The headquarters of U.S. Space Command will remain in Colorado Springs, the White House told Colorado’s congressional delegation Monday, reversing a Trump administration decision to relocate the multimillion-dollar economic driver to Alabama.
The decision is a win for Democrats and Republicans alike in Colorado who have been urging the Biden administration for more than two and a half years to keep the headquarters in Colorado Springs. The controversy has had ripple effects across the state and nation, leading to turmoil in Washington, D.C., and uncertainty for the scores of troops assigned to Space Command.
Colorado politicians — from the state’s congressional delegation to Gov. Jared Polis to the mayor of Colorado Springs — argued the decision to move Space Command to Huntsville, Alabama, made during President Donald Trump’s final days in office, was politically motivated.
Colorado voted overwhelmingly for Biden during the 2020 election, while Alabama backed Trump by a large margin. Prior to the election, Trump appeared poised to keep the headquarters in Colorado.
Colorado leaders also said keeping the headquarters in Colorado Springs made the most national security sense. They highlighted the state’s aerospace industry and the fact that the headquarters is already operating in Colorado. The U.S. Air Force Academy and several military bases are also in Colorado Springs.
“For two and a half years we’ve known any objective analysis of this basing decision would reach the same conclusion we did, that Peterson Space Force Base is the best home for Space Command,” U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper said in a written statement. “This decision firmly rejects the idea that politics — instead of national security — should determine basing decisions central to our national security. We’re grateful to the service members and civilians who serve at Space Command, keeping us safe at the cutting edge of this new frontier.”
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said President Biden’s decision “sends a strong message that our national security and the readiness of our armed forces drive our military decisions.” Polis called the outcome “exciting … for our state, military families, jobs and businesses.”
The governor’s office estimated more than 274,000 people across Colorado are employed in national-security aerospace and said the state leads the nation in per capita employment in private aerospace.
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 Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville and the Defense Department over the move to provide travel for troops seeking reproductive health care.
Tuberville, who opposed the policy, is blocking hundreds of military promotions in protest, including that of Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, who has been nominated as the next U.S. Space Command commander, and Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, nominated to lead the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Tuberville, in a statement, said the top three choices for Space Command headquarters were all in Republican-leaning states — Alabama, Nebraska and Texas — and bypassing them “looks like blatant patronage politics.”
In Colorado, the state Republican Party sent the White House a letter earlier this year asking the Biden administration not to backtrack on its decision to move Space Command headquarters to Alabama if the reason for keeping it in Colorado Springs is because of Colorado’s lack of abortion restrictions.
“If the main driving force to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs is Colorado’s unfettered abortion laws that provide no restrictions whatsoever, then we strongly affirm that Space Command should stay located in Alabama,” the letter says.
The Colorado GOP criticized Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and Colorado Springs’ then-GOP mayor, John Suthers, for not signing onto the letter. Lamborn and Suthers have been fierce critics of Trump’s decision to move the headquarters to Alabama.
Lamborn, who praised Monday’s announcement, told Colorado Public Radio in June that “abortion plays no part in this decision and should not play any part in this decision.”
The White House didn’t mention abortion politics in unveiling its decision.
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a written statement that Biden made the decision after consulting with the secretary of defense and reviewing the advice of military leaders.
“This decision is in the best interest of our national security and reflects the President’s commitment to ensuring peak readiness in the space domain over the next decade,” the statement said. “U.S Space Command headquarters is expected to achieve ‘full operational capability’ at Colorado Springs soon in August. Maintaining the headquarters at its current location ensures no risk of disruption to Space Command’s mission and personnel, and avoids a transition that could impact readiness at a critical time given the challenges we continue to face.”
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Department of Defense spokesman, said in a statement that the decision “ultimately ensures peak readiness in the space domain for our nation during a critical period.”
Space Command, formally created in 2019, is made up of representatives from the Army, Navy and Air Force. It focuses on using satellites to facilitate military navigation and troop communication, and it’s also tasked with tracking missile launches. The command is separate from the Space Force, which is its own branch of the military and has a base in Aurora.
The command has temporarily been housed at Peterson Air Force in Colorado Springs, and it was slated to stay there through 2026.
An investigation by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative arm, found the Trump administration’s headquarters selection process flawed, in part because it went contrary to the recommendation of top military officials. The Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Defense, however, found the decision reasonable.
Huntsville has a long aerospace history. Some of earliest missiles used in the nation’s space programs, including the Saturn V rocket, are from there and the city is home to the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.