Just over a month after the U.S. Air Force, in the last days of the Trump administration, said it would move Space Command from its current site in Colorado to a permanent location in Alabama, the Defense Department’s inspector general, under the Biden administration, is stepping in to review the decision.
The inspector general’s office announced Friday that it would conduct an “evaluation” of the Air Force’s process to select a permanent location of U.S. Space Command headquarters. The initial purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether the process complied with applicable policies, used objective and relevant candidate scoring factors, and accurately and consistently calculated comparative costs among the sites up for consideration.
The announcement was signed by Randolph R. Stone, assistant inspector general for evaluations for space, intelligence, engineering and oversight.
Space Command is currently located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, which was the site of a previous version of Space Command from 1985 to 2002, and the Air Force has conducted space operations from the site since. Space Command oversees the new Space Force branch of the military. When the Air Force last year began a selection process for a permanent Space Command headquarters site, Colorado was widely viewed as a top contender because it met many of the military’s criteria, such as cost, proximity to other associated military functions, access to a C-17 capable airfield, communications connectivity and other operational considerations. Peterson was named one of six finalists in November.
In January the Air Force announced it had selected Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, as Space Command’s permanent location due to its ability to support the command’s mission, its infrastructure and the cost to the Department of Defense. But many observers detected a political motive in the selection. Alabama’s six Republican U.S. House members voted a week before the selection to object to certifying the Electoral College results giving President Joe Biden a win over former President Trump. Republican Tommy Tuberville also beat incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, in Alabama’s Senate election in November. But in Colorado, Democrat John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Colorado voted for Biden.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican who represents the Colorado Springs area and who was otherwise an enthusiastic Trump ally, wrote a letter to then-President-elect Joe Biden asking him to reverse the Space Command decision. Lamborn said the decision amounted to arbitrarily shuffling Space Command around like a “political trophy.”
“This last-minute decision, based entirely on political expediency, will devastate our space capabilities,” he wrote.
Gov. Jared Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera greeted news of the inspector general’s evaluation with approval.
“The process was flawed and inconsistently evaluated each of the finalist locations,” they wrote in a statement. “Moving U.S. Space Command will disrupt the mission and risk our national security, threaten jobs and economic growth of our state and Southern Colorado. It’s clear that the decision to relocate U.S Space Command is fiscally irresponsible and would cost taxpayers money.”