Biden has decided to keep Space Command in Colorado, rejecting move to Alabama, officials say

President Joe Biden has decided to keep U.S. Space Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, ending a years-long feud sparked by a last-ditch decision by the Trump administration to move it to Alabama, officials confirmed to the Denver Post on Monday.

Gov. Jared Polis’ office received confirmation from the White House that the headquarters would remain in Colorado Springs, a spokesman said, where it was initially established after the command was relaunched in 2018. Other Colorado leaders were also informed Monday. Senior U.S. officials told the Associated Press that Biden was convinced by the head of Space Command, Gen. James Dickinson, who argued that moving his headquarters now would jeopardize military readiness.

The senior officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the decision ahead of the announcement. The news was trumpeted Monday afternoon by Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, as well as by Colorado’s two senators, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet.

“This is great news for Colorado and our national security — keeping U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs is an exciting outcome for our state, military families, jobs, and businesses,” Polis said. “This thoughtful and correct decision guarantees operational success for decades to come and improves our national defense.”

Dickinson’s view, however, was in contrast to Air Force leadership, who studied the issue at length and determined that Trump’s last-minute decision to relocate it to Huntsville, Alabama, was the right move. A Department of Defense review completed last year concluded that Alabama deserved to win out, prompting Bennet and Hickenlooper to criticize the selection process as “untested” and lacking transparency.

Trump’s decision to move the headquarters, announced days before he left the White House in January 2021, has long drawn criticism from Colorado officials, who’ve castigated it as politically motivated. Eight of the state’s nine congressional delegation — excluding Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck — signed a letter in September 2021 urging the secretary of the Air Force to suspend Trump’s decision. John Suthers, then the mayor of Colorado Springs, said in January 2021 that the move to Alabama was political and that Trump wanted to reward Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican who was one of several GOP senators to challenge the Electoral College certification.

Biden, senior U.S. officials told the Associated Press, believes that keeping the command in Colorado Springs would avoid a disruption in readiness that the move would cause, particularly as the U.S. races to compete with China in space. And they said Biden firmly believes that maintaining stability will help the military be better able to respond in space over the next decade.

In a joint statement with Hickenlooper, Bennet said the move “restores integrity to the Pentagon’s basing process.”

“After two investigations and rigorous review by the Department of Defense, the administration has made the decision that’s in our country’s best interest,” Hickenlooper added. “Most importantly, this decision firmly rejects the idea that politics – instead of national security – should determine basing decisions central to our national security.”

Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade tweeted Monday that it was clear that “this final decision is in the best interest of our national security and is the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

Biden’s decision is sure to enrage Alabama lawmakers and fuel accusations that abortion politics played a role in the choice. The location debate has become entangled in the ongoing battle between Tuberville and the Defense Department over the move to provide travel for troops seeking reproductive health care. Tuberville opposed the policy is blocking hundreds of military promotions in protest.

Formally created in August 2019, the command was temporarily based in Colorado, and Air Force and Space Force leaders initially recommended it stay there. But a week before Trump was set to leave office, his administration announced the command’s permanent home would be in Alabama, drawing a wave of condemnation from Colorado leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Proponents of keeping the command in Colorado have argued that moving it to Huntsville and creating a new headquarters would set back its progress at a time it needs to move quickly to be positioned to match China’s military space rise. Colorado Springs is also home to the Air Force Academy, which now graduates Space Force guardians, and more than 24 military space missions, including three Space Force bases.

Huntsville, however, scored higher than Colorado Springs in a Government Accountability Office assessment of potential locations and has long been a home to some of earliest missiles used in the nation’s space programs, including the Saturn V rocket. It is home to the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command. That same report, though, gave the selection process low marks for documentation, credibility and impartiality.

According to officials, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who ordered his own review of the matter, leaned toward Huntsville, while Dickinson was staunchly in favor of staying put. The officials said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin presented both options to Biden.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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