The Air Force will go back to the drawing board in its search for a permanent home for U.S. Space Command. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said the service will restart the search, scrapping a list of finalists that heavily favored Colorado.
Barret said standing up Space Force in December meant moving staff and opening a new Pentagon headquarters, “so that reshuffles what would be the command headquarters operation. So we are re-evaluating and restarting that process.”
This spring, the Air Force expects to outline a process and criteria for the permanent headquarters. “And that will be talent and infrastructure, including things like quality of schools and the ability of spouses to get jobs,” Barrett said.
She hopes communities will put themselves forward for consideration. And they plan on casting a wide net. Barrett said Space Force may land in a community with a military base, or it may not.
She expects the final decision to be made in late 2020 or possibly early 2021.
For now, Colorado Springs remains the temporary home for Space Command. Four Air Force bases in Colorado — Buckley, Schriever, Peterson and Cheyenne Mountain — had been finalists for the permanent headquarters. A base in California and one in Alabama had also been under consideration.
At his campaign stop in Colorado Springs in February, President Donald Trump said he would be the one making the decision on where to locate Space Force and teased the audience about the state’s desire to get the headquarters.
“I love the Air Force Academy. And you have all of the infrastructure, so you’re being very strongly considered,” he said, promising a decision by the end of the year.
Shortly before the President’s speech, Gov. Jared Polis visited him on Air Force One to make the case for Colorado.
The decision to restart the selection process has led some politicians to wonder if politics is at play in an election year. After all, being selected as the permanent home will bring economic and political benefits to the winning state and the politicians involved. Colorado didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, but the president has said he believes he can win it this year, and Sen. Cory Gardner is one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2020. California is expected to vote blue this November. Alabama is reliably a red state, but with an incumbent Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones, running for re-election.
Gardner said he feels “very good” about Colorado’s position when it comes to being selected as the permanent home for Space Command. And re-starting the process does not change that.
“I’m sure Colorado will prevail,” Gardner said. “I’m confident in my conversations with the Secretary of Defense and others that Colorado is in the best position to lead this because of our legacy in space.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pushed back against insinuations that politics were at play. He said the decision was his and made for the sake of transparency.
“I visited the House and heard from members on both sides of the aisle that they thought the process that had been run was unfair and not transparent. And there were a number of complaints,” Esper told the Senate Armed Services committee last week. “If it helps assure you, I don’t see anything being announced before the election.”