The United States Air Force on Wednesday is expected to officially announce that Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal has been chosen to host the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM).
Redstone was one of six finalists nationwide for the coveted HQ. Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base, Space Command’s current temporary headquarters, was one of the other five finalists, along with New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base, Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base and Texas’ Port San Antonio.
Alabama’s pitch was delivered last month, with the opening presentation coming from Governor Kay Ivey.
Space Command was approved by Congress in 2018, and President Donald Trump subsequently directed its elevation as the 11th functional Unified Combatant Command.
It is estimated that housing Space Command HQ could bring approximately 1,500 direct jobs to the Huntsville area, as well as further solidifying the Rocket City’s status as America’s preeminent hub for aerospace and defense. The headquarters will only further add to the synergy of private sector and governmental expertise in those critical sectors, which attracts further investment and growth, including from suppliers and subcontractors.
Huntsville’s pitch focused on North Alabama’s existing prowess in defense work, workforce, military friendliness and low cost of living, among other factors.
It is also believed that the leadership of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) was especially helpful to the Yellowhammer State’s bid. Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense, while Aderholt is a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. Alabama now also boasts the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03).
The construction cost of Space Command facilities in Huntsville could reach $1 billion or more, per prior estimates. It will take several years for the headquarters to be relocated from Colorado.
Ivey’s office advised that Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Instillations Bob Moriarity called the governor on Wednesday morning to inform her of Secretary Barbara Barrett’s Space Command Headquarters preferred candidate basing decision. It was also reported Wednesday that Barrett is set to step down from her post ahead of January 20.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command!” Ivey said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.
“Our state has long provided exceptional support for our military and their families as well as a rich and storied history when it comes to space exploration,” she added. “This combination only enhances the outstanding relationships we have with the 65 diverse federal agencies on Redstone Arsenal, not to mention the growing presence of the FBI and other federal installations. The bottom line is simple, the Redstone Region is the most natural choice to become home to such an important mission for our country.”
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) also applauded the decision in a statement.
“Alabama-made rockets first launched Americans into space and later carried them safely to the moon,” Ainsworth remarked. “Huntsville’s selection as the headquarters for the U.S. Space Command further solidifies Alabama as the national leader in aerospace research and development. We welcome Space Command to Huntsville with open arms and a good dose of southern hospitality.”
A formal announcement is expected at 2:00 p.m.
UPDATE 12:30 p.m.
Senator Shelby released a statement, confirming the news.
“Redstone Arsenal will be the new home to U.S. Space Command,” the statesman said. “This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force.”
“This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer,” he continued. “Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things. I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”
This comes after Shelby has advocated for the selection of Redstone Arsenal for the U.S. Space Command headquarters throughout the two-year competition period, having continually highlighted to the Air Force the wide-ranging benefits that Huntsville would provide, if selected.
Selection criteria for the headquarters reportedly included installation capacity, cost and timing, future U.S. Space Command components, and Department of Defense space installations.
Rep. Aderholt released a statement of his own, commenting, “This decision is not only a good one for North Alabama, but also good for America. Locating the United States Space Command in Huntsville is smart, because it’s already the center of much of our nation’s space, military and strategic command capabilities. It’s also located near Washington; just one hour and 15 minutes by plane. The area also has a high quality, low cost of living for those who will be stationed here as part of the Command.”
“Our space program was born, raised and came to greatness from Alabama soil. So, it’s only fitting that the next great incarnation on our leadership in space would be firmly planted here as well,” the dean of Alabama’s House delegation concluded.
UPDATE 12:50 p.m.
Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) released a statement, calling Huntsville and Space Command “a perfect fit.”
“Today’s historic announcement that the Redstone Arsenal will be home to the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Force Command is fantastic news for Huntsville, the Tennessee Valley region, and the entire state of Alabama,” the freshman senator stated. “I’m pleased that the site selection team recognized the obvious: Redstone and Space Command are a perfect fit.”
“Alabama is already widely recognized for its important contributions to our national defense, and this decision further elevates our state as a leader in space and defense technology. I applaud the work of the Huntsville community, State leaders, the Congressional delegation, and especially my colleague Sen. Richard Shelby, for helping make this decision a reality,” he added.
Tuberville concluded, “There will be a lot of work to do in the years ahead to turn today’s announcement into a reality on the ground, and I look forward to working closely with state and local leaders, Alabama’s Congressional delegation, and the Department of Defense to fully and efficiently implement this basing decision. It will be one of my top priorities.”
UPDATE 3:15 p.m.
Rep. Rogers released a statement.
“I applaud the decision by the Air Force to select Redstone Arsenal as the new home of the U.S. Space Command,” he stated. “Alabama has long been home to our nation’s premiere defense and civilian space assets. This decision by the Air Force makes sense given all the equities in Alabama. Defending our country against threats from our enemies takes a national effort. I am proud of the role Alabama plays in this overall effort.”
Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong also reacted to the announcement in a statement.
“Once again, the selection of Redstone Arsenal for US Space Command demonstrates what regional partnerships can do when we collectively work together to reach our goals,” Strong outlined. “This objective process by the Department of Defense, and in the best interest of national security, thoroughly and objectively reviewed workforce, transportation, force protection, and quality of life. I congratulate all of our local, state, and federal leaders from Alabama, particularly United States Senator for Alabama Richard Shelby for his leadership and work to bring Space Command to Alabama, along with our neighbors in Tennessee that have worked together to prove Redstone Arsenal is the true and best choice for the United States Space Command Headquarters.”
You can read the official Air Force announcement here.
This is breaking news and will be updated.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn