On Thursday, Alabama congressmen grilled U.S. officials about the Biden administration's decision to make Colorado Springs the permanent location of U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) instead of Huntsville.
During a House Armed Services Committee meeting, lawmakers questioned Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, U.S. Space Force Gen. Bradley Saltzman and head of Space Command Gen. James Dickinson over the decision.
Committee chairman U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) claimed the administration was attempting to punish Alabama by refusing to house SPACECOM in Huntsville for political reasons.
"Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has chosen to play politics with our national security," Rogers said. "After a long and competitive national process, Huntsville, Alabama was selected as the best location to host [SPACECOM]."
In July, the Biden administration announced the headquarters for SPACECOM would remain in Colorado, reversing a Trump-era decision to move the HQ to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Huntsville has repeatedly been ranked the number one choice for SPACECOM by U.S. Air Force surveys.
The Biden administration's decision has drawn fierce condemnation from state and federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Administration officials claimed on Thursday that moving SPACECOM to Huntsville would negatively impact readiness since many personnel would have to relocate and civilian personnel would need to be replaced. Kendall claimed that Colorado Springs would be the cheaper option.
Rogers said that claim contradicts testimony from Dickinson, who said he could operate SPACECOM for the next eight years, regardless of the location, and he would only have to replace some civilian personnel, which Dickinson would have five years to accomplish.
U.S. Rep Dale Strong (R-Huntsville) rejected the assertion that locating to Huntsville would carry a higher cost, pointing to the selection process, the findings of which said placing SPACECOM in Huntsville would save taxpayers over $420 million. He also pointed out that construction in Alabama is 30% more cost-effective than in Colorado and that the Colorado Springs location had the highest estimated construction cost of any of the six considered sites.
"And the people wonder why we have a $33 trillion [national] debt. I think these decisions right here are exactly what the people of America are focusing on," Strong said. "It's because of decisions like this which ignore the facts at the expense of the American taxpayer, that's who is paying the bill."
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) pointed to Huntsville's existing infrastructure of the military and space industries as a clear reason for making it the home of SPACECOM.
"Huntsville is synonymous with space," Sewell said. "Its nickname is the Rocket City. It is the home of the Space and Missile Defense Command, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, missile defense agency, and missile and space intelligence center. The city has more engineers per capita than anywhere else in this nation, and we're proud of that in Alabama."
In May, NBC News reported that two unnamed U.S. officials and one official with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) said Biden had been delaying the decision on SPACECOM due to Alabama's "restrictive" abortion laws, which went into effect June 24, 2022, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Dickinson fervently denied the final decision had anything to do with Alabama's abortion restrictions.
Lawmakers from other states expressed dismay at the move as well. U.S. Reps. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Pat Fallon (R-Texas), Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) all expressed concern over the selection process, questioning how a location that came in fourth and fifth place in Air Force surveys was selected over the first place winner.
LaLota said the decision "smelled mighty funky."
After the committee meeting, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) voiced approval for the actions of Alabama's congressional delegation in questioning the administration's decision.
Thank you @RepMikeRogersAL and @RepDaleStrong for their work at today’s House Armed Services hearing.— Coach Tommy Tuberville (@SenTuberville) September 28, 2023
Now, it is undeniable: @JoeBiden moved @US_SpaceCom out of Alabama because of politics. pic.twitter.com/APOPP7vgVz
"After today's hearing, it is absolutely undeniable, Joe Biden moved space command out of Alabama because of politics," Tuberville said. "The facts are clear: Huntsville is still the number one location for space command. After today's hearing, there are no excuses for what the Biden administration is doing. Space Command belongs in the rocket city."
U.S. Sen. Katie Britt (R-Montgomery) also applauded the delegation's efforts throughout the meeting.
Thanks to my colleagues @RepMikeRogersAL, @RepDaleStrong, and @RepTerriSewell for highlighting the truth about the Biden Administration’s Space Command debacle at today’s House Armed Services hearing. This fight is not over and the American people deserve to know the full story. https://t.co/l9DsTmIXhV— Senator Katie Boyd Britt (@SenKatieBritt) September 28, 2023
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