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Politics and Government

Trump administration passes up Colorado, will move U.S. Space Command to Alabama

The decision immediately prompted accusations from Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, that the move was politically motivated and influenced by President Donald Trump

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The U.S. Air Force is expected to announce Huntsville, Alabama, as the location for the U.S. Space Command headquarters, a blow to Colorado leaders who have been angling for years for the state to be Space Command’s permanent home.

The decision immediately prompted accusations from Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, that the move was politically motivated and influenced by President Donald Trump.

Even U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican and fierce defender of Trump, called the decision horrendous and wrote a letter to President-elect Joe Biden asking him to reconsider.

Space Command is currently temporarily headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said that Huntsville’s Redstone Region is set to house the headquarters for the newest U.S. military branch. The governor said she was informed of the decision Wednesday morning. An official announcement was set for Wednesday afternoon.

“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.

Pikes Peak rises above downtown Colorado Springs. Access to the mountains makes Colorado a desirable place to live. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Polis was pushing hard to secure Space Command for the state. So were Lamborn and former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who lost his reelection bid in November.

Gardner was a close ally of President Donald Trump and often boasted of his ability to influence the president’s decision-making on issues such as the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction. Space Command was one of Gardner’s biggest focuses during his final days in office and he said he lobbied Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and military officials to permanently locate the Space Command headquarters in Colorado Springs.

Lamborn called said decision to relocate Space Command headquarters to Alabama poses a safety risk.

“There’s no way around it: relocating SPACECOM will materially damage our national security,” he said in a written statement.

Polis, in a written statement of his own, accused the Trump administration of making a political choice in sidestepping Colorado. He called the decision “misguided” and “fiscally irresponsible.”

“Colorado’s proud military heritage, unparalleled aerospace ecosystem, and unmatched quality of life for our service members and their families make us the epicenter of national security space and the only permanent home for U.S. Space Command,” the statement said. “Reports that the in-depth military process found Colorado Springs to be the best location for military readiness and cost and recommended Colorado to the president only to be overruled for politically motivated reasons are deeply concerning.”

Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The governor added: “This move threatens jobs, could cause serious economic damage, and upend the lives of hundreds of military and civilian families that were counting on U.S Space Command staying at home in Colorado Springs as well as harm military readiness. It would negatively impact the mission which Colorado Springs has been flawlessly executing, ensuring our national security in the space domain.”

Polis said he will work with Colorado’s congressional delegation in an effort to scrutinize the decision.

“We pledge to work with our federal delegation to restore integrity to the process as it unfolds,” the governor said in his statement. “The work of so many partners in Colorado Springs and across the state has been critical to the shared effort to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado, and we are grateful for their partnership.”

Suthers, the Colorado Springs mayor, said his “concern is that politics played a significant role in this result.”

“It would be wholly appropriate, and we would request, that Congress and the Biden administration direct the U.S. Air Force to provide full details regarding the recommendations it made and make public the role President Trump played in this decision,” Suthers said.

Huntsville’s nickname, Rocket City, is thanks largely to Wernher von Braun and his team of fellow German-born rocketeers who settled there in the 1950s. The city has long been home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

“The bottom line is simple, the Redstone Region is the most natural choice to become home to such an important mission for our country,” Ivey said.

Ivey’s office said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations Bob Moriarity called Ivey to inform her of Secretary Barbara Barrett’s decision about where the headquarters would be.

Other locations that were considered included Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado; and Port San Antonio in Texas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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