President Joe Biden has decided to keep U.S. Space Command headquarters in Colorado, overturning a last-ditch decision by the Trump administration to move it to Alabama and ending months of politically fueled debate, according to senior U.S. officials.
The officials said Biden was convinced by the head of Space Command, Gen. James Dickinson, who argued that moving his headquarters now would jeopardize military readiness. Dickinson's view, however, was in contrast to Air Force leadership, who studied the issue at length and determined that relocating to Huntsville, Alabama, was the right move.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the decision ahead of the announcement. The president, they said, believes that keeping the command in Colorado Springs would avoid a disruption in readiness that the move would cause, particularly as the U.S. races to compete with China in space. And they said Biden firmly believes that maintaining stability will help the military be better able to respond in space over the next decade.
Biden's decision is sure to enrage Alabama lawmakers and fuel accusations that abortion politics played a role in the choice. The location debate has become entangled in the ongoing battle between Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville and the Defense Department over the move to provide travel for troops seeking reproductive health care. Tuberville opposed the policy is blocking hundreds of military promotions in protest.
Formally created in August 2019, the command was temporarily based in Colorado, and Air Force and Space Force leaders initially recommended it stay there. In the final days of his presidency Donald Trump decided it should be based in Huntsville.
The change triggered a number of reviews.
Proponents of keeping the command in Colorado have argued that moving it to Huntsville and creating a new headquarters would set back its progress at a time it needs to move quickly to be positioned to match China’s military space rise. And Colorado Springs is also home to the Air Force Academy, which now graduates Space Force guardians, and more than 24 military space missions, including three Space Force bases.
Huntsville, however, scored higher than Colorado Springs in a Government Accountability Office assessment of potential locations and has long been a home to some of earliest missiles used in the nation’s space programs, including the Saturn V rocket. It is home to the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.According to officials, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who ordered his own review of the matter, leaned toward Huntsville, while Dickinson was staunchly in favor of staying put.
The officials said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin presented both options to Biden.
U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama responded to the Biden administration's move, saying in a statement, “Over two and a half years ago, the Air Force chose Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville for the headquarters of Space Command over 59 other cities on the basis of 21 different criteria. As soon as Joe Biden took office, he paused movement on that decision and inserted politics into what had been a fair and objective competition—not because the facts had changed, but because the political party of the sitting President had changed."
The statement said, "The Biden Administration has been talking a lot about readiness over the past few months, but no Administration has done more to damage our military readiness in my lifetime. They’ve politicized our military, destroyed our recruiting, misused our tax dollars for their extremist social agenda, and now they are putting Space Command headquarters in a location that didn’t even make the top three. They are doing this at a time when space is only becoming more important for national security."
Tuberville said, "It is also shameful that the Administration waited until Congress had gone into recess and already passed next year’s defense budget before announcing this decision."
"This decision to bypass the three most qualified sites looks like blatant patronage politics, and it sets a dangerous precedent that military bases are now to be used as rewards for political supporters rather than for our security," the statement read.
"There remain serious questions as to whether the Air Force illegally used taxpayer dollars to upgrade facilities in Colorado Springs. I hope that House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers will continue his investigation into that matter. This is absolutely not over. I will continue to fight this as long as it takes to bring Space Command where it would be best served - Huntsville, Alabama. Today’s disastrous mistake just adds to the long string of bad decisions that this compromised president has made."
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