WASHINGTON — The Department of the Air Force has received no official communication from the White House regarding the relocation of U.S. Space Command’s headquarters, Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers March 28.

The contentious issue of where Space Command’s headquarters will be permanently located came up during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committe’s defense subcommittee.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) asked Kendall to address a report by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that the White House is likely to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to relocate Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama.

Citing anonymous sources, Ignatius wrote that the White House “fears the transfer would disrupt operations at a time when space is increasingly important to the military,” an argument that also was made by Pentagon officials.

“There are rumors that the president will overturn the decision,” Aderholt said to Kendall. “What is your recommendation to the president? And why would the president overturn that decision?”

Kendall said he had “no indication that the president is going to do anything with regard to that decision.” 

He noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “delegated it to me and that’s where it stays.”

In a move that sparked a protracted political battle, the Air Force proposed in January 2021 that Space Command be relocated from its current location in Colorado to Alabama. The recommendation resulted in two separate independent reviews, and back-and-forth arguments between congressional representatives from both states.

Kendall declined to say when he expects a final outcome. He said that further analysis is still underway, and refrained from revealing what he might recommend. 

“I haven’t made a recommendation. I haven’t made a decision. We’re still in the process of doing some analysis,” Kendall told Aderholt. 

Question of ‘operational capability’

A central point of contention is whether the Air Force’s initial recommendation to select Huntsville took into account concerns from senior military leaders about the disruption a move could cause. 

These officials told investigators that renovating existing Space Command facilities at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, would allow the command to reach “full operational capability” faster than constructing a brand-new building in Huntsville and relocating a workforce of about 1,500 people.

Kendall said “operational capability and mission performance is one of the fundamental things we look at in every basing decision … So the analysis we’ve been doing has taken all that into account.”

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...