August 2nd, 2023
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has decided to keep U.S. Space Command headquarters in Colorado, overturning a last-ditch decision by the Trump administration to move it to Alabama. The choice ended months of thorny deliberations, but an Alabama lawmaker vowed to fight on.
U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Monday that Biden was convinced by the head of Space Command, Gen. James Dickinson, who argued that moving his headquarters now would jeopardize military readiness. Dickinson’s view, however, was in contrast to Air Force leadership, who studied the issue at length and determined that relocating to Huntsville, Alabama, was the right move.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of Biden’s rationale for the decision.
In announcing the plans, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said the decision was based on an “objective and deliberate process informed by data and analysis.” He said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin supported the president’s decision.
Reaction to the decision came fast and was sharply divided, as Colorado lawmakers praised it and Alabama officials slammed it as a political maneuver. “This fight is far from over,” warned Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Biden, said the U.S. officials, believes that keeping the command in Colorado Springs would avoid a disruption in readiness that the move would cause, particularly as the U.S. races to compete with China in space. And they said Biden firmly believes that maintaining stability will help the military be better able to respond in space over the next decade. Those factors, they said, outweighed what the president believed would be any minor benefits of moving to Alabama.
Biden’s decision enraged Alabama lawmakers and is sure to fuel accusations that abortion politics played a role in the choice. The location debate has become entangled in the ongoing battle between Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville and the Defense Department over the move to provide travel for troops seeking reproductive health care. Tuberville opposed the policy is blocking hundreds of military promotions in protest.
The U.S. officials said the abortion issue had no effect at all on Biden’s decision. And they said the president fully expected there would be different views on the matter within the Defense Department.
Tuberville, in a statement, said the top three choices for Space Command headquarters were all in Republican-leaning states — Alabama, Nebraska and Texas — and bypassing them “looks like blatant patronage politics.”
Formally created in August 2019, the command was temporarily based in Colorado, and Air Force and Space Force leaders initially recommended it stay there. In the final days of his presidency Donald Trump decided it should be based in Huntsville.
The change triggered a number of reviews.
Proponents of keeping the command in Colorado have argued that moving it to Huntsville and creating a new headquarters would set back its progress at a time it needs to move quickly to be positioned to match China’s military space rise. And Colorado Springs is also home to the Air Force Academy, which now graduates Space Force guardians, and more than 24 military space missions, including three Space Force bases.