China and Russia, they’re not waiting.
If Space Command HQ moves, Kathy Boe doesn’t predict a dramatic shift in how business will be done. “We’ve had an office [in Huntsville] for 12 years because we do space and missile defense work in both cities,” she says. “I find that people who live in Huntsville like living there and people who live in Colorado Springs like living here. There aren’t too many that want to move out of one location to go to another.”
Boe notes that ”the combatant command headquarters is what is currently designated to move; most of the operational support for the various space missions that we have supported for decades is likely to stay here.”
Still, she has some reservations about the move. “My biggest concern is for our nation’s defense,” she says. “When Missile Defense Agency moved a major portion of their headquarters from D.C. to Huntsville, it took years to attract the necessary talent and build the infrastructure. A lot of the workforce they needed didn’t want to leave the D.C. area. We also saw that in 2002 when U.S. Space Command went to Omaha. Huntsville is a great city, but if you talk to our former AF leadership, they will tell you that most found other opportunities in our local area and some of the best people didn’t go.”
Boe points out that Colorado Springs is the 79th largest Metropolitan Statiscal Area (MSA) in the nation, 37 places higher than Huntsville (116). Tens of thousands more tech jobs are an hour’s drive away, in Denver (18). 300,000 more people translates into more job opportunities in the private sector for highly skilled personnel. “There are so many other jobs for people to go to and stay in Colorado,” she says.
Boe notes that the smaller population also equates to fewer trained technical personnel available to fill crucial roles. “I fear they won’t have the talent,” she says. “Over time, they’ll get there, but our adversaries, China and Russia, they’re not waiting.”
She also questions the statistical basis for the move. “I thought the evaluation criteria was pretty straightforward: 40% missions and workforce,” she says. “With the majority of the missions including the eight of nine Space Deltas here in Colorado and the associated workforce that supports them, I expected that it would have made a bigger impact.”
In addition, Boe notes the limitations of the questionnaire. Although it also weighed infrastructure, costs, and support for military families, she says, “what was missing was the assessment of risk. Why would you move and create unnecessary disruption when you’ve spent decades developing space capabilities and talent in our backyard?”
She says the defense industry will do whatever it takes to support the mission. “General Hyten and General Raymond talk all the time about the necessity of working closely with industry. We’re fighting right along with them, and we will salute whatever they need. That’s just how we are. Whether you’re in the military or government or a contractor, you’re all fighting the fight together.”