Frustrations brewing as Biden drags feet on Space Command basing decision

U.S. Space Command, the military’s newest unified combatant command, remains in a kind of limbo more than two years after then-President Donald Trump signed off on Huntsville, Alabama, to be its permanent home.

The command is currently housed in a temporary headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado and frustration is now brewing among Republican lawmakers, who say President Biden has dragged his feet on whether or not to proceed with the relocation to Alabama.

The command is tasked with coordinating the Pentagon’s role in space operations. Mr. Trump had selected Huntsville — home of the Redstone Arsenal Army post and the Marshall Space Flight Center — during the waning days of his administration. But the choice was effectively put on ice after he left the White House.

Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Doug Lamborn, both Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, agree that the Biden administration has allowed the question of the command’s permanent location to fester.

But one of the congressmen will not be happy when the choice is finally made. Mr. Rogers is part of Alabama’s congressional delegation, and wants the command moved to his home state, while Mr. Lamborn represents Colorado Springs and wants the command kept there at Peterson Space Force Base.

“It’s time that the Biden administration makes Colorado Springs the permanent location of U.S. Space Command based on national security, not politics,” Mr. Lamborn said Monday. “U.S. Space Command is months away from full operational capability at Peterson Space Force Base and any move would delay [that] by four to six years.”

The Colorado Republican added that the country can’t afford a delay in finalizing a permanent headquarters for the command, given threats posed by China and Russia in space.

“I urge the [Biden] administration to reverse the previous decision, which was based on a flawed review process, and act in the best interest of our national security,” Mr. Lamborn said.

Colorado Gov. Jard Polis, a Democrat, has lobbied heavily for Space Command to remain at Peterson in Colorado Spring and has argued that Mr. Trump’s plan to move the operation, and at least 1,500 jobs, to a reliably red state like Alabama, was based on partisan politics.

Mr. Rogers, however, says the government made the right call when it selected Huntsville after scrutinizing other choices, such as San Antonio, Texas, and Cape Canaveral in Florida — along with Colorado Springs. At the time, the Air Force said Huntsville was best suited based on several factors including infrastructure capacity, community support, and cost to the Defense Department.

“Moving expeditiously to locate [Space Command] headquarters at Redstone Arsenal is in our country’s best national security interests,” Mr. Rogers said Friday in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.

The Alabama Republican, who chairs the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee, said political appointees in the Biden administration are interfering in the Air Force’s delay in finalizing Space Command’s move to Huntsville. He cited an NBC news story that said the Biden administration may halt the movement plans over Alabama’s strict anti-abortion laws.

Mr. Rogers also said the Defense Department and the Air Force need to preserve any records dealing with the final selection of a location for U.S. Space Command.

Air Force Secretary Kendall has said state laws on issues like abortion or gay rights will have no impact on the decision of where to locate Space Command.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican who is outspoken on abortion issues, has also weighed in on the situation. He said on Twitter this week that attempts to derail Space Command’s move to Alabama are nothing but a case of “sore loser syndrome.”

“Huntsville was based on the Air Force’s selection criteria. And those criteria haven’t changed,” Sen. Tuberville wrote on the social media platform on Monday. “When politics isn’t a factor (Space Command) clearly belongs at Redstone Arsenal.”

Since February, Sen. Tuberville has been blocking the nominations of about 200 senior military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon in protest over the Defense Department’s abortion travel policy. Under the policy, the department covers travel costs for service members and their dependents who may cross state lines to get an abortion.

Sen. Tuberville’s office said there is no connection between the Space Command basing decision and his campaign to block nominations over the abortion policy.

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