Lawmakers Urge Biden to Rethink USSPACECOM’s Move to Alabama

Colorado’s congressional delegation is pushing President Joe Biden to review the Trump administration’s recent decision to move U.S. Space Command headquarters to Huntsville, Ala., in a Jan. 26 letter signed by all nine senators and representatives.

After searching for two years on behalf of the Defense Department, the Air Force said earlier this month that Huntsville is its top choice to host the HQ, based on factors like infrastructure, community, and costs. Huntsville, home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, has only to pass an environmental review to finalize the decision.

The Jan. 13 announcement that SPACECOM is likely leaving Colorado Springs, Colo., for “Rocket City” in the South sparked protest among local and federal officials who thought remaining in Colorado was a done deal. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported the same day that the announcement followed a White House visit by then-Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett to tell former President Donald J. Trump that DOD would go with Colorado.

“Sources at the White House and the Air Force have confirmed the Air Force’s site selection team recommended the permanent headquarters be located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs,” said Lisa Landes, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. “President Trump ignored their recommendation and selected Redstone Arsenal.”

Now, lawmakers want Biden to pause any work underway to relocate the projected 1,500-person SPACECOM headquarters until the review is done.

They argue the command, which oversees daily combat operations of satellites, radars, and other space assets, will be most successful in the longtime military space hub of Colorado Springs, Colo. The area already hosts satellite communications operations and parts of Space Force leadership at Peterson Air Force Base, the National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base, and missile-warning systems at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, among other assets.

“Our national security should be the most important consideration for this critical basing decision,” lawmakers wrote. “This decision will uproot the service members and civilians currently conducting the mission in Colorado and remove them from the nexus of military and intelligence space operations. It will undermine our national security mission and our superiority in space.”

They worry many employees will decline to relocate to Alabama, and accused the Air Force of a faulty decision-making process with incomplete state data.

“This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission,” the letter said. “Significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision.”

Gen. James H. Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, speaks with retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, during a virtual Aerospace Nation Space Power Forum on Jan. 26, 2021.

SPACECOM boss Gen. James H. Dickinson said Jan. 26 that changing cities wouldn’t harm the command’s capabilities.

“No matter where we’re located, … we will do what we need to do to make sure that the mission is never [in] jeopardy,” he said during an AFA Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event.

If the Defense Department sticks with Huntsville as SPACECOM’s new home, the command will remain at Peterson as its interim headquarters for the next five years.

“There will be some time that we’ll need in order to construct the facilities and, quite frankly, modify them to fit our mission set, which … tends to be classified,” Dickinson said. “It’ll be several years before we see that.”