Colorado lawmaker going to bat for space industry in pandemic

Rep. Doug Lamborn also said current plans to start marking up next year’s defense bill as early as next week in remain “fluid.” | House Television via AP

Congress must resist the temptation to cut funding from military space programs despite the enormous financial pressure on the defense budget from combating the coronavirus, says Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Lamborn, whose district includes a host of space companies and is lining up to host the headquarters of the new U.S. Space Command, believes supporting space programs is one of the best things Congress can do to help the wider space industry get through the economic uncertainty wrought by the pandemic.

“I know we’ve borrowed so much money this year, about $2 to $3 trillion on top of everything else,” Lamborn said. “So some people might look to try to cut defense. If they do, I don’t want anything to happen that would hurt space. We have to keep up space funding.”

Lamborn also spoke to POLITICO about his new efforts to bring more space operations to Colorado and to help space companies weather the pandemic, including protecting their supply chains from disruptions. “I’ve hired someone in my office … full-time on staff just to help with defense companies because there’s so much going on,” he said. ”I want companies to view us as a resource that can help.”

Lamborn also said current plans to start marking up next year’s defense bill as early as next week in remain “fluid.”

“We will start immediately jumping into subcommittee work with the full committee right after that,” he said. “But a lot of people are really cautious about going back. … I’m not sure if that deadline won’t slip to the right.”

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

People and companies in my district are concerned about what the future holds, but because so many of them are on the national security side of things doing mission-critical work, they are required to — and happy to — continue working as they did before. Many times, mission-critical work requires people to be physically present in a secure environment. So while they try to comply and are motivated to comply with CDC guidelines in every way possible, some things are simply not alterable in how they go about their business. Being in a [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] or being physically present at a command center, those kinds of things can’t be deviated from.

So business is ongoing for the prime contractors in the military space arena and many of the companies that support them and support the country. However, the farther you get away from the prime, you have the potential to get into supply chain issues … [which are] a concern for anybody.

Obviously, the supply chain issue is big. Smaller companies have been contacting our office and have gotten some help from us. We can help with the [Paycheck Protection Program] loan program. That’s been a huge help to many of the companies that are in Colorado that support military space.

I’ve hired someone in my office … full-time on staff just to help with defense companies because there’s so much going on. So I as an individual congressmen am doing everything I can to help the companies and help my district. I want companies to view us as a resource that can help.

With the upcoming [National Defense Authorization Act], we just have to make sure the funding stays strong. I know we’ve borrowed so much money this year, about $2 to $3 trillion on top of everything else. So some people might look to try to cut defense. If they do, I don’t want anything to happen that would hurt space. We have to keep up space funding.

That’s a little bit fluid. Supposedly we’re going back next week on Tuesday. We will start immediately jumping into subcommittee work with the full committee right after that. But a lot of people are really cautious about going back. … I’m not sure if that deadline won’t slip to the right.

I do not know if that decision is being delayed because of the pandemic. I know it was being delayed way beyond what we wanted for a variety of reasons before the coronavirus even started as an issue. It does continue to be a big concern. There would be many companies and many missions … inside the military that would have to move if the headquarter decision ends up someplace other than Colorado. That would be extremely disruptive.

Every time I have an opportunity, I make the case for Colorado to continue being the epicenter of national security space. It is the center right now. It would be extremely time consuming to change that to something else. We’d lose a lot of ground vis-à-vis potential adversaries and have to spend billions of dollars to recreate what’s already in existence and working well in Colorado. It would be extremely disruptive in terms of time and money if we were to move assets somewhere else.

A lot of people were very disappointed, but they understood why it had to be postponed and they are looking forward to the end of October. … It will probably be a little bit smaller because some people have to plan so far in advance that the new date may not work for them. It was to the point where every year, it was getting bigger and bigger than before. That record may be broken this time around, but it will still be a great event, if slightly more limited.

[Read More…]