Alabama’s abortion ban and the antics of Sen. Tommy Tuberville appear poised to cost the state the U.S. Space Command.
A report by NBC News on Monday cited a Defense Department official and another official – both unidentified by the network – saying that the Biden White House is “laying the groundwork” to reverse the decision to move Space Command headquarters from Colorado to Huntsville.
Both officials painted the decision as one tied to the abortion issue. However, the story also says, without attribution, that the Biden administration has privately informed the Pentagon that they’re concerned the move could disrupt operations at Space Command, which is operational in Colorado, during a critical time and that it has nothing to do with the abortion issue.
Another source quoted by the network indicates that Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s one-man blockade of military promotions over the last three months is playing at least some role. APR reported last week that a D.C. source involved in the ongoing review of Space Command’s location said that Tuberville’s hold on military promotions was going to end up costing the state the Space Command and the billions of federal dollars that are poised to come with it.
Another source on Monday, responding to the NBC News report, noted that while Alabama’s restrictive abortion ban was implemented last summer, the Biden administration didn’t consider nixing the move until Tuberville started his antics.
The fight to land Space Command has been a long one.
Former President Trump selected Huntsville as the program’s permanent headquarters – moving it from Colorado – in January 2021. His comments on the move seemed to indicate that partisan politics played some role and that he had acted outside of the typical review process to make the decision.
However, separate studies ordered by the Biden administration found that Trump’s comments, as was often the case, didn’t match reality and that the process for determining the move to Huntsville was handled appropriately and without political input from outside sources.
Still, though, the ultimate decision remained under review and the Biden administration tasked Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall with the job of making a final decision. Kendall has repeatedly told lawmakers, including Alabama congressmen, that the decision is his alone and that the White House has not been involved. He has declined in recent weeks to explain what is taking so long, however.
Not surprisingly, the news of Space Command possibly remaining in Colorado drew sharp rebukes from Alabama lawmakers.
“President Biden’s plans would irresponsibly yank a military decision out of the Air Force’s hands in the name of partisan politics,” said Sen. Katie Britt in a statement. “Huntsville finished first in both the Air Force’s Evaluation Phase and Selection Phase, leaving no doubt that the Air Force’s decision to choose Redstone as the preferred basing location was correct purely on the merits. That decision should remain in the Air Force’s purview. Instead, President Biden is now trying to hand the Gold Medal to the fifth-place finisher. The President’s blatant prioritization of partisan political considerations at the expense of our national security, military modernization, and force readiness is a disservice and a dishonor to his oath of office as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief.”
Huntsville Congressman Dale Strong also criticized the move, although he seemed unfamiliar with the actual details of why the decision might be made and about the specifics of Alabama’s abortion ban.
“When the Air Force looked at what was in the best interest of national security, they chose Redstone Arsenal to house U.S. Space Command headquarters,” he said. “Any deviation from that is a slight against those serving in uniform. I’ve seen all the reviews and reports on the basing process – but don’t remember access to late-term abortions being one of the 21 criteria used to evaluate the sites.”
“Late-term abortions” certainly isn’t one of the criteria, nor is it part of Alabama’s abortion law. That law bans abortions in all cases except where the life of the mother is provably at risk, and it does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.
Alabama’s law is one reason the Department of Defense initiated a new program that would reimburse service members for necessary medical care, including abortions, that required them to travel outside of the state from which they were stationed in order to receive legal care. That program is also why Tuberville has decided to place a hold on military promotions.
His hold on those promotions has been widely criticized by military leaders – both active and retired – and those critics have maintained that he is hurting troop preparedness and jeopardizing safety.