Colorado Springs will remain the home for US Space Command headquarters

Joe Biden, Michael Bennet, John Suthers
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
Air Force One is visible as President Joe Biden, center, speaks with by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., left, and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, right, as he arrives at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Updated at 7:06 p.m. on July 31, 2023.

Colorado Springs will remain the home to the headquarters of U.S. Space Command.

President Joe Biden made the decision, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the advice of military leaders, according to National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

“This decision is in the best interest of our national security and reflects the President’s commitment to ensuring peak readiness in the space domain over the next decade,” Watson said.

The AP first reported Monday afternoon that the Biden Administration decided to overturn former President Donald Trump’s decision to move the headquarters to Alabama. 

Watson noted Space Command would be at “full operational capability” later this month in the Springs. “Maintaining the headquarters at its current location ensures no risk of disruption” to the mission said Watson.

Colorado Republican Representative Doug Lamborn said international tensions are too critical to allow the move to Huntsville.

"Russia and China are doing some really sobering things in space,” Lamborn said. “Not just our economy, but our military is dependent on space. And so we can't take any chances. We can't allow for unnecessary delays, which is what moving to another state would've resulted in."

A senior administration official noted that a move to Alabama would mean the new headquarters would not be stood up until "early to mid-2030's."

Defense Department Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and U.S. Space Command commander Gen. James Dickinson all supported Biden’s decision to keep the command in Colorado Springs.

The announcement brings an end to months of speculation over whether the new command would remain in Colorado or move to Alabama.

It was a vindication to Colorado’s congressional delegation, who worked publicly and behind the scenes for the last two years to get the Biden administration to reconsider the basing decision made in the last weeks of the Trump administration. That effort included requesting investigations from two offices, the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Defense’s Inspector General.

Sen. John Hickenlooper said the decision was in the “country’s best interest.” For months, he and others noted that the command had almost reached “full operational capability” in Colorado Springs.

More importantly Hickenlooper added, “this decision firmly rejects the idea that politics – instead of national security – should determine basing decisions central to our national security.”

Sen. Michael Bennet said the delegation “repeatedly made the case” that Trump’s decision was “misguided.” 

“Today’s decision restores integrity to the Pentagon’s basing process and sends a strong message that national security and the readiness of our Armed Forces drive our military decisions. Colorado is the rightful home for U.S. Space Command, and our state will continue to lead America in space for years to come,” he said in a statement.

Still, it might not put an end to accusations of politicization. In the past few months, members of the Alabama delegation made claims that the command would be kept in Colorado over abortion policy. Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has also had a hold on top military officer promotions for months.

Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who chairs the powerful House Armed Services Committee, said the “fight is far from over.”

“It’s clear that far-left politics, not national security, was the driving force behind the decision,” Rogers said. He added that his committee will continue to investigate the selection process and “to hold the Biden administration accountable for their egregious political meddling in our national security.”

In January 2021, with a week left in office, the Trump administration surprised and disappointed many in Colorado when Alabama was selected as the preferred location for the permanent headquarters of the combatant command. State officials went to work quickly to try to reverse the decision

Aside from getting the inspector general  and GAO to look into how the decision was made, Colorado’s senators and some representatives spoke with President Biden and Air Force and Space Force officials about the basing decision. Most recently, the full congressional delegation submitted a public comment on the environmental impact of moving the base to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, the last step in the process.

“As the Biden administration nears a final decision for U.S. Space Command’s permanent headquarters, we, once again, urge the Air Force to assess the option to renovate Building 1 at Peterson [Space Force Base], and consider the national security and cost implications of this scenario,” wrote the state’s two senators and seven representatives.

The delegation’s comment outlined three main issues. First, keeping Space Command in Colorado would be more cost-effective than moving it. Second, that the command would reach full operation capability faster in Colorado. And lastly, that some communities in the region offered unspecified “incentives.”

Where to locate Space Command’s permanent headquarters has been a long and tortured road for Colorado.

While Trump officially reestablished the commandant command in August 2019, earlier in the year the Air Force selected six locations to potentially host Space Command. Colorado had four bases on the list, including Peterson Air Force Base, which is now Peterson Space Force Base. Redstone Arsenal in Alabama was also on the list.

In early 2020, however, Defense Secretary Mark Esper directed the Air Force to restart the basing decision process from scratch, with Peterson named the temporary home for the command in May of that year. 

In November of that year, a new finalist list came out. This time, only one Colorado base was in the running. 

Air Force leaders reportedly supported keeping the base in Colorado Springs and the reasoning behind naming Redstone the preferred location in 2021 was unclear at the time. However, Trump said in an August 2021 radio appearance that he made the last-minute decision to move the base to Alabama, a heavily Republican state, over the recommendations of his military advisers.

Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade said the decision reinforced the city as the home of military space efforts.

“Today marks the beginning of the next chapter of our city’s long and proud military history and Colorado Springs will continue to rally around and support our service members, veterans, and their families,” Mobolade said.

Dan Boyce contributed reporting to this story.