The Air Force's selection of Huntsville, AL as the permanent location of U.S. Space Command headquarters complied with federal law and Defense Department policy and was a "reasonable" choice, DOD's inspector general found in a highly anticipated report.
After the Air Force announced last January that Huntsville had been selected as SPACECOM’s permanent headquarters, several lawmakers, led mostly by members of the Colorado delegation, requested that the IG review the decision, viewing it as improperly influenced by politics. In a Feb. 19, 2021 press release announcing his support for an IG review, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) called the decision the result of a “fundamentally flawed process.”
Lawmakers also requested the Government Accountability Office conduct a separate review, which has not yet been released. However, lawmakers were permitted to view a draft of the report in April, and several members of the Colorado delegation released a joint statement after reading the report that stated “we are even more concerned about the questionable decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama.”
The IG found the process used “relevant and objective evaluation factors” to inform the basing decision and that input from stakeholders was sufficiently solicited.
Of the 21 criteria used by basing officials to determine a permanent location, 10 criteria were reasonable and accurate, eight were reasonable but could not be fully verified due to a lack of relevant documentation and three could not be determined because of a lack of supporting documentation or officials were not available to discuss them. However, the Air Force secretary “placed less importance on these three criteria,” according to a summary of the report’s findings.
Concerns about the process intensified after former President Trump remarked last August that he personally hand-picked the Huntsville site, raising further suspicions that the process was influenced by politics.
“I single-handedly said, ‘let’s go to Alabama,’” Trump said on an Alabama-based radio show.
The IG report did not find that politics influenced the process, though it issued recommendations to improve record retention and establish policies and procedures for implementing basing decisions of a unified combatant command. The IG also recommended the Air Force secretary review the Air Force’s analysis of the childcare, housing affordability and access to military/veteran support criteria used in the evaluation process and the defense secretary should assess concerns of SPACECOM’s “full operational capability.”
In a statement to Inside Defense, Lamborn said he was concerned with the IG’s conclusions and pointed to the impending release of the GAO report.
“This [IG] report focused on the chronology of the events and whether any nefarious or illegal actions occurred, while the forthcoming GAO report did a much deeper review of the criteria and scoring in this basing decision,” Lamborn said. “With only a cursory review of the process itself, the DOD OIG’s conclusion that the previous basing decision was reasonable simply means that it was logical based on flawed evaluations. I will continue to advocate for a fair and transparent basing decision that prioritizes national security imperatives and rapidly addresses the increasing threats we face in space.”