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Decision to move U.S. Space Command out of Colorado to Alabama was “reasonable,” Defense report says

Air Force officials “complied with law and policy” in their decision process, according to a new report from the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General.

The flag of the U.S. Space Command is unfurled at the White House in a presentation with President Donald J. Trump, the incoming commander of U.S. Space Command, Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman, Washington, D.C., Aug. 29, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Air Force officials were reasonable and followed the law when choosing Huntsville, Alabama, as the permanent site of the U.S. Space Command Headquarters, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General wrote in a recent report, despite claims from Colorado lawmakers that the process was politically influenced and lacked transparency.

Authorities developed “relevant and objective evaluation factors” and associated criteria to assess, score and rank locations in their basing decision to move the Space Command out of Colorado Springs, according to the report, which was posted publicly Tuesday. 

Investigators could not, however, “fully verify the accuracy” of some of the rankings due to a lack of documentation, according to the 112-page report

Peterson Air Force in Colorado Springs is the headquarters for the Space Command through 2026. In the final days of former President Donald Trump’s administration, Huntsville was named the new, permanent location.

The inspector general office’s findings come more than a year after Gov. Jared Polis, along with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and more than a dozen other state legislators, called the decision to relocate “hasty” and urged Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to review the process. 

Shortly after President Joe Biden took office, the Colorado delegation sent him a letter, alleging that “significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision.” 

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn also asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the basing decision, claiming that political pressure was put on Air Force officials ahead of the decision to relocate. 

The GAO’s findings were shared with lawmakers, but have yet to be released to the public.

But on Wednesday, Lamborn said he plans to 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.” 

“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,” he said in a statement.

Lamborn said the GAO report provided a “deeper review” of officials’ scoring and criteria.

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General offered four recommendations in its report, including a recommendation for the secretary of defense to create policy and procedures for implementing basing actions for a unified combatant command.

Large portions of the report are redacted, making it unclear as to how Colorado Springs ranked among other locations.

Peterson Air Force Base was one of five finalists in competition to become Space Command’s permanent location. Brevard County, Florida; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Port San Antonio, Texas; and Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, were also in the running.


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