GOP, Dem Reps Gang Up On Defense Officials Over Biden’s ‘Political’ Space Command Headquarters Pick

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Republicans and Democrats on Thursday blasted the Biden administration’s last-minute decision to keep Space Command (SPACECOM) headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which they said is motivated by politics rather than actual concerns over the readiness of forces assigned to the command.

The Air Force’s basing process determined Huntsville, Alabama — a red state — was the best place to relocate SPACECOM, which is responsible for all operations in space, from its provisional headquarters in Colorado Springs. Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers questioned President Joe Biden’s intervention in the decision, despite military leaders’ assessments that moving SPACECOM would not interrupt readiness at a hearing Thursday.

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama called the evidence for Huntsville’s superiority over Colorado Springs “overwhelming and undeniable.” (RELATED: ‘This Is Absolutely Not Over’: Alabama Republicans Blast Biden For Space Command Headquarters Pick)

“We’ve made a political decision over a competency decision. I know this administration strives for equity, strives to be fair, and this is simply unfair,” she said.

Biden’s reasoning for picking Colorado Springs came from Gen. James Dickinson, SPACECOM commander, who argued the moving process would hamper operations. He told Congress he was worried the trained civilian personnel supporting SPACECOM would refuse to relocate to Huntsville.

But Space Force, the military branch responsible for training and organizing forces that provide the vast majority of those assigned to SPACECOM, is not moving, Republican Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, who chairs the committee, emphasized.

“The Biden Administration has chosen to play politics with our national security,” Rogers said in his opening statement.

Moving SPACECOM to a permanent location in Huntsville “will not affect the readiness of U.S. space forces,” Rogers asked Gen. Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations, involving “very little operational risk.”

“Yes sir, those are my statements” Saltzman responded.

Rogers directed his frustration mainly at Dickinson. According to Rogers and Sewell, Dickinson told a delegation of Alabama lawmakers he would not recommend Colorado Springs as SPACECOM’s permanent location, which Rogers asked Dickinson to confirm.

Dickinson said physical construction of the headquarters, expected to take five years, would not have harmed readiness until the force, itself, transitioned to Huntsville, he said.

“You just skipped past my question. That is not a reason,” Rogers said.

“I had a misunderstanding with what was asked of me,” Dickinson said.

“That was a very clear question, and you know exactly what your answer was,” Rogers retorted.

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member, disagreed that politics played a decisive role in the decision. He accused the Department of Defense and Biden administration of displaying “a spectacular level of unacceptable indecision,” dragging out the process of choosing a SPACECOM headquarters for years.

“One of the main reasons that we are here today is that the Department, for reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, appears to have departed from the norms of the Air Force strategic basing process,” Smith said. “We have had an unnecessary, tortured, and opaque process that has resulted in confusion, anger, and doubt about both the process and the result.”

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he was informed that Biden would overrule his recommendation shortly before it was made, acknowledging the president doesn’t typically intervene in a basing decision.

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