Separately, Colorado Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper released a statement saying they “will ensure the Biden administration reviews this alleged decision.”
“As President Trump steps down, Colorado has not been selected despite reports that it was the Air Force’s first choice,” the senators wrote. “We believe a merits-based process will maintain Space Command in Colorado. There is no role for politics in our national security.”
The Pentagon named six finalists to host the seat in November after a politically charged research that covered two dozen states and lasted more than a year. Officials then winnowed it to bases in Colorado Springs and Huntsville.
The selection of Huntsville as the winner was made in consultation with the White House, senior military commanders, Congressional defense committees and others, according to John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. for facilities, environment and energy.
The command works the same as other fighter commands, such as US Cyber Command or US Central Command. While the military services, primarily the Space Force, will train and equip troops, the US Space Command will actually instruct personnel to conduct space operations.
Huntsville, which is known as “Rocket City” because the rockets that launched astronauts to the moon were built there, has a robust space industry nearby, including factories for the United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin.
The Air Force’s decision came down to either converting the interim headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base to a permanent residence for Space Command or moving it to Alabama, Henderson told POLITICO in an interview.
To decide between the two, the Air Force sent a team of experts to conduct site visits for a more “qualitative and comprehensive” assessment of each location’s ability to host the mission, Henderson said. Among other factors, the team examined the facilities and community infrastructure at each site, assessing whether the bases had the space and capacity to accommodate employees and their families. This included examining the cost of living and the availability of affordable and quality housing off the base.
In the end, the team “objectively” rated Redstone ahead of Peterson in each category, Henderson said. One concern was that Peterson has taken on several more assignments in recent years and is filling up.
But the Air Force also had to weigh the importance and potential short-term cost of uprooting the military’s existing space business and moving it to Alabama, he said.
Some officials have argued that it might be easier and cheaper to convert the interim Colorado headquarters and use some of the workforce already in place to speed up the commissioning schedule, Henderson said. .
“We had to do an in-house mental health check to say whether it was worth taking the mission out of there or is it better to just convert the interim headquarters into place,” Henderson said. “We took a close look at Colorado to make sure it was the right decision.”
Lamborn alleged in a statement that the location of the headquarters was being treated “like a political trophy.” “This decision was not based on what is best for America’s national interests.”
Although President Donald Trump was involved in the process and gave his comments, Henderson said the White House had not pressured the Air Force to make a decision of a one way or another.
“It was a deliberative and informative discussion, everyone in the room was able to express their thoughts and recommendations,” said Henderson. “I don’t feel like anything has been pushed inappropriately in our direction.
Critics of the decision will demand that the Air Force’s assessment scores be made public, according to a source, who spoke in the background to discuss internal conversations.
The Pentagon created US Space Command in August 2019, sparking the search for a permanent location for the headquarters that will oversee the Army’s space troops. Three months before its creation, the Air Force announced in May 2019 that six locations were being considered for the headquarters.
But in March, military leaders told Congress they were resuming the search to allow more states to compete under the leadership of then Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who wanted the selection process to be more “transparent” after members of Congress complained that their states did not receive enough consideration. The Air Force released a new set of assessment criteria and encouraged communities to come forward themselves in May.
The Air Force announced six finalists in November after a nationwide search that included nominations from cities in 24 states. In addition to Redstone and Peterson, the other finalists were: Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Patrick Air Force Base in Florida; Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; and Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
Officials visited these six sites virtually and in person last month.