Republican and Democratic members of Congress in Alabama late last week submitted a House bill that would block funding for the continued growth of the temporary US Space Command headquarters in Colorado, according to reports. documents reviewed by NBC News.
Two congressional officials said the bill would prohibit SPACECOM from spending money to build, lease or upgrade facilities until the Secretary of the Air Force selects and publicly announces the final location, which , according to the Trump administration, is in Huntsville, Alabama.
NBC News reported this month that Biden administration officials privately signaled to Defense Department leaders and lawmakers that they were considering canceling the planned move to Alabama due to concerns about anti-terrorism laws. -State strict abortion. Since the Trump administration announced in January 2021 that the headquarters would be in Alabama, there have been a series of reviews and investigations into what has become a difficult and politically contentious process.
Air Force and defense officials say SPACECOM is on track to be fully operational by the end of this summer, months before their last public statement, which indicated it would not be before the end of 2023.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall met with members of the Alabama delegation last week to discuss the location of the permanent headquarters.
Several members of the delegation were surprised when Kendall revealed that SPACECOM was renting offices in Colorado and continuing to expand its facilities there. SPACECOM leases at least two buildings there, according to three defense and congressional officials. The duration of the leases has not been made public.
After the members objected, Kendall said SPACECOM Commander Army Gen. James Dickinson approved spending the money on the leases and that he, as Secretary of the Air Force, had little power to stop. Now members of Congress are hoping to cut Dickinson’s funding to prevent him from continuing to rent office space in Colorado.
Alabama lawmakers fear the Biden administration and the Air Force slowed the process in an effort to build a fully operational headquarters in Colorado, then argue that a move would cause a pause in Space Force operations.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican who represents Colorado Springs and has the Peterson Space Force Base in his district, made this argument on Twitter last week. He argued that moving headquarters to Alabama would keep Space Force from reaching full operational capability for “four to six years.”
“US Space Command is months away from full operational capability (FOC) at Peterson Space Force Base,” he wrote. “We cannot afford a self-imposed delay in the FOC given the threats posed by China and Russia.”
Kendall also briefed Alabama lawmakers during their meeting on “fundamental changes” to SPACECOM’s headquarters requirements that could affect the decision on its final location, according to a letter released Thursday by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
Kendall said the changes came from Dickinson and were not led by the Pentagon or other members of the Biden administration. Kendall added that he was conducting his own investigation into changes in seat settings and other “irregularities”. He told members of Congress he was weeks away from completing his review, but did not commit to publicly sharing the results.
An Air Force spokesperson confirmed that SPACECOM has issued new requirements for its permanent headquarters. “The Department of the Air Force recently received additional information from the commander of U.S. Space Command, which will require further analysis before a final decision can be made on the permanent location of the headquarters of the Air Force. US Space Command,” the spokesperson said.
Rogers, meanwhile, launched an armed forces investigation into the selection process. He asked Kendall and Dickinson to provide any documents related to any changes in the mission or requirements of SPACECOM headquarters since President Joe Biden took office, any documents relating to the leasing or construction of facilities for SPACECOM and all communications from the Biden administration regarding changing requirements for headquarters. Rogers has requested that all documents be produced by June 8.
“SPACECOM is advised to cease and desist from any action involving public funds in any scheme to alter SPACECOM’s mission or headquarters requirements without a civilian oversight order,” Rogers said.