Huntsville Gets Nod for Space Command HQ, At Least for Now

Huntsville Gets Nod for Space Command HQ, At Least for Now

The Air Force announced today that Huntsville, AL is the preferred location for the headquarters of U.S. Space Command. The carefully worded statement indicated, however, that a final choice will not be made until 2023. USSPACECOM is temporarily located in Colorado Springs, CO and Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn already has written to President-elect Joe Biden asking him to reverse the decision.

President Trump reestablished U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) in August 2019 after a 17-year hiatus.  It is temporarily located at Peterson Air Force Base, CO near other facilities that support the U.S. Space Force (USSF).

USSF and USSPACECOM are often confused with one another.  USSF, created as the sixth military service when the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law on December 20, 2019, is part of the Air Force and located at the Pentagon.  Its mandate is to “organize, train and equip” personnel who are then available to the 11 unified combatant commands that are in charge of warfighting.

USSPACECOM is the newest of those 11 unified combatant commands. Choosing the location of its permanent headquarters is the subject of intense competition since it will be a great prize in terms of jobs and prestige.

The Air Force initially narrowed the list to six finalists, four in Colorado (Buckley, Peterson and Schreiver Air Force Bases and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station), one in California (Vandenberg Air Force Base), and one in Alabama (Redstone Arsenal).

Politicians from other states complained, however, and the competition was reopened in May 2020.  Screening criteria were issued and 24 states applied.

In November 2020, six sites were chosen for further evaluation: Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama; Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB), Albuquerque, New Mexico; Offutt AFB, Bellevue, Nebraska; Patrick AFB (now Space Force Base), Cape Canaveral, Florida; Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Port San Antonio, Texas.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett

The Air Force said a decision would be made in early 2021, but that USSPACECOM would remain at Peterson AFB for approximately six years until the permanent location was ready.

Today, the Air Force announced that Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, on behalf of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, selected Huntsville as the “preferred location” but the other sites “remain reasonable alternatives” and a final decision will be made in two years.

“The Department of the Air Force anticipates making a final decision for the location of U.S. Space Command Headquarters in spring 2023, pending the results from the required environmental impact analysis.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) cheered the selection: “I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone Arsenal and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”

By contrast, Colorado’s congressional delegation slammed it. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) said “I am disappointed by the horrendous decision to rip U.S. Space Command out of its home in Colorado Springs and move it to a new location” and  “arbitrarily shuffling SPACECOM around like a political trophy would prove disastrous.” He immediately wrote to President-elect Biden asking him to “reverse this foolish and hastily made decision.”

Colorado’s two Senators, Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D), joined the condemnation, saying in a joint statement they are “concerned by rumors that the Trump White House influenced this decision for political reasons.”

“In the spring of 2019, the Air Force named six finalists for the permanent home of Space Command––four of them in Colorado. For reasons that were never clear, in the spring of 2020, the Air Force announced a subsequent process that eventually resulted in six new finalists, this time including only one in Colorado. And now, just as President Trump is leaving office, Colorado was not selected despite reports that it was the Air Force’s top choice. We will work closely with the Colorado delegation to ensure the Biden Administration reviews this purported decision. We believe a process based on the merits will keep Space Command in Colorado. There is no role for politics when it comes to our national security.”

The announcement came on the same day the House voted to impeach Trump for a second time.

Todd Harrison, a highly respected defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and head of its Aerospace Security Project, sees it not only as politically motivated, but a “colossal waste of money.”



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