Colorado lawmaker going to bat for space industry in pandemic

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.

What impact is the pandemic having on Colorado space companies?

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.

What are the biggest issues you’re hearing from constituents?

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.

Does Congress need to do more to help the space industry?

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.

What is the latest on timing for markups on the authorization act?

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.

Is the pandemic slowing down the decision about where to base U.S. Space Command?

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.

How are you making the case to base U.S. Space Command in Colorado?

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.

What did postponing Space Symposium mean for Colorado Springs?

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.

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