Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond established Space Operations Command, the U.S. Space Force’s first of three Field Commands, during a ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Oct. 21, 2020. Lt. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting, who promoted earlier in the day, assumed command of the new unit. (U.S. Space Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong via DVIDS/Public domain)
The Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded that the January 2021 decision to move U.S. Space Command’s headquarters from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama, was reasonable and adequately followed the internal review process, according to a much anticipated report released Tuesday.
“Overall, we determined that the 2020 Basing Action process directed by the Secretary of Defense complied with Federal Law and DoD policy and that the process was reasonable,” Randolph Stone, the assistant inspector general for space, intelligence, engineering and oversight, wrote in the Office of Inspector General report’s opening memo.
The review into the basing decision was requested by Colorado’s congressional delegation shortly after President Joe Biden took office last year. They argued that the decision by former President Donald Trump to move Space Command headquarters to Alabama was politically motivated and have maintained that opinion.
The OIG report, however, did not find evidence of those accusations.
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The basing action was based on a process used to select the headquarters for Army Futures Command. During the evaluation phase of the basing plan, personnel assessed factors related to the location’s ability to support Space Command’s mission, its existing and potential capacity, the surrounding community and expected costs to the Defense Department. Those factors existed on a rubric with a total possible score of 100 points.
In that central phase, the top six candidates were Huntsville in first place, followed by Albuquerque, Bellevue, Cape Canaveral, Colorado Springs and San Antonio The redacted report does not specify the ranking of those five locations.
The following selection phase then included a qualitative comparison of those six top locations.
A Jan. 11, 2021, briefing to Trump that was created to be narrative-driven listed Colorado Springs as the top choice, according to reporting from Breaking Defense, which obtained an unredacted version of the report. That decision to push Colorado Springs came from SPACECOM leader Gen. James Dickinson, Space Force chief Gen. Jay Raymond, and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten.
Our position remains that the previous administration used a basing process for U.S. Space Command that was untested, lacked transparency, and neglected critical national security and cost considerations.
– Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper in a joint statement
A Jan. 12 decision document, however, goes on to identify Huntsville as the preferred permanent location. The report states that the briefing Trump received with Colorado Springs as the top choice was “not supportable” because it was not consistent with a less narrative-driven assessment tool personnel created and relied on.
A forthcoming report from the Government Accountability Office will also look at the basing selection process.
“The DoD OIG report confirms that the best military advice and first choice of our top commanders was to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs,” Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents Colorado Springs, said in a statement. “This report mainly focused on the chronology of the events and whether any nefarious or illegal actions occurred, while the forthcoming GAO report did a much deeper review of the criteria and scoring in this basing decision. With only a cursory review of the process itself, the DoD OIG’s conclusion that the previous basing decision was reasonable simply means that it was logical based on flawed evaluations.”
Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper said they are still reviewing the findings of the OIG report.
“Our position remains that the previous administration used a basing process for U.S. Space Command that was untested, lacked transparency, and neglected critical national security and cost considerations,” they said in a join statement. “Chief among those concerns is Peterson Space Force Base’s singular ability to reach Full Operational Capability as quickly as possible. Space Command should remain permanently based at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado.”
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