen overnight,” Lamborn said.

For space force backers, mainly House Republicans, the delay could take on new meaning in November when voters will decide which party controls Congress. If Democrats pick up enough seats to gain control of the House or Senate, they’ll have the power to kill the space force plan.

Congress is investing heavily in space with $8.8 billion pledged for rockets, research and satellites in 2019.

They also guaranteed that hammers will continue to swing at Fort Carson and the Air Force Academy. Fort Carson gets a $77 million vehicle maintenance shop under the plan along with $24 million for training and equipment buildings for the post’s 10th Special Forces Group.

Lamborn said the Fort Carson construction will help the post keep its 4,400-soldier 2nd Brigade Combat Team after the unit goes from an infantry formation to a tank-equipped armored unit next year. The Pentagon is now deciding where to house the brigade after the switch, and, while Colorado Springs has an edge, posts in Texas and Kansas are pushing for the troops.

Lamborn expects that decision soon, saying “it could come out any day now.”

The National Defense Authorization act in recent years has dragged well into winter before Congress approves the bill. It is the most significant annual military policy bill and getting it through in July hasn’t happened since President Jimmy Carter’s first year in office.

Getting the biggest defense bill finished doesn’t mean Congress is done with its national security work for 2018.

That was in evidence Thursday, when Coffman introduced a bill that could drive a big change in U.S. relations with Russia. Coffman’s bill would declare Russia a “state sponsor” of terrorism, putting it on the same diplomatic footing as Iran and North Korea and cutting off most U.S. trade.

The Coffman bill mirrors a similar measure introduced by Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

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©2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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