Officials in Colorado Springs are slamming the Trump administration’s decision to move U.S. Space Command from its temporary location in their city to Alabama claiming the move was based on President Trump’s “personal interest,” but Fox News has learned that Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett made the final decision.
The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday announced that Space Command’s headquarters would be officially moved to Huntsville, Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal, after an intense lobbying battle between six finalists—which included Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
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“We’re extremely disappointed and concerned with the decision—and it appears to be influenced by personal politics,” Dirks Draper, the president of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp., which managed the campaign for the city of Colorado Springs to keep Space Command.
Draper told Fox News that the process was “unprecedented” due to the competitive nature of the decision-making.
“The military always makes decisions based on military criteria, what is compatible for resources, and military alignment,” Draper said, adding that it would be “interruptive” to move Space Command from its temporary headquarters.
“We are at risk of interrupting the missing of guarding the space domain by relocating it,” Draper told Fox News. “It doesn’t make sense that they would go to another community and rebuild, or duplicate infrastructure that is already here in Colorado Springs—there is no reason for it, from a logistics, or national security standpoint.”
And Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers slammed the move as a “politically motivated decision.”
“If looked at objectively, in terms of the cost of moving and stability of Space Command and national security, it makes no sense whatsoever— in interest of national security or the American taxpayer,” Suthers told Fox News.
Draper and Suthers also told Fox News that the Air Force had advised Trump to keep Space Command in their city.
But a source familiar told Fox News that the president left the decision up to Air Force Secretary Barrett.
On Monday, Barrett, along with the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, John Henderson, went to the White House to meet with the president and other senior administration officials to discuss where the new home of Space Command should be, said two Defense officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the meeting.
The officials told Fox News that Barrett carried with her the “detailed analysis,” which included the recommendation.
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“The analysis put Redstone on top,” the official told Fox News of the Redstone Arsenal, located in Huntsville, dubbed the “Rocket City” for its association with space.
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile command, US. Missile Defense Agency as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency’s missile and space intelligence center are some of the space operations located in Huntsville.
The Saturn V rocket, which took the first Americans to the moon, was developed at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville in the 1960s. The aerospace industry has remained a major component of northern Alabama’s economy in the decades since.
But the prospect of leaving Colorado will not be easy for thousands of Air Force personnel and contractors who have called the Rocky Mountains home for decades. Over 18,000 people are based at the combined Peterson-Schriever Garrison, the current home of U.S. Space Command, according to Air Force officials.
“Our space people grew up in Colorado, that’s their home,” one Air Force official said. “It’s where all our space stuff is.”
The garrison brings in an estimated $2.6 billion annually to Colorado Springs, Colo., according to the base website.
The official said that in the short term, it makes sense for U.S. Space Command to remain in Colorado Springs, but admitted the facilities in the area are “very full.”
There would be more opportunity to expand in Huntsville, another official told Fox News.
Another official added that some of the analysis pointed to long-term gains for Air Force families in Alabama, including schooling and other areas of child development.
It could be up to six years before U.S. Space Command finds a new home due to the environmental impact study that needs to be launched, the Air Force says.
U.S. Space Command was brought back into existence last year for the first time since being de-activated in 1982. Between 1982 and 2019, all Air Force space units had been moved under U.S. Strategic Command, which runs America’s nuclear arsenal. Early warning satellites detect missile launches all over the world and reconnaissance satellites routinely photograph military hardware from countries such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. Most of the Air Force’s space units have been based in Colorado, where many lawmakers and the Air Force brass had hoped it would stay.
The other finalists included Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado; Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; Patrick Air Force Base in Florida; and Port San Antonio in Texas.
Sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes dynamic told Fox News that Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who until this past week was the Senate Appropriations chairman, made the headquarters a major focus of his negotiations during the appropriations process in the Senate.
Rep. Mo Brooks, in whose district the headquarters will be located, freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville, and Cliff Sims, a senior intelligence official and former Trump aide, also an Alabama native, all made direct pitches to the White House and the Pentagon in favor of Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal, the sources said.
A source familiar with the situation also told Fox News that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, among others, made direct pitches to the president in an attempt to win the headquarters for their states.
The move to Alabama has been seen as an early win for freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., one of the 13 GOP senators that contested Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.
It is unclear if the incoming Biden administration supports the move to Alabama.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper had ordered the Air Force to start from scratch with its assessment of finding a home for U.S. Space Command after his experience finding a permanent headquarters for the Army’s Futures Command. Some officials say a new Air Force secretary in the Biden administration could order something similar.
But according to officials, no money has been spent to move the command to Alabama so far.
But Colorado officials told Fox News their push to keep Space Command in their temporary location is “absolutely not over.”
Draper told Fox News that he wants the Biden Transition Team to be “aware of this,” so that they can “suspend, evaluate and reverse.”
Draper said he hoped that the Biden team would “suspend all further activity on this,” and review the Air Force recommendations and “unaltered documents,” while considering any “influence and impact the president had on the decision.”
“And if warranted, reverse this decision,” he said.
And Suthers added: “I would ask Congress and the incoming Biden administration to dig deep, get the actual documents generated by Air Force personnel doing site selection work, and then get to the bottom of what the president’s role in this was.”