Request Follows the Trump Administration’s Last-Minute Choice to Move U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama
Washington D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and the entire Colorado Congressional Delegation urged President Joe Biden to suspend the Trump Administration's decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama until the administration conducts a thorough review.
On January 13, the Air Force announced that Huntsville, Alabama, would be the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command. Following this announcement, reports surfaced that President Donald Trump politicized the process, choosing to relocate U.S. Space Command from its provisional headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In a letter to President Biden, the lawmakers detailed how the Trump Administration’s announcement raises questions of national security, personnel, and undue political influence. They also describe the seemingly arbitrary changes to the selection process and the lack of transparency and sufficient data to justify the relocation decision.
“Our national security should be the most important consideration for this critical basing decision. This decision will uproot the servicemembers and civilians currently conducting the mission in Colorado and remove them from the nexus of military and intelligence space operations,” wrote the lawmakers. “It will undermine our national security mission and our superiority in space. Colorado is home to unique military and intelligence space assets and is the point of military and intelligence operational space integration.”
Despite the abnormalities in the process, Colorado Springs stood out as the clear choice to serve as the permanent home for U.S. Space Command. Colorado Springs is home to significant existing space missions, one of the largest private aerospace industries in the country, and a strong community of servicemembers, veterans, and their families. Before the recent announcement, these factors were thought to heavily favor Colorado as the best choice for U.S. Space Command’s permanent home.
“In view of the effects on national security and the irregularities of the selection process, we request you pause all actions related to moving U.S. Space Command and immediately review the manner in which the Trump Administration conducted this process,” they continued.
In 2019, Bennet and former U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) led the Colorado delegation in writing to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and to Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan and Commander of U.S. Space Command General Jay Raymond to emphasize what Colorado offers to be the permanent home of U.S. Space Command. Bennet and Gardner also published an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette advocating for the basing decision. Following the White House’s official announcement of the creation of U.S. Space Command in August 2019, the entire Colorado Congressional Delegation reiterated their call to re-establish the headquarters in Colorado. In the original basing decision process, of the six possible locations that the Air Force named, four were in Colorado: Peterson Air Force Base (AFB), Schriever AFB, Buckley AFB, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. In the fall of 2019, the Air Force named Peterson AFB the temporary home to U.S. Space Command.
In December 2019, Bennet met with Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and spoke with the Commander of U.S. Space Command General John W. Raymond to discuss the importance of a focus on national security space and to reiterate his support for basing Space Command in Colorado.
In May 2020, the Air Force announced a new basing decision process that evaluated self-nominating communities, like Aurora and Colorado Springs, on their ties to the military space mission, existing infrastructure capacity, community support, and cost to the Air Force. The Air Force also announced Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs would remain the provisional location of the command until 2026. Later in May, Bennet and Gardner wrote a letter to Polis calling for him to support military spouse licensure reciprocity in the state, which Polis then signed into law in July 2020. Spouse licensure reciprocity was a component of the Air Force’s evaluation of each nominating state’s support for military families. Following passage of Colorado House Bill 20-1326, the entire Colorado Congressional Delegation, Polis, and Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Barrett to highlight the new Colorado law and further demonstrate that Colorado is the best state to serve as the permanent home of the U.S. Space Command.
In June 2020, Bennet welcomed Polis’ endorsement of the self-nomination of both the Aurora and Colorado Springs communities to compete to be the permanent home for U.S. Space Command. At the end of August 2020, the Aurora and Colorado Springs communities submitted their questionnaire responses to the Department of the Air Force completing the next step in the basing process.
In August 2020, Bennet visited Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB for an update on the U.S. Space Command mission and stand up. He also met with General Dickinson, who assumed command in August, and learned about advancements at the National Space Defense Center.
In November 2020, the Air Force announced Colorado Springs as a finalist for the U.S. Space Command headquarters.
In December 2020, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined more than 600 state, federal, local, county and municipal officials, businesspeople, philanthropists, civic leaders, military officials, entrepreneurs and Coloradans from across the state in a letter urging Trump to keep the Command in the Centennial State.
In January, following the relocation announcement, Bennet and Hickenlooper released a statement denouncing the decision and expressing concern that the Trump White House influenced the decision for political reasons.
The text of the letter is available HERE and below.
Dear President Biden:
We write to request you conduct a thorough review of the Trump Administration’s last-minute decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama and suspend any actions to relocate the headquarters until you complete the review. This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission. Additionally, significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision.
Congress re-established U.S. Space Command in 2018. The Air Force began the selection process in 2019, conducting site visits and environmental reviews. In May 2019, the Air Force announced six finalists: Peterson Air Force Base (AFB), Schriever AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and Buckley AFB in Colorado; Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, and Vandenberg AFB in California. In August 2019, the Air Force re-established U.S. Space Command and named Peterson AFB the provisional headquarters until 2026. Notably, Peterson AFB was the home of U.S. Space Command from 1985 to 2002. The finalists expected the final basing decision in October 2019. By the end of 2019, however, the selection process inexplicably slowed, and by March 2020, the Air Force announced it would redo the process with new methodology and criteria, which represented a significant departure from the standard Air Force strategic basing decision process. The Air Force cited the creation of the Space Force as the ostensible reason for disregarding months of work and starting anew. On January 13, 2021, with one week left in President Trump’s term, the Air Force announced the decision to move U.S. Space Command to Huntsville. Before the Air Force even announced its decision, Alabama press and politicians indicated that the Administration intended to move U.S. Space Command to Huntsville.
National Security. Our national security should be the most important consideration for this critical basing decision. This decision will uproot the servicemembers and civilians currently conducting the mission in Colorado and remove them from the nexus of military and intelligence space operations. It will undermine our national security mission and our superiority in space. Colorado is home to unique military and intelligence space assets and is the point of military and intelligence operational space integration. Colorado served as the original home of U.S. Space Command from 1985 to 2002 and became the home of the Joint Forces Space Component Commander and Air Force Space Command. The National Space Defense Center (NSDC) at Schriever AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and the satellite communication capabilities at Peterson AFB represent the nation’s premier military and intelligence space coordination entities. It is not an accident these entities are co-located. The NSDC’s recent budget justification underscores that the Air Force appreciates the national security benefits of the proximity. The communications infrastructure in the Colorado Springs area -- unlike Huntsville -- is specifically designed to support the space mission. The national security benefits of co-locating Space Command with these existing missions and communications infrastructure is critical to our superiority in space.
Personnel. As a command with a higher percentage of civilians than military personnel, the government may have to offer incentives to bring people along. Historically, there can be high rates of attrition when organization and programs move. For instance, roughly 80 percent of the Missile Defense Agency civilian employees declined to relocate when it moved from the Washington, D.C., area to Huntsville, Alabama. This is not a risk the space mission can afford.
Political Influence. The Department of Defense must also review reports of political influence in this two-year process. At the outset, it is unclear why there was a basing process to reestablish a command with an existing and concentrated mission that was rehatted. In addition, it is unclear why the Air Force slowed and eventually stopped its standard strategic basing process in 2019. Certain press reports have suggested this was done due to requests from various Members of Congress who argued their state should have been included in the process. Finally, there is evidence President Trump’s political considerations influenced the timing and final decision.
Lack of Transparency. The process lacked transparency regarding state and local incentives. While the Air Force claimed the process was based on specific criteria, we understood it also considered incentive packages that states and communities offered. This created significant ambiguity in community presentations that the previous Administration never made public. This prevented clear, public evaluation of the scoring criteria. Similarly, since May, the Air Force has told our staff it was using a detailed point system to evaluate the bases. Our understanding, however, is the final decision was made with a +/- baseline evaluation scale rather than a point system. The seeming inconsistencies raise concerns about how the previous Administration rendered the final decision.
Lack of Sufficient Data. In June 2020, the Air Force published their “Support to Military Families Report.” This provided a ranking of every Air Force base in the nation based on how well they support military families. The report examined schools surrounding the bases and the state’s spouse licensure reciprocity laws. In vetting the ratings, Colorado identified several concerns with the report’s analysis. For instance, the authors used an incomplete state dataset to calculate the student learning rate and omitted the measure of grade-level attainment. It also failed to account for the state’s extended graduation timelines to ensure students are college and career ready. Assuming these flaws are explainable, the Air Force didn’t even include Army base Redstone Arsenal in this report. It is therefore not clear how the Air Force evaluated Huntsville’s ability to support military families.
Colorado Springs is already home to critical space assets and missions: the National Space Defense Center, U.S. Northern Command, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Ninety miles north, Buckley AFB hosts the National Reconnaissance Office’s Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado. Colorado is now home to eight of the nine current Space Force Deltas. Our state also boasts the nation’s largest aerospace economy on a per capita basis and has demonstrated an unfailing commitment to servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
In view of the effects on national security and the irregularities of the selection process, we request you pause all actions related to moving U.S. Space Command and immediately review the manner in which the Trump Administration conducted this process.
We would also be happy to meet with you to discuss this in further detail.