In his 12th year representing Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, Congressman Doug Lamborn provided his State of the District address, hosted by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort Feb. 20.
The congressman briefly touched on topics ranging from defense to craft beer to Millennials and more during his overview of key happenings in the Pikes Peak region.
Lamborn began by discussing the health of the defense presence in the region, explaining Fort Carson’s Fourth Infantry Division would be leaving for Afghanistan this spring. He pointed to the most recent National Defense Authorization Act as a step toward ensuring the nation’s military can do its job.
“In December I stood with Speaker Paul Ryan as he signed the National Defense Authorization Act,” Lamborn said. “The entire House and Armed Services Committee … worked hard on the future of our national security strategy and on enhancing our military capabilities.
“A strong and determined focus on national security in space and cyberspace is crucial and is worth the necessary investment.
“Most importantly, the new defense budget means a two-year elimination of defense sequestration and a raised budget cap of $700 billion for the current fiscal year” and more than $700 billion next fiscal year, he said.
“Final results strengthen our nation as a whole. But there are some immediate positive effects we’ll feel in this district right now,” Lamborn said.
He explained the NDAA gives new “authority and importance to Air Force Space Command as part of a broader space reform to elevate the priority of space warfighting.”
Lamborn said the Air Force’s space warfighting role has moved from California to Colorado Springs, adding the NDAA also quadruples funding from $30 million to $120 million for the National Space Defense Center.
“This is a vital national security effort with a staff of 230 working 24/7 at Schriever Air Force Base defending the nation from increasing threats in space,” Lamborn said. “That’s a big deal. For the first time we have the defense community and the intelligence community working together on threats to our national security.”
Lamborn also pointed to benefits the Army would experience thanks to the NDAA. Those include funding for additional soldiers, vehicle upgrades and accelerating the modernization of armored brigade combat teams.
The act also includes $90.5 million for military construction in the Pikes Peak region, and gives service members a 2.4 percent pay increase.
“That’s the largest in eight years,” Lamborn said. “The men and women in uniform who protect our country deserve no less.”
Lamborn diverged from the military to discuss Millennials, taxes and tourism. He referenced a recently released Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program report that showed Colorado Springs is the most popular city in the country for migrant members of the generation.
Lamborn said, in efforts to preserve quality of life within his district, which include Teller, Chaffee, Park and Fremont counties, he introduced a bill to allow for the enlargement of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which just passed the National Resources Committee.
“The region is also attractive for the positive economic growth we’re experiencing,” he said. “Supporting that growth now and for many years to come is the far-reaching impact of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that passed in December, for which I fought hard for and supported.”
Lamrborn said “companies big and small, such as Walmart, the largest private-sector employer in the Unites States, have also announced plans because of the tax cut to expand employee benefits like 401k-matching and maternity leave.”
Lamborn said some businesses have reversed previous plans to leave the United States, and within Colorado, “Bank of Colorado and National Bank Holdings Corp. are handing out large bonuses to employees.”
Also included in tax legislation is the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act “to provide Colorado’s $3 billion brewery industry relief from high federal excise taxes,” Lamborn said. “This will allow the more-than-320 Colorado breweries to reinvest in their businesses, expand their operations and hire more American workers, all of which contribute to economic and tourism growth here in Colorado.”
Lamborn also touched on the city’s cybersecurity efforts.
“Today more than 80 cybersecurity employers, including five designated as workforce training organizations, are in the district,” he said, adding there are growing opportunities for the private and public sector to work together on cybersecurity efforts, particularly through projects like Catalyst Campus.
Lamborn also discussed chemical water contaminants caused by Air Force firefighting foam in the communities of Widefield, Security and Fountain.
Once the contaminants were verified, Lamborn said he worked with Fountain Mayor Gabriel Ortega, as well as Fountain, Widefield and Security water managers and the leadership of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB.
“I brought these community leaders to Washington for a meeting with senior Pentagon officials,” Lamborn said. “That meeting prioritized our district for Pentagon action and energized the Air Force’s Civil Engineer Center to draft a memorandum of understanding and to initiate a contract for large-scale water filter systems for these three communities.”
Transportation and the 17-mile stretch of two-lane interstate between Monument and Castle Rock were also topics of the address.
That gap, according to Lamborn, “constricts the blood of regional commerce and tourism to the entire district.
“Applicants all over the country are competing vigorously for limited funding,” Lamborn said, adding there may be hope in a Trump administration infrastructure bill and that the process of completing environmental impact studies has already been expedited, adding projects can be completed much more quickly while still caring for the environment.
Lamborn also said construction is underway and a dedication ceremony is planned for a national veterans cemetery in El Paso County and a director has been appointed.
“Pikes Peak National Cemetery represents a promise I made 11 years ago and have now delivered to our veterans and their families,” he said, adding $31.8 million has been secured, initial internments will begin in October and it will be fully completed in 2019.
Lamborn also talked about military health care benefits.
“When it comes to [U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs] benefits, many veterans would prefer more options and freedom in choosing their health care — an option they truly do not have today. That’s why I introduced the Veterans Empowerment Act.
“Veterans can choose health care providers. It leaves the current VA medical system intact as an option, but gives vets true choice to decide on his or her own to receive care from a VA facility or private provider.
“This takes the decision away from the bureaucracy and gives it strictly and solely to the veteran.”
That bill was referred in December to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.