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Rob Quirk goes 'One-on-One' with the commander of U.S. Space Command

Rob Quirk goes One-on-One with commander of Space Command
Posted at 1:52 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 09:42:54-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs is on a short list of sites to become the permanent home of U.S. Space Command.

Just two days ago, a team from the Pentagon visited and toured Peterson Air Force Base, the temporary home of U.S. Space Command since May 2020 and is now one of six finalists vying to be its permanent home.

The other finalists include Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, Joint Base San Antonio, and Offutt Air Base, Nebraska.

The implications are enormous for our national security and for the local economy. With the permanent home of U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base being decided right now by the Pentagon, who better to talk about the mission and the importance of it's role in homeland security than the man in charge, Army four-star General James Dickinson.

We met at the U.S. Space Command headquarters for our conversation, and this is sort of a homecoming for General Dickinson, a Colorado native, born in Estes Park, a graduate of Colorado State University, who also holds multiple degrees from the Colorado School of Mines. In a career that spans more than 30 years now, this is the first time he has been able to live and work in Colorado and heads one of the most important commands at the Pentagon. But family matters to this 57-year-old, who is happy to be home again. "We haven't had any of our adult kids around us close like this, so it's nice to be home and nice to have family around."

I had the opportunity to speak one on one with General Dickinson recently about his job, his staff and the future of space-based warfare. First and foremost he told me "We absolutely have to have a combatant command that is looking every day at the space domain and what actions are happening in the space domain in order to maintain our prosperity and our way of life."

The four-star Army general commands the newest of 11 combatant commands — as they're called in the Defense Department — that was reestablished 16 months ago after it was deactivated shortly after 9/11. And along with the establishment of U.S. Space Force, just a year old now, which is a new service branch of the U.S. military, like the Army or Air Force, it shows just how important space defense has become in national and global security.

While it may not seem that obvious, General Dickinson told me that their mission is so much more than just military operations, what happens in space, and the hardware that continues to crowd it, is relevant to virtually everything we do here on earth. For example, he said, "We're so dependent on the space domain in everything we do every day from going to the gas station, going to the ATM machine, going to the grocery store, going to the doctor, all of those functions or activities that we perform as citizens are reliant upon space and we need to have that unfettered access to our space capabilities that really drives our economy, the United States prosperity."

General Dickinson serves at the pleasure of the President and the Secretary of the Defense, he says one of the most important aspects of this combatant command is the integration with other services, the Army, obviously, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Navy and now the Space Force, as he put it, "they build it, we fight it."

The Space Force is the largest component of that group as it relates to U.S. Space Command, and it's important, he told me, to note the distinction between the two. The Space Force brings in new capabilities, new professionals, develops and trains these professionals and then turns them over to U.S. Space Command where General Dickinson then combines that with the assets from the other service groups. He says, "Then I use it in the pursuit of my mission in the space domain which is to deter and then protect and defend our assets both our national assets as well as those of our allies and partners."

When I asked him about the biggest threats to our country and our allies, he told me just last month, he called out Russia in their quest to weaponize space, testing ground and orbit based systems.

China, also a major threat along with other developing countries which are also testing systems that pose a threat. His mission is to spot it, call it out, and be ready to respond.

"The next step is obviously to show that we have capabilities ourselves and we do that through various means that our ability to deter them is that we have a credible deterrent ourselves in our capability and capacity in orbit."

Political, community and military leaders, active and retired in Colorado Springs and across the state, have put on a full court press to make Peterson Air Force Base the permanent home.

So, I posed the question to General Dickinson, given the personnel, infrastructure, private sector, the Air Force Academy and other amenities already in place here, why move it away, is Colorado Springs his choice? Ever the soldier and the diplomat, he said, "In terms of pinning me down, I would just tell you I think there are other cities that could be just as competitive as Colorado Springs."That's the best answer I could get out of him.

Questions have been raised by critics of moving U.S. Space Command, given the advantages already in place, that any kind of transition away from here, poses a national security threat, General Dickinson told me that would not be the case, no matter what decision is made, the men and women of U.S. Space Command are focused on their mission always, without interruption and that is a false narrative to make that case. He told me the same goes for the transition to a new Commander In Chief and the Biden administration in Washington.
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