A Senate Race in America's Military Space Hub

How Colorado's Senate Race Impacts Defense
A Senate Race in America's Military Space Hub
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As control of the Senate hangs in the balance this November, RealClearDefense is spotlighting the races that matter most to defense. See more at RCD’s Defense Elections 2014.


At the center of U.S. military space activities in Colorado, a subcommittee chairman on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a vocal progressive national security voice defends his seat with large contributions from the defense industry. 


In Colorado, Mark Udall appeared to be among the safer Democrats in the 2014 election cycle. But with a credible opponent and a tough political environment for Democrats nationwide, Udall’s race has joined the list of close contests that could shake up the composition of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). Udall currently serves as chairman of the SASC Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which oversees issues including nuclear weapons and missile defense.

After several recent Democratic victories, Colorado seems to be swinging back rightward. Republicans narrowly missed claiming the Senate seat of Michael Bennet in 2010, mostly as a result of implosions in the nomination process for both governor and Senate. In 2013, Republicans successfully recalled two Democratic state senators and forced the resignation of a third.

When Mark Udall began this cycle, most analysts thought that he was invulnerable. But his approval ratings have sunk along with the president’s. Compounding matters, Rep. Cory Gardner, a rising star in the state Republican Party, changed his mind and opted to challenge Udall in the general election. Udall had hoped to face Bennet’s 2010 opponent, Ken Buck, but now will draw a top tier challenger. Udall leads most polls, but narrowly. And he’s still well under 50 percent. This race has become an unexpected tossup.

Check out the latest polls in the Udall-Gardner race.


Mark Udall (D)

Hailing from a powerful political dynasty, Udall served 10 years in the House of Representatives before his election to the Senate in 2009.

Udall has general supported progressive national security policies. He has favored a faster end to the war in Afghanistan, and led the charge for military development and use of biofuels.

Udall has supported efforts to replace sequestration, and sponsored a bill to remove across-the-board cuts in the Budget Control Act with more strategic cuts determined by agency and department heads. He’s also been an advocate of export control reform.

As chairman of the SASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Udall has supported New START as well as other efforts to shrink the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He’s been a proponent of missile defense, though he opposed funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and assigned low priority to an East Coast missile defense site.

As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Udall has emerged as a prominent Democratic voice on U.S. intelligence policy. He has been among the fiercest critics of NSA surveillance in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks, called for CIA Director John Brennan to resign, and pushed greater transparency on drones.

Cory Gardner (R)

A rising star in the Colorado GOP, Gardner was elected to the House in 2010. His legislative work has focused mainly on energy and healthcare policy. Gardner has voted in line with House Republicans on defense legislation, with the possible exception of his vote to prohibit NSA record collection under the Patriot Act.


From his powerful perch atop the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Udall has raised over $280,000 from the defense industry this cycle. Lockheed Martin is Udall’s ninth largest contributor at almost $50,000. Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Atomics are also major contributors.

Typical of candidates challenging incumbents with significant defense equities, Gardner has yet to receive significant support from the defense industry with just over $13,000 in contributions thus far in 2014.


Colorado is a hub of U.S. military and commercial space activities. More than 37,000 active-duty servicemembers are based in Colorado working alongside 12,000 military civilians.

Colorado is home to a number of significant military installations. Peterson Air Force Base is home to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). It’s also home to Air Force Space Command and Army Space & Missile Defense Command. Just 10 miles east, Schriever Air Force Base provides command and control for 170 Defense Department satellites.

Buckley Air Force Base is home the 460th Space Wing and a number of Colorado National Guard units. Senator Udall wants to locate F-35s at Buckley, pushing the Air Force to reevaluate its criteria prior to the next round of F-35 basing decisions.

Fort Carson is home to the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, the 10th Special Forces Group, and several other military units.

While based in Virginia, the Missile Defense Agency has a sizable presence in Colorado. Colorado Springs is home to the MDA’s Missile Defense Integration & Operations Center, which supports research and development, system-level tests and evaluation, as well as operational and training support to U.S. combatant commands.

Lockheed Martin is Colorado’s largest defense contractor. Raytheon, United Launch Services, and Northrop Grumman also have a significant footprint.

The United Launch Alliance’s program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that provides space launch services for the U.S. government.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is based in Denver, and has over 4,000 in the area. While much of LMSS’s work in Colorado focuses on commercial satellites, significant military projects include development of the next-generation GPS III satellites. Raytheon has over 2,000 employees based in Aurora working on dozens of federal programs, including a significant number for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Dustin Walker is the Editor of RealClearDefense.

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