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Aerospace and Defense

Alabama officials support congressional investigation of Space Force HQ delay

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall has not announced a final decision.

Redstone Arsenal

Vying for the permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command, Alabama officials condemned a politicized delay, Colorado sources condemned a politicized move, and the Biden administration and Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-AL, condemned each others’ abortion policies. 

On Tuesday, 15 state legislators and the governor showed their support for a House Armed Services Committee investigation into the delayed selection of a permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command now recommended to be built at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

Led by Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, the legislators signed a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall urging cooperation with the investigation announced by Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-AL-3, on Thursday. 

“Alabama — in every way — is staunchly committed to seeing this mission through. And everyone agrees because the facts are undeniable that Redstone should, can and will be home to Space Command Headquarters,” Ivey said. 

The process of selecting a base began in December 2018 and seemed to approach an end in January 2021 when the secretary of the Air Force recommended Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location over five alternatives. The recommendation depended on an environmental impact study which, in September 2022, concluded the facility would have no significant environmental impact. 

“We continue to await a determination on the location of Space Command headquarters. If selected, Redstone Arsenal will welcome SPACECOM’s people and mission to our Federal Center of Excellence,” Redstone Arsenal Garrison Commander Col. Brian Cozine said.

Kendall has not announced a final decision in the eight months since the study concluded. In March 2023, he told the house appropriations subcommittee on defense that he had not made a decision and some analysis was still underway. 

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“The fact is, the Air Force already made the correct decision well over two years ago,” Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-AL-3, said. “I am deeply concerned that the continued delays in making this move final are politically motivated and damaging to our national security.”

On May 15, NBC News reported defense and congressional officials believed the Biden administration is working to halt approval for Huntsville because of Alabama’s abortion laws. Opposing the Pentagon’s policy of paid time off for abortions, Tuberville blocked Senate approval of more than 200 military nominations and promotions. The move may have worsened relations between Tuberville and the White House, though NBC’s unnamed sources said it is not responsible for the Space Force delay. 

The basing process recommended Huntsville due to workforce, schools, infrastructure, and cost. Bidding for the impact of the 1800-person staff, Redstone Arsenal advocates concur.

“We’re definitely one of the most military-friendly states that you can come by, as far as veterans or active-duty members on military installations,” Rob Green, director of communications for Ledbetter’s office said. “Redstone is set up to be able to support this very well. It would be a huge boost to the economy in north Alabama. With that comes defense contractors and everybody else, so it boosts the overall state’s economy.”

Space command is temporarily housed at Peterson Space Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colorado, sharing the base with the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. No other U.S. base houses three of the eleven combatant commands, though Tampa, Florida and Stuggart, Germany, house two each. 

“Moving it would cause a multiyear setback and a glaring gap in the armor that protects the United States and our allies. It must stay put and advance without obstruction,” the Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper, said in an editorial. “In desperation to gift his home state, Rogers openly wants Space Command to sit idle as our foes advance without delay. They, too, want a stagnant Space Command. They must feel half amused and fully emboldened by this political gamesmanship.”

The Department of Defense inspector general conducted a review of the basing process and concluded in May 2022 that the selection “complied with law and policy,” though a following Government Accountability Office review concluded the process was only minimally compliant with some best practices, undermining the credibility of the decision. 

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“The Administration’s delay risks politicizing a process which must remain fact-based. Injecting politics into America’s basing decisions serves to do unprecedented harm to our national security,” Rep. Dale Strong, R-AL-5, said. “The decision was later confirmed not just once, but twice with the results of the Government Accountability Office and Department of Defense Inspector General investigations. It is plain and simple: Redstone Arsenal is the best possible location to host U.S. Space Command headquarters.”

Samuel Stettheimer is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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