Lamborn: The fight to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado is not over

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WASHINGTON — Ever since the Air Force announced in January that U.S. Space Command would be relocated from Colorado to Alabama, Rep. Doug Lamborn has been persistently working to get that decision reversed.

Lamborn, a Republican who represents Colorado Springs, told SpaceNews he expects the fight to continue into next year pending ongoing reviews by the Defense Department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. 

“Assuming that one or both of the investigations show that there were problems with how the selection process took place, I would hope that Congress would see fit to revisit the entire selection process, perhaps start it all over again, or intervene in some other way,” he said. 

Lamborn and his fellow Colorado lawmakers have argued that the decision to move Space Command headquarters from Peterson Space Force Base to Redstone Arsenal — made in the waning days of the Trump administration — was politically motivated and counterproductive as most of Space Command’s workforce and industrial base reside in Colorado.

Lawmakers have asked the Department of the Air Force for an estimate of what it would cost to build a new Space Command headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. That estimate has not yet been provided, according to Lamborn.

He points out that the Air Force has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade military space facilities in Colorado, including Space Command’s current headquarters at Peterson. 

“I wish both of the reviews were going faster,” said Lamborn. “I believe that the IG report will come out first, probably later this year, and it looks like GAO will probably be finished sometime early next year.”

Nobody knows what either of these probes will conclude. But Lamborn said he is confident that the findings from the watchdog agencies will cast enough doubt on the Air Force’s selection process and will compel Congress to revisit the basing decision. 

After the reviews are completed, “then the next step will be in the hands of Congress,” said Lamborn. 

“There are people who say this should be totally a military decision” and that Congress might not be able to challenge it, Lamborn adds. But they would be wrong, he said. “This is what civilian control of the military is all about.”

Despite his strong interest and focus on space issues, Lamborn will not be in attendance this year at the 36th Space Symposium, one of his district’s major annual events.

“I’ll be flying into D.C.,” he said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the House back from summer recess Aug. 23 to vote on a $3.5 trillion spending plan passed by the Senate Aug. 11.

Trump says he handpicked Huntsville

The battle over the location of Space Command in recent days has taken a new twist following comments by former president Donald Trump who told al.com that he specifically directed that the command move to Redstone Arsenal. This contradicts Air Force statements that the selection process followed objective criteria used for military basing decisions.

“Space force – I sent to Alabama,” Trump told the Alabama news site in an Aug. 20 interview. “I single-handedly said ‘let’s go to Alabama. They wanted it. I said let’s go to Alabama. I love Alabama.”

Trump used the term “Space Force” which is the military service branch that is located and the Pentagon. U.S. Space Command is a unified combatant command. 

Lamborn said Trump comments are “an admission that the decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville was based solely on politics and personal preference — not the Air Force’s basing criteria or national security. This proves that claims by the Department of the Air Force that the decision was ‘merit-based’ are completely false. ”

“This has been my concern all along, and calls into question the entire selection process,” said Lamborn.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) released a statement following Trump’s comments: 

“Throughout this process, I have repeatedly expressed concerns that the decision to relocate the U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama was not based on merit. I remain troubled by reports that the former president’s political considerations led to the final decision to relocate Space Command. Former President Trump’s admission suggests that national security and cost were clearly not his priorities. His recent interview further underscores why we need to investigate the previous administration’s last minute decision to uproot Space Command from its home in Colorado Springs.”