After a 15-month process that questioned the methods by which Huntsville was chosen for the new Space Command headquarters, Pentagon officials on Tuesday said they found “no foul play” involved in the selection process, giving the Air Force the green light to move the SPACECOM HQ to Alabama.
Construction of the new headquarters in Huntsville is slated to start in 2023, pending an environmental study that is expected to finish next spring.
The controversy surrounding the new HQ
The Department of Defense’s newly published investigation report shows a battle pitting one city preferred by the military space establishment (Colorado Springs) against one that ranked higher in formal evaluations (Huntsville).
Redstone Arsenal fared better in an Air Force-led site search that began in 2018, but the service briefly pointed to Colorado Springs as its preferred location for SPACECOM HQ after military leaders voiced their concerns about Alabama.
The Air Force’s decision angered Colorado lawmakers and its business community, which touted Colorado Springs’s status as a longtime hub for military space operations and industry, and the current SPACECOM headquarters. They called for multiple investigations by the defense secretary, DoD inspector general and Government Accountability Office into the basing process.
The list of candidates included:
- Peterson SFB
- Redstone Arsenal
- Patrick SFB, Florida
- Offutt AFB, Nebraska
- Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
- Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
Those six possibilities were graded on their ability to meet the mission, their installation’s physical capacity, the surrounding community and cost, and Redstone came out with the highest grade.
What officials are saying about the decision
Several leaders and people involved in the process reacted to the Department of Defense’s decision Tuesday, including Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville.
According to an AL.com report, Brooks said the decision this week was “in the best interest of our national security,” and “yet another major victory for Redstone Arsenal, the Tennessee Valley and all of Alabama.”
DoD officials said the process was verified and that what needed to be considered was, in fact, considered.
“We verified that the process the Air Force used to make the preliminary selection complied with law and policy. However, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense review senior leader concerns regarding full operational capability and the Secretary of the Air Force ensure site selection criteria important to service members, veterans, and military families were fully considered,”Sean O’Donnell, Acting Inspector General, Department of Defense
“The bottom line of the report is that the Air Force’s process which led to the selection of Redstone as the best home for SPACECOM was rock solid,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville said in the AL.com report.