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U.S. Strategic Command has decided to keep its missile warning center at Cheyenne Mountain. The command has long had a presence inside Cheyenne Mountain, but its commander finally made the decision to keep it there on a permanent basis in May.

The mountain offices will serve as a clearinghouse of information for any missile launched anywhere in the world.

“If there’s a missile launched in Afghanistan or Iraq, they can let them know in time to react,” said Col. Rusty Wilson, commander of the base. “Anywhere else, they have to do a certain amount of checking before they raise the alarm.”

The space occupied by U.S. StratCom, as its known, is currently undergoing renovation.

About nine different organizations have space inside Cheyenne Mountain, organizations with top-secret missions that need a secure place to conduct operations. The Defense Intelligence Agency has offices in Cheyenne Mountain, as does The Homeland Security Agency, the U.S. Northern Command, the National Security Agency, the Federal Aviation Agency and a host of other groups.

It all means getting into the mountain isn’t easy — but it isn’t impossible. While protesting that Cheyenne Mountain is no tourist attraction, (as suggested by a colleague) Wilson also notes the mountain gets about 20,000 visitors a year — enough to keep its public affairs officers very busy. There are so many visitors, in fact, that Cheyenne Mountain has its own visitors’ center and its own gift shop.

Wilson insists that the nearly constant stream of visitors doesn’t lessen the importance — or the secrets kept — inside Cheyenne Mountain. He gives impressive stats: it’s a $1.8 billion underground complex with 1,100 personnel and 24-hour operations. It’s home to the only Department of Defense lab that’s underground, and its operations can withstand — well, almost anything.

But the mountain’s mission has changed since the days of the Cold War, when Hollywood glamorized it in films such as “War Games.” On Sept. 11, 2001, the nation’s defense needs changed, and Cheyenne Mountain now serves more as secure office space — and less as a first line of defense.

Aerospace association warns about defense spending

Congress needs to pass the supplement defense spending bill — or risk higher unemployment among defense contractors.

The warning comes from the Aerospace Industries Association, as the Pentagon enters the third quarter of 2010 without the necessary spending authorization to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The association warns that failure to pass the supplemental spending bill will result in “serious disruptions to ongoing military operations and adverse impacts in the private sector.”

The bill was submitted March 21, and both the House and the Senate have passed versions of the bill.

“Unless the bill is passed in final form very quickly, the Defense Department will be required to take dramatic action to fund our obligations,” said AIA President Marion Blakely. “This includes delaying or cutting programs and reprogramming funds from other contracts. The resulting disruptions to industrial supply lines will cause delays in critical equipment delivery, increased costs and could lead to lost jobs in the private sector.”

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or Friend her on Facebook.