HASC chair: Space Command's temporary office is insecure. Officials: untrue
After White House scuttles move to Alabama, Rep. Rogers vows to keep SPACECOM from building a permanent HQ in Colorado.
Some of the temporary office space used by U.S. Space Command in Colorado is dangerously unsatisfactory, said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who nonetheless vowed to block the construction of a permanent headquarters because the White House scuttled a proposal to build it in his home state of Alabama.
Colorado Springs is “out of space,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said Thursday during a committee hearing. He said this has forced Space Command to lease an “abandoned, 41-year-old factory. Not on a military base, but nine and a half miles away from the base. Not in a secure area.”
The building has inadequate security systems to handle the highly classified systems Space Command relies on, Rogers said. A Space Command official said that’s not true.
The command is leasing two facilities outside of Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, and both have “the appropriate security systems in place to conduct the mission,” the spokesperson told Defense One after the hearing. The facilities meet the security requirements for the information and communications systems stored there, they said.
“These leases have always been intended as a bridge solution to a purpose-built headquarters facility,” the spokesperson said.
But these leased buildings might be more than a bridging solution. Rogers said he will withhold any money used to build a permanent headquarters in Colorado while the Department of Defense Inspector General investigates the Biden administration’s reversal of a Trump-era recommendation.
“I intend to work to make sure that no funds are authorized or extended to be spent in Colorado Springs for the building of a permanent headquarters,” the HASC chairman said.
Rogers said the headquarters needs “to be in a base” and the “competition that Huntsville, Alabama won” was going to put the building inside the Army’s Redstone Arsenal.
Peterson Air Force Base has been home to Space Command since the Trump administration turned the headquarters into a combatant command in 2019. Trump in 2021 said he called for the command to move to Redstone. Then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett made the same recommendation just one week before she resigned at the end of the Trump administration.
At the Thursday hearing, lawmakers rehashed the Alabama-versus-Colorado debate. They also grilled Pentagon officials on why this was a “horrible process” with a “spectacular amount of unacceptable indecision,” in the words of Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., HASC’s ranking member.
Keeping the command in Colorado wasn’t politically motivated and was intended to reduce operational risk, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said during the hearing, reiterating the Biden administration’s position. Officials also pointed to Space Command’s 60 percent civilian workforce, which the Pentagon fears they might lose if the command relocated.
Rogers said the argument that the command would lose operational readiness if the headquarters moved to Alabama is “just fabricated” and pointed to a letter he received from Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman. Saltzman concurred during the hearing that his letter said the location of the headquarters would not affect U.S. space forces' readiness.
The hearing provided more details on the timeline of the long-awaited decision. Rogers said his committee was told the decision would be left up to the Air Force secretary—but that Biden ended up making the decision.
Kendall was informed “shortly before” Biden made the decision that it would be out of his hands, he said, adding that the news came through the Defense Secretary’s office.
While it was “unusual” that both Trump and Biden were involved in this basing decision, Kendall said at the end of the day it was a “decision about operational risk versus cost. The president is the commander in chief. I’m not.”
Editor's note: The original version of this story mischaracterized what Gen. Chance Saltzman said about a letter he wrote. The story has been updated.
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