Colorado’s top political officials reacted with frustration Wednesday to a report from the Department of Defense’s inspector general concluding that Alabama deserved to win out over Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs as home to U.S. Space Command headquarters.
The determination came in a 120-page, heavily redacted report that concluded that Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., was the “preferred permanent location to host the USSPACECOM HQ” when it was picked in the final days of the Trump administration.
The inspector general’s report said the U.S. Air Force considered a number of criteria — including workforce availability, energy resilience, cost of living and quality of schools — to make its choice. But because so much of the report was blacked out, it was difficult to ascertain details as to how or why Alabama ultimately prevailed.
Gov. Jared Polis put out a statement Wednesday lauding Colorado Springs as the “epicenter of national security space.” Peterson Air Force Base, he said, “continues to execute critical missions in the space domain vital to our national security.”
U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet issued a joint statement criticizing the selection process as one that was “untested, lacked transparency and neglected critical national security and cost considerations.”
“Space Command should remain permanently based at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado,” the senators said.
In December 2018, Trump re-launched U.S. Space Command, which is responsible for all military operations 62 miles above sea level and higher. A U.S. Space Command existed from 1985 to 2002, but was disbanded in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks so that U.S. Northern Command could be established, focusing on defense of the homeland.
Colorado’s political leaders have long characterized the selection of Redstone as a politically charged one by the previous administration. In September, eight of nine members of Colorado’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the secretary of the Air Force, urging him to suspend the relocation.
Even Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, said shortly after the decision in January 2021 that the move was based on “politics” and that the outgoing president chose Alabama to reward Sen. Tommy Tuberville, one of the eight Republican senators who challenged portions of the Electoral College certification in Congress.
“There are a lot of indications that politics may have been involved,” Suthers said at the time.
Four of the six finalist locations for U.S. Space Command were in Colorado. Aside from Peterson, Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs all made the list.