As the Pentagon Inspector General (IG) investigates the Jan. 13 decision by the Department of the Air Force to make Redstone Arsenal, Ala., the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM), Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) is urging the Pentagon and the military services to make objective decisions on future command locations.
“I absolutely believe whether Space Command ends up in Colorado Springs, or wherever it ends up, a decision be made for national security reasons, and not political reasons,” Hickenlooper told the Washington Space Business Roundtable on July 15. “I think there is a great deal of evidence that excessive political force was used in that decision making process, and it should be examined, and it is going to be examined.”
On Feb. 19, Randolph Stone, assistant DoD IG of evaluations for space, intelligence, engineering, and oversight, said that the Pentagon IG was to open an investigation that month into the Air Force’s selection of Redstone Arsenal as the headquarters of USSPACECOM (Defense Daily, March 2).
The DoD IG is to evaluate “the extent to which the Department of the Air Force complied with DoD and Air Force policies during the location selection process; used objective and relevant scoring factors to rank the six candidate locations; and calculated the cost and other scoring factors accurately and consistently among the six candidate locations.”
On Jan. 13, former Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett informed Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey that the service had picked Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location for USSPACECOM’s permanent headquarters (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).
That same day, the House of Representatives impeached then-President Trump for a second time. After a trial that began on Feb. 9, the Senate fell 10 votes short of convicting Trump on Feb. 13.
State officials in Nebraska and Colorado have questioned the Air Force’s decision and contend separately that Offutt AFB, Neb., and Peterson AFB, Colo.–the current provisional headquarters of USSPACECOM–are better USSPACECOM headquarters locations than Redstone Arsenal.
Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis suggested on Jan. 13 that then-President Trump had overruled the service’s analysis of Peterson AFB as the best location and forced the selection of Redstone Arsenal in an attempt to court Alabama’s congressional delegation, including freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R), ahead of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate for fomenting the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
On Jan. 26, the nine members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Hickenlooper, wrote a letter to President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to ask that they suspend the move of U.S. Space Command to Redstone Arsenal.
“Wherever Space Command is located…we need to make sure it’s in the best location for the good of this country, for our security and for the other ways that Space Command protects our economy, our military security, and you can go down the whole list,” Hickenlooper said on July 15. “I am biased, of course, and I’ve had many discussions, but I try to make sure that the discussions are not so parochial that I’m just fighting to try and get more jobs. I think that’s how we got into this mess. I think it’s more important to say, ‘What are the objective measures? Let’s create a process that we can all look at and agree to and make sure that we keep politics out of military decisions.’ That’s historically what the United States is well known for, maybe not perfect, but to a large extent. Especially compared to many other democracies in the world, we’ve been able to keep our investments by government relatively independent from political forces.”
Todd Harrison, the director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has said that moving USSPACECOM from Colorado to Alabama would be a “colossal waste of money” and that the Air Force decision “reeks of being politically motivated–taking jobs from a state that voted for Biden and moving them to a state that voted for Trump.”
But Army Gen. James Dickinson, the commander of USSPACECOM, has said that the Air Force picked Redstone Arsenal because the latter compared favorably in terms of mission infrastructure capacity, community support, and cost (Defense Daily, Jan. 26). Dickinson also said that, if Redstone Arsenal remains the Air Force’s choice to house USSPACECOM, it could be up to six years before the move from Peterson to Redstone happens, as “there will be some time that we’ll need in order to construct the facilities and, quite frankly, to modify them to fit our mission set, which tends to be classified.”
“I think it will be years before we see that,” he said.