Two weeks after the announcement that U.S. Space Command headquarters would be leaving its temporary spot in Colorado Springs for a permanent home in Alabama, Colorado's congressional delegation has asked President Joe Biden to revisit the decision.
"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," Colorado's two senators and seven representatives stated in a January 26 letter to Biden. "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."
On January 13, the U.S. Air Force announced that it had chosen Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, for the permanent Space Command headquarters. The announcement caught elected officials, business leaders and space-industry insiders across Colorado by surprise; they'd been under the impression that the Air Force would choose Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, since it's the current, if temporary, home of Space Command headquarters and was one of six finalists for the permanent location.
From 1985 to 2002, the first iteration of Space Command was located in Colorado Springs before it was shut down by the George W. Bush administration. Midway through his presidency, Donald Trump announced that Space Command would be restarting; in late 2019, the combatant command, which coordinates space efforts among all of the U.S. military branches, opened its temporary headquarters in Colorado Springs. (Space Force, another product of the Trump administration, is a new branch of the U.S. military and is different from Space Command — but would fall under it in all space matters, like the other branches.)
While the Air Force had insisted that the hunt for a permanent Space Command location was objective, the search process was frequently linked to politics. In his race against John Hickenlooper, then-incumbent senator Cory Gardner heralded the Trump administration's announcement that Space Command would remain in Colorado on a temporary basis at least for the next six years, and hinted that the home could be named permanent. Gardner ended up losing his race to Democrat Hickenlooper; two months later, the Trump administration announced that Space Command would be heading to Alabama — where Republican Tommy Tuberville, a Trump supporter, had just won a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Following the headquarters announcement, John Suthers, the Republican mayor of Colorado Springs, said that he and other officials who'd lobbied for Space Command to stay in Colorado had heard from sources inside the Air Force that Colorado Springs had initially been chosen, and then Trump overrode the decision. "There are significant political connections between the president and the congressional delegation in Alabama and perhaps in hopes of how they may be of assistance to him in how this reveals itself," Suthers said that day.
Last week, the Colorado Economic Development Commission voted to allocate $30,000 to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs; the state agency had already contributed $20,000 to the cause. Whichever state ends up with Space Command headquarters will receive a long-term injection of jobs and economic activity.
Suthers believes that the new president can and should reverse the decision.
"Absolutely, the Biden administration has the ability to say that’s really stupid. Why should we be spending billions of dollars to do that when we’ve got an operational Space Command that’s acting in the interests of national security and the interest of the American taxpayers?" Suthers said at a press conference decrying the Alabama decision.
In the January 26 letter to Biden, Colorado's congressional delegation cites national security concerns and the fact that Colorado has a robust military-space infrastructure as arguments for their case. "Our national security should be the most important consideration for this critical basing decision," they write. "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."