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Colorado politicians, however, are not giving up.
“Sore loser syndrome” is preventing the nation’s space mission from “moving forward,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, hoping to keep alive the controversial Trump administration decision to move U.S. Space Command headquarters to his state.
In the final days of the Trump administration, Air Force officials announced that the headquarters would move from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala., and the January 2021 decision has faced scrutiny ever since. Lawmakers from Colorado immediately alleged that President Donald Trump improperly influenced the decision, something the former president seemed to own up to last August, when he said he “single-handedly said let’s go to Alabama.”
But now that investigations by the Pentagon’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office have concluded, Tuberville—one of six senators who sought to invalidate the 2020 presidential election—is urging his colleagues to move on and begin moving the military’s space architecture to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.
“I and others from Alabama have largely declined to engage in the public back and forth on this issue,” Tuberville wrote in the letter, which was shared exclusively with Defense One. “For the sake of national security and military readiness, I will strongly oppose further efforts to unnecessarily delay this critical move.”
Colorado politicians, however, are not giving up. On Tuesday, Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper met with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to argue that the Trump administration’s decision-making process “lacked transparency and ignored national security and cost concerns.”
“Any fair and well-informed process will conclude that Space Command should remain permanently based at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado,” the senators said in a statement.
The inspector general report released May 11 found that the decision-making process was “reasonable in identifying Huntsville, Alabama, as the preferred permanent location to host the USSPACECOM HQ,” but recommended that the defense secretary review concerns from senior military officials that basing the headquarters in Colorado Springs may allow it to reach “full operational capability” faster.
The GAO report was briefed to Congress this spring, but has not been publicly released. Tuberville quotes the report in his letter as saying that “Redstone Arsenal was the highest-scoring location in the Evaluation Phase, the highest-ranked location in the Selection Phase, and the location with the most advantages in the final decision matrix.” Colorado lawmakers, however, said the GAO’s findings have made them “even more concerned about the questionable decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama.”
Tuberville writes that it’s “time we embrace the Air Force’s decision and move forward together.”
“At this point, the biggest thing standing in the way of SPACECOM is political inertia and sore loser syndrome, each a detriment to U.S. military effectiveness,” writes Tuberville, who supported Republican efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results.
The effort to decide where to base U.S. Space Command began in 2019, when the Air Force selected six possible locations. But the next year, that process was thrown out and restarted after lawmakers complained that the Pentagon did not consider enough locations. The new process allowed cities to apply to be considered, and the Air Force ultimately evaluated locations in 26 states before selecting Redstone.
Huntsville is home to several government and commercial space entities, including NASA, Lockheed Martin, and United Launch Alliance. The rockets that first sent Americans to the moon were developed in Huntsville, and it is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center museum and U.S. Space Camp.
U.S. Space Command runs the military’s space operations, including tracking debris in orbit. It is different from the Space Force, which trains and equips troops and is based at the Pentagon with the other military service branch headquarters.