Air Force picks Army's Redstone Arsenal as preferred alternative for SPACECOM HQ

By Courtney Albon / January 13, 2021 at 3:17 PM

The Air Force has selected the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL, as the preferred location to host U.S. Space Command headquarters.

The announcement comes more than a year after the command was formally reestablished in August 2019 and follows a prolonged selection process restarted in May due to a lack of transparency.

Politico first reported the news of Alabama's selection.

The service in November announced Alabama as one of six candidate locations, including: Kirtland Air Force Base, NM; Offutt AFB, NE; Patrick AFB, FL; Peterson AFB, CO; and Port San Antonio, TX.

In a press release today, the Air Force said it conducted virtual and on-site visits as part of its selection process, considering factors like infrastructure capacity, community support, mission and cost.

"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 service said, noting that Redstone Arsenal has offered a facility to host the headquarters at no cost while a permanent structure is being built.

The remaining five locations will remain as preferred alternatives until the decision is finalized, which the press release says is expected to occur in 2023, following the completion of an environmental impact statement. In the meantime, Colorado Springs will continue to serve as SPACECOM's provisional headquarters.

Alabama is home to some of Congress' most influential voices on issues related to space. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) was one of the biggest proponents of creating the Space Force and reestablishing SPACECOM and is the incoming minority leader of the House Armed Services Committee. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has been vocal in space launch and budget decisions from his role as chairman of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) gave a shoutout to Shelby and Rogers as well as Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) for playing key roles in advocating for the state in the selection process.

"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," Ivey said in a statement. "The bottom line is simple, the Redstone region is the most natural choice to become home to such an important mission for our country."

Shelby said in a statement today he is “thrilled” with the Air Force’s selection and the “vast economic impact this will have on Alabama.”

Today's announcement comes as part of a revised process for selecting the new SPACECOM headquarters, which the Air Force announced last May. Following the announcement, the final decision was stalled for several months until last March, when former Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the Air Force would redo its process to make it more "transparent."

In May, the Air Force released new selection criteria it claimed would expand the number of locations eligible for consideration and to ensure the analysis is "comprehensive and transparent."

However, the decision to reopen the process drew criticism following reports that the Florida delegation was lobbying President Trump and DOD to reconsider the state as a preferred site. In a hearing last March, Jones speculated the move to delay a decision until after the presidential election was driven by "some political, electoral politics."

Meanwhile, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in a statement today called the decision to relocate SPACECOM headquarters from Colorado Springs “horrendous,” claiming it would “materially damage our national security” and promising to fight the Air Force’s decision.

“Moving a critical institution like Space Command for political reasons unrelated to national security would be foolish at the best of times,” Lamborn said. “In the midst of the ongoing great power competition between the U.S. and our allies against the forces of tyranny and absolutism represented by the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin, arbitrarily shuffling SPACECOM around like a political trophy would prove disastrous.”