Colorado lawmakers are unhappy with the Air Force's decision to move U.S. Space Command's headquarters to the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. The service announced its choice Wednesday.
SPACECOM, which was reactivated in August 2019, has been temporarily housed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. It will remain the "provisional location" until facilities at Redstone are ready, according to the Air Force.
But Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper don't see a reason to move SPACECOM when their state already offers a robust, space-focused infrastructure with multiple bases -- including nearby Schriever Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station -- supporting the military's mission.
"We are deeply disappointed the Trump administration is trying to move Space Command from Colorado to Alabama," the senators said in a joint statement Wednesday. "We do not believe this decision reflects the best choice, or even a rational choice, for our national security and ability to confront threats in space."
In November, the service selected six candidate locations to host SPACECOM. The bases included Redstone; Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Patrick Air Force Base, Florida; Port San Antonio at Kelly Field, Texas; and Peterson in Colorado.
While Redstone is the service's preferred location, the Air Force said in a separate release that the other locations remain reasonable alternatives until an environmental impact analysis on Redstone is complete. The final decision is expected in 2023, according to the release.
In addition to Redstone, Huntsville, sometimes known by the nickname "The Rocket City," hosts the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the Missile Defense Agency, Army Space and Missile Command, Army Aviation and Missile Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency/Missile and Space Intelligence Center.
Last month, Bennet, Hickenlooper and other local officials sent a letter urging President Donald Trump to keep the command in Colorado. The senators also cited reports that it had been the "Air Force's top choice" until Trump personally got involved.
"We are concerned by rumors that the Trump White House influenced this decision for political reasons," Bennet and Hickenlooper said. "We will work closely with the Colorado delegation to ensure the Biden administration reviews this purported decision. We believe a process based on the merits will keep Space Command in Colorado. There is no role for politics when it comes to our national security."
An Air Force spokesperson told Military.com on Thursday that while Trump was involved, he did not "override" the decision, as some news outlets have reported.
During a typical basing decision process, multiple officials are consulted, including local commanders and those involved in discerning the mission worthiness of a particular location, the spokesperson explained.
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, the decision-making authority, was required to keep top brass and other leaders at the Pentagon and the White House informed on the process. Last week, she presented her analysis during a meeting with members of the military's National Command Authority, which includes Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Barrett chose Redstone Arsenal following that meeting, the spokesperson said.
SPACECOM is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force, the newest military branch, organizes and trains space personnel. Like the other military branches, the Space Force has its headquarters at the Pentagon.
The process to find a location for SPACECOM started in spring 2019 but faced pushback from lawmakers who believed the Defense Department was not being transparent enough about its selection. In May 2020, the Pentagon directed the Air Force to go back to the drawing board to find its permanent home.
Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Huntsville, said that, while the final decision is still years away, it could become a partisan issue now that the Democrats have control of both houses of Congress and the White House.
"I hope the Biden/Harris administration will not duplicate the overall approach of the Obama/Biden administration, wherein all-too-often the answers to questions such as this were: 'Blue state: YES! Purple state: Likely or maybe. Red state: Unlikely or NO!'" he said, as reported by AL.com.
"Partisan politics should not play a role in national security. Time will tell what happens in a red state when the federal government is totally dominated by Democrats," Brooks said.