U.S. Space Command is unlikely to settle in a permanent headquarters for the next several years, Army Gen. James Dickinson, the commander of U.S. Space Command, said on Jan. 26.
Dickinson’s statement came 13 days after former Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett informed Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey in the waning days of the Trump administration that the service had picked Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location for U.S. Space Command’s permanent headquarters (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).
U.S. Space Command is located in a provisional headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., at Peterson AFB– the former location of Air Force Space Command.
“Not quickly, quite frankly,” Dickinson said during a Jan. 13 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Aerospace Nation forum when asked about a timeline for a possible permanent headquarters move. “We’ve got a provisional headquarters decision that is good for about the next five or six years. If the decision remains or is Huntsville, Ala., 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.”
Dickinson said that the Air Force picked Redstone Arsenal because the latter compared favorably in terms of mission infrastructure capacity, community support, and cost.
State officials in Nebraska and Colorado, however, have questioned the Air Force’s decision.
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 curry favor with Alabama’s congressional delegation, including freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The two senators are to participate in the planned Senate impeachment trial of Trump on Feb. 8 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-Colo.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), 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.
“We write to request you conduct a thorough review of the Trump Administration’s last-minute decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama and suspend any actions to relocate the headquarters until you complete the review,” per the letter. “This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission. Additionally, significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision.”
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce also raised questions about the Air Force’s selection of Redstone Arsenal.
“Based on objective [Air Force] criteria,” Offutt AFB, Neb. “remains the optimum location for U.S. Space Command,” the chamber said. “The Nebraska team expects full transparency of the final review to support this assertion.”
Nebraska was the only state to offer a $107 million public/private incentive package to reduce the cost of the project to the Air Force, per the Greater Omaha Chamber.
Established in its first incarnation in September 1985 to provide joint command and control for all military forces in outer space and coordinate with the other combatant commands, U.S Space Command was inactivated in 2002 and its activities and personnel were moved to U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt AFB.
The new U.S. Space Command was established in August 2019–four months before the U.S. Space Force.
U.S. Space Command – a geographical combatant commander — is a separate entity from the U.S. Space Force, the newest branch of the U.S. armed forces that sits under the Department of the Air Force. The Space Force headquarters is situated at the Pentagon, along with all the other services’ official headquarters.
After revising selection criteria last May, the Air Force named six possible headquarters locations for U.S. Space Command in November–Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Offutt; Patrick AFB, Fla; Peterson; Port San Antonio, Texas, and Redstone Arsenal (Defense Daily, Nov. 19). Four of those locations–Kirtland, Offutt, Patrick and Port San Antonio–were not on the Air Force’s original headquarters downselect list last May.
One defense analyst spoke out against the Air Force’s selection of Redstone Arsenal as the “preferred location” for the headquarters for U.S. Space Command and said that U.S. Space Command should remain at Peterson AFB.
“This will be a colossal waste of money,” Todd Harrison, the director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said on Twitter of the Air Force’s decision. “I hope it is one of the first things the new Pentagon leadership will reexamine once they are in place.”
“The 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,” Harrison said. “I don’t see how relocating the headquarters, building new facilities, and moving all of these people improves our national security or our space capabilities.”