Defense Secretary Mark Esper told senators today the Pentagon will not announce the location of the new headquarters for U.S. Space Command until after the November elections because he has ordered the process be redone to be more "transparent."
"It's going to take several months. I don't see anything being announced before the election," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Regardless, I think it's best to keep it out of the election."
Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), who has been angling for Redstone Arsenal, AL, to become the new SPACECOM headquarters, asked Esper if the White House was behind the delay.
"A cynical person in today's world would think there was some political, electoral politics coming into play into this," he said.
"It came from me," Esper said. "I'm the responsible party."
Esper said he ordered the delay after he heard from a number of lawmakers who felt the screening process to pick a location was not transparent enough.
"There were a number of complaints," he said. "I took a briefing on it. We did not feel as well that it was transparent enough, that enough states and enough members had a chance to participate. We directed it be revisited. . . . I regret to say that process began late."
Esper said he would now like the process to play out like the Army's decision on where to establish its new Futures Command. He said DOD will go to all congressional members and offer them the opportunity to "nominate" locations and comment on the screening criteria.
"We would update at various points in time, keep narrowing it down, much like we did on Futures Command, until you get to the final site so that everybody had confidence there was no politics involved in it and was the best site for the mission at hand," he said.