WASHINGTON — Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth on June 16 pushed back on suggestions that the recommendation to relocate U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama was politically tainted. 

“I have personally no evidence that the decision was politically motivated,” Roth told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing Wednesday. 

Roth was responding to questions from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who has been a vocal critic of the selection of the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, as the future location of U.S. Space Command’s headquarters. The command is currently based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. 

Former Air Force secretary Barbara Barrett announced the decision in January in the final days of the Trump administration. Lamborn and other Colorado lawmakers have alleged the Trump White House improperly influenced the process.

Roth, who served as undersecretary of the Air Force under Barrett, told Lamborn that the decision “was the result of our strategic basing process and we have worked with all the stakeholders to do the analysis, and we’re now in the process of doing the environmental analysis.”

At the request of Colorado lawmakers, the U.S. Space Command basing decision is now being reviewed by the Pentagon’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office.  

Lamborn said he believes the Air Force had initially selected Peterson but “had to go back and scramble to justify a different decision” at the request of the Trump administration. 

He also has argued that the relocation would be costly as most of Space Command’s workforce and industrial base reside in Colorado. Lamborn noted that the Air Force has invested millions of dollars to upgrade Space Command’s facilities at Peterson known as Building 1. “So the command is even more entrenched there and yet the Air Force did not even consider keeping the headquarters in Building 1.”

 Roth said the Air Force stands by the process used to select the base. “The selection of Huntsville as the preferred location by my predecessor was the result of our strategic basing process and that process is an analytically based process,” said Roth.

Whether Space Command were to be permanently based in Colorado Springs or in Huntsville, “both were going to require new buildings,” he said. “And it turns out the basic construction costs, the maintenance costs and the like in Huntsville were significantly less than in Colorado Springs.”

Roth noted that the GAO and the DoD IG are “analyzing and investigating the basis of the decision so I will yield to them and see what it is in fact that they find,” he said. “I think the results aren’t going to be available until later this year.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...