New investigation opened into Space Command decision

House Defense Budget
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, accompanied by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal year 2024 budget request of the Department of Defense, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, is launching an investigation into why it’s taking so long to make the final basing decision for Space Command Headquarters.

“I am deeply concerned that the continued delays in making this move final are politically motivated and damaging to our national security,” Rogers said in a statement announcing the investigation, which was requested by fellow Alabama GOP Rep. Dale Strong who represents Huntsville and also serves on the committee.

The command has been temporarily located at Petersen Space Force Base in Colorado Springs since it was reformed, but a week before former President Donald Trump left office, the Air Force announced Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the preferred location for the headquarters.

In a May 25 letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Space Command’s Gen. James Dickinson, Rogers said Kendall had told the Alabama delegation of “fundamental change”' being made to the command’s mission and headquarters requirements.

“Secretary Kendall informed the delegation that he launched his own investigation into these irregularities. The Committee on Armed Services will also undertake its own investigation into this matter,” the letter stated.

Rogers also sent a letter to Kendall and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on May 19 requesting the Department and the Air Force preserve documents related to the Space Command HQ decision.

Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper fired back.

“If we want to talk about politically motivated delays harming national security then let’s talk about Trump’s actions in reversing the Space Command decision in the first place,” Hickenlooper said. “Facts are facts: Space Command is very nearly at FOC [full operational capability] in Colorado. Moving it to Alabama now would be based solely on politics.”

The final headquarters location has been mired in accusations of political interference since the decision was announced in January 2021. 

Trump said he alone was the one who decided to move the command to Alabama, a state that supported him in the presidential election. In March, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers wrote to Kendall to say Trump indicated to him he’d make the decision based on politics.

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Hickenlooper and Congressman Doug Lamborn, who represents Colorado Springs, also requested government investigations into how the decision was made. The reports showed no significant flaws in the decision, but that there were shortcomings and missteps during the process. 

A GAO report noted that Colorado Springs was the preferred location prior to a January 2021 meeting with Trump. A recent news report also indicated that Alabama lawmakers thought abortion policy might play a role in changing the final basing location. Colorado has protected access to abortion, while Alabama has banned the procedure in nearly all situations. A bill under consideration in the state would allow someone who gets an abortion to be prosecuted for murder.

Colorado lawmakers have focused their arguments on national security issues, making the case that moving it to Alabama will hurt the command’s readiness and cost money.

“Our case has not changed: this decision needs to be rooted in what's best for our national security. We believe any fair assessment based on national security will keep Space Command in Colorado," said a Bennet aide.

“Colorado Springs is the best place for Space Command because it’s already at work here, with tangible results, about which all of us should be proud,” Hickenlooper said on the Senate floor earlier this month. “We shouldn’t risk our national security. We should keep Space Command in Colorado Springs where it belongs.“

Lamborn, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, is not commenting on the new investigation at this time.

According to an Air Force spokesperson, the departmetn received additional information from the commander of U.S. Space Command that requires additional analysis "before a final decision can be made."

"The new information is related to operational capability and infrastructure," said spokesperson Ann Stefanek. A team from the Air Force is expected to meet with the combatant commander to evaluate.

A final basing decision was expected at the end of last year, after comments on the environmental impact study of the move.