The flag of the US Space Command is presented during a ceremony for the establishment of the command in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Washington.
President Joe Biden has decided that the headquarters of US Space Command will remain in Colorado and not move to Alabama, two US officials told CNN on Monday, reversing a decision by then-President Donald Trump.
US Space Command, which is a joint command and separate from the US Space Force military branch, is currently housed in Colorado Springs, but the Air Force recommended near the end of Trump’s presidency that the command be moved to Huntsville, Alabama.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall recently recommended to Biden that the headquarters be moved to Alabama in line with the initial Air Force recommendation, according to two US officials. Former Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett also chose Huntsville as the preferred location for SPACECOM headquarters in 2021.
But Biden ultimately followed the advice of the head of Space Command, Gen. James Dickinson, who argued that the headquarters should remain in Colorado because it will be fully operational in August and moving it now would jeopardize military readiness, one official said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did not make a recommendation, but presented Biden with both Kendall and Dickinson’s advice.
Following the announcement, Kendall said he will “fully support” the president’s decision. “The Department of the Air Force will now work expeditiously to implement the decision,” he said.
The move is sure to anger Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who is continuing a hold on senior military nominations that is now impacting more than 300 flag and general officers over the Pentagon’s abortion policy. Tuberville has been an outspoken proponent of moving SPACECOM to Alabama. But US officials have previously told CNN that they had concerns about Alabama’s reproductive health policies and what it would mean for servicemembers there if SPACECOM were moved to Huntsville.
The Department of Defense informed Tuberville’s office and the rest of the Alabama congressional delegation of the decision Monday afternoon before the news was announced publicly, an administration official said.
Tuberville said the decision was a “disastrous” choice and called it “shameful” that the Biden administration announced its decision while Congress was on recess.
“This is absolutely not over,” Tuberville said in a statement. “I will continue to fight this as long as it takes to bring Space Command where it would be best served—Huntsville, Alabama.”
The US official said that several issues factored into Biden’s decision, including “quality-of-life for servicemembers and families, including quality of schools and military housing.” But the official said “the most significant factor considered was impact to operational readiness to confront space-enabled threats during a critical time in this dynamic security environment.”
Alabama’s congressional delegation expressed outrage at the decision on Monday.
Republican Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama said in a statement that Biden “irresponsibly decided to yank a military decision out of the Air Force’s hands in the name of partisan politics.”
“I am outraged to hear that the Secretary of the Air Force allowed politics to circumvent his, and the Department of Defense’s, own basing selection process that determined Huntsville, Alabama as the preferred location of SPACECOM,” Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama tweeted.
Huntsville is currently the home of the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, which includes the service’s Space and Missile Defense Command. Colorado Springs is home to Peterson Space Force Base, previously known as Peterson Air Force Base.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado and chair of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, hailed Biden’s decision to keep Space Command headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base, calling it “the most viable option” and the “best permanent home” for the military’s newest combatant command.
“We live in dangerous times and we do not have the luxury of starting over with the headquarters in another location,” said Lamborn in a statement Monday. “National security is too critical to allow for any delays.”
The Associated Press first reported the news Monday.
The decision sparked a fierce debate among lawmakers who demanded Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall decide where the permanent base would be. Current text of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which has not yet been passed into law, would require Kendall to submit a decision before the Air Force could access funds for construction on SPACECOM headquarters.
Tuberville has advocated for the move to Huntsville, saying it is “the best place” for SPACECOM. He also said in a video released in June that Biden was looking to “buy votes with our national security” by keeping the command in Colorado.
This story has been updated with additional developments.