The Pikes Peak region has long been home to large military installations. El Paso County is unique as the only county in the nation that is home to five military commands: Fort Carson, United States Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain. Together, these bases employ approximately 60,000 people and contribute almost $6 billion to the local economy (http://www.ppunitedway.org). Putting these numbers in context, the Pikes Peak region has a population of almost 680,000 and a salaried workforce of 257,000. No matter how you look at it, our economy is influenced significantly by the military.
On 5/14/14, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported:
A study released this week by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and Summit Economics tried to capture the impact that the military has on the Pikes Peak region. It found more than 105,296 direct and indirect jobs attributable to the military presence and a $12.6 billion economic impact.
The Pikes Peak region is certainly honored and proud to be the home of these important operations. However, we must acknowledge that, as the United States federal government comes under pressure for savings to reduce the national debt and balance the annual budget, military spending will be reduced. Under the 2011 sequestration plan, defense spending will be cut by almost $900 billion over ten years. Some of those cuts could impact Colorado Springs significantly.
These cuts would come through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Our military bases—especially Fort Carson—have gone through this process before (in 1995 and 2005). As a result of the most recent BRAC, Fort Carson actually added to its capabilities and troop levels as other bases around the country were forced to close. Through the efforts of many people and organizations, we have supported, enhanced and grown our local military operations for over fifty years. We must continue to do so.
We cannot sit back and be complacent; we must be proactive and market the benefits of the region to the military staff and the Pentagon. Andy Merritt, Chief Defense Industry Officer of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, continues to work with many people, organizations and the regional government to support our military retention efforts. The full engagement of the community is required. What additional support do the local bases need? Do they need better access to transportation systems? More housing for personnel? More training facilities and land to conduct exercises? We must market our region in a proactive and business-like manner in addition to using the collective voice of the region to protect our local military operations against reduction in troop levels and local investment.
In many respects, our local base commanders with their extensive operations are our customers. We need to be engaged with a business plan to help them find solutions to the challenges they face. We need to ask them how we can assist their organizations to keep the military assets right here at the foot of Pikes Peak.
Colorado Springs Forward stands in support of the mission of our American men and women in uniform. They are our family in our nation and certainly, right here in the Pikes Peak region.