VIDEO: Watch Bennet’s Speech HERE
Washington, D.C. — Today, on the Senate floor, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet urged the Biden Administration to keep Space Command in Colorado. For years, Bennet has repeatedly expressed his concerns to President Biden and other administration officials about the flawed, political decision made in the waning days of the Trump Administration to move Space Command from Colorado to Alabama.
“I'm on the floor today to remind people here of the importance of this issue, the urgency of this issue, not just for Colorado… but for the country as a whole and for our national security as a whole,” said Bennet. “This is a decision that should be made in the interest of the national security of the United States of America.”
The recent incident with the Chinese surveillance balloon underscores the need for the Biden Administration to make a Space Command basing decision driven by national security interests, not politics.
Bennet’s full speech is available HERE and below:
Mr. President, we have had over the last ten days or so – or two weeks or so – in the Senate, briefing after briefing that our constituents never get the chance to see.
These are briefings by the Intelligence Community and by the Department of Defense about what the nature of the global threat is to the United States, the state of our national security, what they call the “net effect” between…where we are as a strategic force and where our competitors are as a strategic force.
And without revealing anything that I've heard in any of those classified sessions, either in those sessions or as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I can tell you that I have found these briefings very sobering over the years. And I'd be surprised if there isn't a single member of the Senate who doesn't feel the same way I do.
We have our work cut out for us, Mr. President, and it is time for us to move from a 20th century mindset when it comes to our national defense and to our national security to a 21st century mindset.
And that's not going to be easy. We're going to have a lot of choices to make as a body to do that, but I'm confident we will do it.
And one of the places where we have a lot of ground to cover is space.
My colleague from Colorado is on the floor this evening, and I'm very glad that he's here because he was Governor of Colorado and he knows this issue as well as anybody in this chamber.
I've seen it from the Intelligence Committee, and, you know, I deeply regret the fact that for many years, among other things, we've enabled the Chinese, in particular Beijing… to steal a lot of our technology to be able to benefit their national security in the space race that we have.
And so I'm really focused on this, and we have had based in Colorado for many years something called Space Command, which is the unified combatant control for space in the United States of America.
The home has been in Colorado and it's always been in Colorado.
I'm not going to bore you, Mr. President, with one of the saddest stories I know about a process run completely awry that resulted in the top generals in the Air Force walking into the White House with a recommendation that said, “We ought to leave Space Command in Colorado.”
By the way, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force in the Trump Administration was part of making that recommendation to the last White House.
They walked into that White House with, as I said, the recommendation that it stay at Peterson Air Force Base, now Peterson Space Force [Base], in Colorado.
And there were three principal reasons they were arguing that it should stay there.
One was that it would reach Full Operational Capability… in Colorado faster than if it moved anywhere else, between four and six years faster; that it would be cheaper to repurpose assets in Colorado for Space Command than to move it across the country, to move it somewhere else; and that there would be massive attrition if Space Command were moved.
And of course, roughly 60% of the personnel that are part of Space Command are civilians. They're not people that are in the Department of Defense, although 40% are people that are in the Department of Defense, and that worries me a lot.
All those things worry me a lot, but nothing was of more concern to me, especially in the wake now of Putin's invasion of Ukraine, nothing is more important than making sure that we get to Full Operational Capability and that we do it in a way that makes sense.
That's where the generals were on this issue. That's where the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force was.
In fact, the people who went in to see President Trump said, “if you're going to make a decision, other than… leaving Space Command in Colorado, you should delay the decision because nowhere else in America is ready to do the work that needs to be done.” And instead, President Trump overturned their recommendation.
As Senator Hickenlooper would tell you, that's never happened before in the history of our country, that we can find the President of the United States overruled the recommendation of the generals who knew the subject best.
And he went on the radio and he said to these radio hosts in Alabama, which is where Donald Trump preferred to send Space Command – for reasons that I suppose only he could know – but he went on a radio show and bragged that he had single-handedly overruled everybody else who had looked at this and said, “it ought to stay in Colorado,” to put it in Alabama instead.
The GAO [and] DOD’s own Inspector General have confirmed the facts that I have just relayed to you, Mr. President.
But instead of removing the state of politics, I'm sad to say that the Biden Administration may be close to ratifying a decision that can't be ratified – a decision that was made in the face of the recommendations of the generals, a decision that was belied by all of the relevant facts, and a decision that the GAO, the DOD’s own Inspector General, and Donald Trump on a radio program all confirmed: which is that politics made the decision about moving Space Command to Alabama, not the national security interests of the United States.
I know it's easy to think, and I will just confess in front of the pages and everybody else, that it might seem like this is just a parochial interest on the part of the senators from Colorado because Space Command happens to be in Colorado. And I'll admit that fact. We've been a great home to Space Command.
But I will also say that the months and months and months that we have dedicated – the years that we have dedicated – to analyzing this decision, I think it is fair to say that we are here not representing the parochial interests of our state, but representing the national security interests of the United States.
And the incredible importance of this Biden Administration not ratifying a political decision that was made in the last few days of the Trump Administration, because decisions of this importance shouldn't be made this way.
They should be made in the interest of our national security, and the Biden Administration has the opportunity to restore the integrity of this process, and I think [if] they do restore the integrity of this process, they will find that this Space Command belongs in Colorado and shouldn't be moved anywhere else.
I'm on the floor today to remind people here of the importance of this issue, the urgency of this issue, not just for Colorado – not even for Colorado – but for the country as a whole and for our national security as a whole.
This is a decision that should be made in the interest of the national security of the United States of America.
And that decision will lead the Biden Administration, I think, to reverse Donald Trump's political decision, the decision that he went on a radio show to advertise for the people of Alabama, demonstrating the political spoil that he was holding up in one hand, instead of saying he had done the right thing for the people who work at Space Command, done the right thing for the mission that we all care about so deeply.
And that in the end is what the American people, of course, deserve here, because our opponents and our competitors in space are not waiting for us to get out of our own way.
It's critically important for us to give the people that are serving in this capacity a sense of security and a sense of stability about what the choice is going to be.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I thank the Senate for your attention.