WASHINGTON — Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett told lawmakers March 4 that the process to select a permanent headquarters for U.S. Space Command will be re-opened later this year to give state and local leaders a fresh opportunity to make their pitches.

Barrett’s announcement comes as politicians from Colorado, Florida, Alabama and other states continue to step up outreach and public relations campaigns to have U.S. Space Command based in their states.

“We are going to re-open the process and put forward the criteria in detail and invite all who think they have a good shot at it to come and represent their communities for that possible basing,” Barrett told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on Wednesday.

She said the new criteria will be published sometime this spring.

U.S. Space Command was established in August 2019 as the military’s 11th unified combatant command. It is temporarily headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Barrett’s comments came in response to questions from Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) whose district is home to Buckley Air Force Base, one of the installations considered a candidate for U.S. Space Command headquarters.

The Air Force last summer had narrowed the list of possible locations down to Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal, California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and Schriever Air Force Base.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) during a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned Secretary of Defense Mark Esper about the Air Force being directed to re-open the process in order to consider additional locations for the U.S. Space Command headquarters. Jones noted that the headquarters decision was initially expected by last fall and had reportedly been narrowed to locations in Alabama, California and Colorado, but there was no explanation for why the selection was being delayed.

Esper said he personally made the decision to reopen the process and that he does not expect a final decision to be made about the headquarters location until after the November elections.

Lt. Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of the U.S. Space Force, told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on March 4 that the Department of the Air Force has a meticulous process for “strategic basing decisions.”

Basing decisions, he said, “are made on a whole host of factors.” Senior leaders “assess them, develop option and ultimately do a selection process.”

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...