Frustrations brew as Biden drags feet on base Space Command decision
U.S. Space Command, the Army’s newest unified combat command, remains in something of a limbo more than two years after then-President Donald Trump designated Huntsville, Alabama, as its his permanent residence.
The command is currently housed in a temporary headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado and frustration is now mounting among Republican lawmakers, who say President Biden has dragged his feet on whether or not to proceed with relocation to Alabama.
The command is responsible for coordinating the Pentagon’s role in space operations. Mr Trump had chosen Huntsville – home to the Redstone Arsenal army post and the Marshall Space Flight Center – during the final days of his administration. But the choice was effectively put on ice after he left the White House.
Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Doug Lamborn, both Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, agree that the Biden administration has let the issue of the command’s permanent location fester.
But one member of Congress won’t be happy when the choice is finally made. Mr. Rogers is part of the Alabama congressional delegation and wants command transferred to his home state, while Mr. Lamborn represents Colorado Springs and wants command to remain there at Peterson Space Force Base .
“It’s time for the Biden administration to make Colorado Springs the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command on the basis of national security, not politics,” Lamborn said Monday. “US Space Command is months away from full operational capability at Peterson Space Force Base and any movement would delay [that] four to six years old.
The Colorado Republican added that the country could not afford to delay finalizing a permanent command headquarters, given the threats posed by China and Russia in space.
“I urge the [Biden] administration to reverse the previous decision, which was based on a flawed review process, and to act in the best interest of our national security,” Mr. Lamborn said.
Colorado Governor Jard Polis, a Democrat, pushed for Space Command to remain at Peterson in Colorado Springs and argued that Mr. Trump’s plan to move the operation, and at least 1,500 jobs, to a reliable red state like Alabama, was based on partisan politics.
Mr Rogers, however, says the government made the right decision in choosing Huntsville after considering other choices, such as San Antonio, Texas, and Cape Canaveral, Florida – as well as Colorado Springs. At the time, the Air Force said Huntsville was the best fit based on several factors, including infrastructure capacity, community support, and cost to the Department of Defense.
“Move quickly to locate [Space Command] The headquarters of Redstone Arsenal is in the best interests of our nation’s national security,” Rogers said Friday in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.
The Alabama Republican, who chairs the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee, said political appointees in the Biden administration were interfering with the Air Force’s delay in finalizing the move of Space Command to Huntsville. He cited an NBC report that the Biden administration may halt movement plans because of Alabama’s strict anti-abortion laws.
Mr. Rogers also said the Department of Defense and the Air Force should retain all documentation relating to the final selection of a location for US Space Command.
Air Force Secretary Kendall said state laws on issues such as abortion or gay rights will have no impact on the decision to locate Space Command.
Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama who is outspoken on abortion issues, also weighed in on the situation. He said on Twitter this week that attempts to derail Space Command’s move to Alabama are nothing but a case of “bad loser syndrome.”
“Huntsville was based on Air Force selection criteria. And those criteria have not changed,” Senator Tuberville wrote on the social media platform on Monday. “When politics is not a factor (Space Command) clearly belongs to Redstone Arsenal.”
Since February, Sen. Tuberville has blocked the nominations of about 200 senior Pentagon military and civilian officials to protest the Department of Defense’s abortion travel policy. Under the policy, the department covers travel expenses for service members and their dependents who may cross state lines to obtain an abortion.
Sen. Tuberville’s office said there was no connection between the decision to found Space Command and his campaign to block nominations on abortion policy.