The Department of Defense’s inspector general on Friday announced it is probing the Air Force’s decision announced last month to make Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command.
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.
Leaders in Colorado have decried the decision, after seemingly assuming all along that the Air Force would ultimately keep the headquarters at Peterson on a permanent basis. Elected officials in Colorado recently began a public lobbying campaign for the President Joe Biden White House to reverse the Air Force’s decision.
Now, the DoD inspector general’s office is officially investigating whether the decision complied with Air Force and Pentagon policy and whether it was based on proper evaluations of competing locations.
However, Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) on Monday released a statement welcoming the review.
“Alabama welcomes the Inspector General’s review of the decision to name the Redstone Region the preferred location for the permanent headquarters for Space Command, a decision made after a thorough review, and a selection process was conducted,” she said.
The Air Force has already outlined, “The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.”
“Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs,” the Air Force continued in a written press release. “Additionally, Redstone Arsenal offered a facility to support the headquarters, at no cost, while the permanent facility is being constructed.”
Affirming this reality, Ivey on Monday added, “Our state was chosen based on merit, and an independent review of a decision of this magnitude will confirm this. We remain confident that just as the Air Force discovered, Huntsville’s Redstone Region will provide our warfighters with the greatest space capability at the best value to the taxpayers.”
Space Command was approved by Congress in 2018, and then-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.
The Air Force anticipates making its decision final in spring 2023, pending the results from the required environmental impact analysis — which is normally considered a formality at the end of these types of federal basing competitions.
It is expected to take six years for the Space Command HQ to be relocated to Redstone from the temporary Colorado setup.
“Alabama has played an integral role throughout the history of our nation’s defense and civil space programs,” Ivey concluded. “Deep Space Exploration is part of our DNA in Alabama, from building the rockets to first take man to the moon, to producing the Atlas V rocket that took the Perseverance Rover to Mars just last week! Alabama is winning on every page when it comes to furthering our nation’s space exploration and defense and we are a natural fit for the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command.”
Importantly, the Air Force’s decision is also being backed by current Pentagon leadership, even after the change in presidential administrations.
This includes Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a spokesperson said on Monday.
“Secretary Austin has communicated to Air Force leaders that he supports their decision-making process about the preferred location of Space Command headquarters,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stated.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn