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Clay Turner, Publisher's Letter, US Space Command

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Clay Turner

Clay Turner – Co-Publisher

Yogi's Razor Tracking the fast-moving developments in the tug-of-war over U.S. Space Command is like using a sledgehammer as a flyswatter. No matter where you aim, you’re too late.

Case in point: On Friday, Feb. 19, the Department of Defense Inspector General announced he would review the Air Force’s decision to move Space Command. On the next business day, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced he supported the Air Force’s decision to move Space Command. If you were me, your neck would hurt, too.

Still, some enduring facts emerge from the swirl of speculation:

The Air Force hasn’t explained why they rebooted the competition. Then-Secretary of Defense Esper claimed it was because they wanted the process to have greater transparency, but that didn’t convince anyone that political considerations forced a do-over. Why did they start over if they weren’t told to do so?

The Air Force is asking the wrong questions. This should not be a contest to decide where a new Command will be headquartered; it should be a contest to decide if moving it is worth the costs and risks. The Air Force errs when it tries to level a playing field that is tilted heavily toward Colorado Springs, the current home of Space Command; instead, they should justify moving it.

Canceling the 2020 Space Symposium hurt. The Space Foundation’s annual fest is the world’s best space networking event. Scheduled at the brand-new convention center at The Broadmoor, constructed specifically for the purpose, the 2020 version would have set records. When the pandemic shut it down, we lost the opportunity to strut our stuff on our home field.

The pandemic shut down travel. The corridors of power in D.C. were closed to us, and site visits were either limited or eliminated. Zoom meetings can’t reproduce our natural beauty and chart-topping quality of life. Majestic Pikes Peak is gorgeous, but our conference rooms look like everyone else’s.

Colorado’s D.C. delegation is punching above its weight. We don’t have the seniority or the committee assignments to compete when the gloves come off. For example, Alabama’s Sen. Richard Shelby, elected in 1987, chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) in 2020; Freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville was named to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). Reps. Rogers, Carl, and Brooks are all on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). Neither of Colorado’s two senators sit on the SAC or SASC; only Reps. Doug Lamborn and Jason Crow sit on the HASC.

We sometimes take for granted that our quality of life should be enough to lure large prizes. It’s not.

For what it’s worth, I don’t believe the Air Force put its thumb on the scale. I’m a believer in what’s come to be known as Hanlon’s Razor: Never assume malice when ignorance could be the explanation. It seems far more likely to me that the Air Force was put into an awkward position that’s only getting more awkward with each passing pronouncement.

In May 2020, an agreement was reached to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs until 2026. Alabama’s Sen. Shelby has announced he’ll step down in 2022. Maybe we can find hope in Yogi Berra’s Razor: It ain’t over till it’s over.