U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Harris, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” advance crew chief, assists U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Elliot, Thunderbirds commander and leader, after landing at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs in 2022. (Paul Honnick | U.S. Space Force)
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced on Monday it will headquarter U.S. Space Command in Colorado, a decision that rejects efforts made during the last administration to move the U.S. military facility to Alabama.
The decision comes as Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville continues to block senior military promotions from moving forward in the U.S. Senate over his objections to a Defense Department policy that would allow service members to travel for abortion access in some circumstances.
A senior administration official at the White House said in a statement that Biden has decided to “establish Colorado Springs as the permanent location of U.S. Space Command headquarters” after consulting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Biden’s decision to keep the headquarters in Colorado Springs hinged on the impacts a move to Alabama would have had on Space Command’s “operational readiness to confront space-enabled threats during a critical time in this dynamic security environment,” according to the senior administration official.
The headquarters will reach “full operational capability” before the end of August, the official said.
Moving Space Command’s headquarters to Alabama, the official said, would have required commanders to transition in the mid-2020s with the site not opening until the early to mid-2030s, the senior administration official said in a written statement.
Biden believed that risk “unacceptable, especially given the challenges we may face in the space domain during this critical time period,” the senior administration official said.
Colorado’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, celebrated the decision, saying their home state is the best location for the headquarters.
“Over the past two and half years, we have repeatedly made the case that the Trump Administration’s decision to relocate U.S. Space Command was misguided,” said Sen. Michael Bennet. “Today’s decision restores integrity to the Pentagon’s basing process and sends a strong message that national security and the readiness of our Armed Forces drive our military decisions.”
Colorado’s junior senator, John Hickenlooper, said the decision is in the nation’s best interest.
“After two investigations and rigorous review by the Department of Defense, the administration has made the decision that’s in our country’s best interest,” Hickenlooper said. “Most importantly, this decision firmly rejects the idea that politics — instead of national security — should determine basing decisions central to our national security.”
Colorado elected officials have advocated keeping Space Command in the state out of concerns for national security, and moving and building a new base from scratch in Alabama would be more time-consuming and costly to taxpayers, they say.
Military leaders have said Space Command could reach full operational capacity at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs much faster than it could anywhere else, with the lowest cost and disruption to their mission.
Space Command is currently located at Peterson Space 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.
The Trump administration decision was found to have “significant shortfalls in transparency and credibility” according to a Government Accountability Office report. In a separate report by the Defense Department Office of Inspector General, military officials were said to have recommended Colorado Springs as the preferred location but that the ultimate decision to relocate was justified.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said the decision to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs is “an exciting outcome.”
“I am grateful to the strong, bipartisan coalition of leaders from across Colorado who never wavered in our commitment to keeping Space Command in our state and national defense,” Polis said. “Colorado’s unique aerospace strengths provide the innovation and commitment to service necessary to ensure our national security, especially during such a critical moment.”
Alabama officials weren’t as pleased with the decision.
U.S. Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, rebuked Biden for deciding to leave the headquarters in Colorado Springs.
“The Biden administration’s shameful delay to finalize the permanent basing decision for U.S. Space Command warranted the opening of a Congressional investigation,” Rogers said.
“I will continue this investigation to see if they intentionally misled the Armed Services Committee on their deliberate taxpayer-funded manipulation of the selection process,” Rogers added. “I will continue to hold the Biden administration accountable for their egregious political meddling in our national security. This fight is far from over.”
Alabama Rep. Dale Strong said in a written statement that Huntsville, Alabama would have been “the best place for U.S. Space Command Headquarters.”
“It is shameful that the Biden Administration is ignoring what is best for our nation’s security and is instead using their woke agenda to make this decision,” Strong said. “If they think this will go away… they are wrong. I will ensure they have to explain their actions and answer our questions on the record.”
Washington, D.C. senior reporter Ashley Murray and Alabama senior reporter Ralph Chapoco contributed to this report.
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