WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) is wading into the contentious battle over the proposed relocation of U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama.
Rogers on May 19 released a letter he sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall requesting that they preserve all documentation concerning the selection of the command’s headquarters location.
Space Command is currently based at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado.
In the letter Rogers questioned “continued delays due to apparent politically motivated interference from the Biden administration.”
“The Air Force’s deleterious actions concerning the selection of a location for Space Command headquarters require the Committee to now seek document preservation in this matter,” Rogers wrote.
Rogers had largely stayed out of the fray over the past two years as Colorado lawmakers fought to reverse former president Trump’s decision to relocate Space Command’s headquarters from Colorado to Alabama.
The story took a turn last week with reports that the White House would halt plans to move the command to Alabama due to concerns about the state’s restrictive abortion law.
Rogers said “moving expeditiously to locate Space Command headquarters at Redstone Arsenal is in our country’s best national security interests.”
Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers have continued to push the administration to reverse the move and keep Space Command in Colorado Springs for national security reasons.
Space Command is responsible for providing satellite-based services to the U.S. military and for protecting those assets from foreign threats.
“I think that they are seriously reevaluating the decision to make sure that they have all facts considered,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told SpaceNews May 11. “So I view the delay as a good thing. It shows that they’re serious about making the decision.”
Lamborn said Space Command is just months away from reaching full-staffing levels, known as a “full operational capability.” Moving to a new state, building a new facility and getting all the infrastructure in place, “that’s disruptive,” he said.
“And the people that are doing the mission are not excited. I’m hearing that a lot behind the scenes, both from people in the defense industry and from people in the service.”
Kendall repeatedly has been questioned by lawmakers at recent congressional hearings but said the decision was still being reviewed and he expected to brief Austin on his recommendation.
The fight started soon after the Air Force proposed in the final days of the Trump presidency that Space Command be relocated from Colorado to Alabama. The recommendation resulted in two separate independent reviews, and back-and-forth arguments between congressional representatives from both states.
Colorado lawmakers alleged that the Trump administration improperly influenced the decision and that the Air Force’s basing process did not take into account senior military officials’ concerns that the relocation would add years to Space Command efforts to reach full operational capability as soon as possible.
Rogers noted in the May 19 letter that the Federal Records Act requires agencies to preserve all documentation regarding policies, decisions, procedures, and transactions.”
The Government Accountability Office at Lamborn’s request conducted a review of the basing decision and concluded in a June 2022 report that the process largely followed guidelines directed by the secretary of defense. But GAO also identified “significant shortfalls in its transparency and credibility.”
Although the Air Force documented the general rationale for selecting Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal in memorandums and documents, GAO noted, “there was no consensus among the officials we interviewed regarding who ultimately made the decision to name Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters, including the role of the then President in making the decision.”