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Opinion: A community college collaboration is a key reason why the Space Command HQ should be in Colorado

An innovative partnership involving Red Rocks Community College gives the U.S. Space Command a valuable tool in its arsenal to be successful in Colorado.

The flag of the U.S. Space Command is unfurled at the White House in a presentation with President Donald J. Trump, the incoming commander of U.S. Space Command, Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman, Washington, D.C., Aug. 29, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Dear President Biden: Congratulations on your historic and monumental win. We look forward to working with you to get America back on track, and as you said, Build Back Better.

And while you have a significant amount on your plate early in your term — most importantly, providing COVID-19 relief and a pathway to vaccination to get our country back on track — we respectfully ask you to reconsider the previous administration’s decision to designate Alabama as the headquarters for the U.S. Space Command

It is our understanding that this choice was in direct opposition of what the Air Force’s site selection team recommended to the White House. The Defense Department’s inspector general is currently reviewing the decision.

Fortunately, you are in position to change the site choice.

Dena Maloney and Michele Haney

There’s a much better option — and not just because it’s one mile closer to the cosmos: Colorado. 

The Centennial State is poised to meet the challenges with an innovative partnership that will help supply the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and aerospace workforce of the future. It also relies on institutions you know and respect: community colleges.

California’s El Camino College has pioneered a first-in-the-nation community college collaboration to create the Space, Cyber, and Supply Talent Development Center with Red Rocks Community College in metro Denver. Together, we are putting into place this collaboration to further advance workplace-relevant education for STEM and aerospace careers.  

For too long, the United States has given a disproportionate amount of attention to the campuses of a handful of prestigious institutions. But the future backbone of our space efforts will come from our community colleges, who are uniquely poised to deliver high quality training for promising technical careers — at great value to their students.

Community colleges also have a true champion in the White House in you and particularly first lady Jill Biden, an active community college professor who has dedicated her life’s work to this critical yet underappreciated sector until now. In fact, the then-second lady visited Red Rocks in 2010.

We know you are not just a supporter in your personal life — you have put real resources behind it. Your administration’s Build Back Better plan calls for a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. There are also plans to establish an intensive, semester-long business development program at every public college.

There is a natural connection between California and Colorado’s space workforce, which our partnership leverages. Both states are high-tech space hubs that will ensure students receive real-time exposure to the most critical areas of our new national security economy, with experience on the front lines of space and cybersecurity. 

At El Camino, more than 6,600 students have secured workforce training and apprenticeships, leading to high-wage jobs at more than 250 aerospace companies. And Red Rocks is the nation’s leading two-year college in cybersecurity, designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

That’s why establishing the Space Command headquarters in Colorado, in close proximity to Red Rocks, will also help our country meet its formidable cybersecurity challenges. 

The SolarWinds cybersecurity breach uncovered late last year exposed a fundamental national security issue, infiltrating at least 18,000 government and private networks. Fortunately, the United States is poised to solve it — with the help of our public and community colleges.

A Space Command headquarters in close proximity to the Talent Development Center would further signal a long-term commitment to cybersecurity at the highest levels of government. The technology and space communities would feed off each other in a virtuous circle, much like the early days of the internet.

And just like any other aspect of security, cybersecurity will require a large number of prepared employees with high-level, diverse, adaptable skills. Community college students are perfectly situated to fill this need and serve on the front lines of our digital battlegrounds. 

Students often come to our schools with multifaceted backgrounds and an aptitude for problem solving—all extremely valuable skills for careers in space and cybersecurity.

The world’s greatest companies continue to start and set up shop in this country because we provide markets and a secure place to do business. Protecting them online, as e-commerce and software continue to swallow entire industries, will be an indispensable part of keeping our economy strong well into the future.

President Biden, we recognize that you have a seemingly endless list of urgent priorities right now. But you understand how important cybersecurity is — and how valuable community colleges are.

Because of this innovative partnership, the U.S. Space Command has a valuable tool in its arsenal to be successful in Colorado, now and on the distant horizon. You can give our economy the turbo boost it needs by making Colorado our launchpad for the space and cybersecurity future.


Dena Maloney is president of El Camino College in Torrance, California. Michele Haney is president of Red Rocks Community College, with campuses in Lakewood and Arvada, Colorado.


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