Where Will Space Command Land? Expect a Decision ‘Fairly Soon’
Air Force secretary says Colorado-vs.-Alabama choice is imminent.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says he will decide “fairly soon” where to put U.S. Space Command headquarters, which may end a years-long, highly political debate over its potential move from Colorado to Alabama.
The service is conducting further analysis because “we want to make very sure that we got this right,” Kendall told reporters on Tuesday at an Air Force Association conference in Colorado.
A recommendation to move the command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville was made by then-Air Force Secretary Secretary Barbara Barrett just one week before she resigned at the end of the Trump administration.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have closely questioned the service.
At a Wednesday hearing, Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, wondered whether Space Command could reach full operational capability if it moved to Alabama.
Gen. James Dickinson, head of U.S. Space Command, responded, “we're on the glide path right now moving aggressively towards full operational capability in the provisional headquarters and infrastructure that I have in Colorado Springs right now...and so as we move with resourcing, of both infrastructure as well as people, which are the most important part of the command, we're moving in that direction.”
Last May, the Pentagon’s inspector general concluded that the decision-making process to move Space Command’s headquarters to Alabama was “reasonable,” but said that the defense secretary should review assertions by military officials that staying in Colorado could help the command reach full capability sooner.
Following the inspector general report and an investigation by the Government Accountability Office, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., wrote a letter in 2022 urging his fellow senators to OK the relocation of Space Command to his state and “embrace the Air Force’s decision and move forward together.” (In 2021, Tuberville voted to overturn presidential election results.)
However, almost a year later, other senators are still not sold. At a Senate Armed Services hearing on Thursday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., noted that the Missile Defense Agency lost 80 percent of its workforce when it moved to Alabama in 2005.
The uniformed troops who make up roughly 38 percent of the command’s workforce will move if so ordered, Dickinson responded. But as for the 62 percent who are DOD civilians—a proportion that jumps to 80 percent if contractors are included—“there’s really no way to know” how many would move, he said.
“Lots of those folks are a great civilian workforce. They have made life choices and that's why they live, for example, in Colorado Springs. The military — we’re soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians—if told to move, we’ll move,” he continued.
Dickinson said both Colorado Springs and Huntsville have a talent pool of space professionals who could support the command.
He added that at least part of Space Command isn’t going anywhere: subordinate units that “fly” the satellites will stay put. “The only part of that basing decision that's under review right now for a decision to relocate is the headquarters,” he said.
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