One of the most ardent supporters of last month’s surprise Air Force decision to award the permanent headquarters of U.S, Space Command from Colorado Springs to Alabama admits there’s going to be a political battle royal to keep it there.
“I've been here a long time, and I've seen this show repeatedly,” says Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers. “Every time there's a big competition for some big project, the states that don't win yell, ‘Politics, it was all political,’ and that's what's happening here.”
On Jan. 13, just seven days before President Donald Trump left office under protest, the Air Force announced that Redstone Arsenal, in Huntsville, Alabama, was the preferred location for the headquarters, pending an environmental assessment, with a final decision set for the spring of 2023.
The decision sent shockwaves through Colorado Springs, the current home of Space Command and its 1,400 military personal and their families.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner magazine, Rogers, the new ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, says he has little doubt the decision will be subject to review by the Biden administration.
“I don't have a problem at all with there being a review of the selection process, and I'm confident that Huntsville is going to prevail, and it's going to stay there,” said Rogers, who consulted with Barbara Barrett, Trump’s lame-duck Air Force secretary, after the selection was made. “She emphasized to me that this is all objective data and there was no politics involved, and I take her at her word.”
Huntsville, Alabama’s largest northern city, is also known as “Rocket City,” home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Missile Defense Agency, as well as Redstone Arsenal.
What’s particularly galling to the Pikes Peak region is that Huntsville got the nod over Colorado Springs for being a cheaper, better place to do business, including “providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs.”
Alabama ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in education, while Colorado consistently ranks in or near the top ten.
“Colorado Springs has consistently been ranked in the top five places to live in the country, as the best place to start or move a business, and as a favorite assignment for active-duty personnel from around the country,” says Rep. Doug Lamborn, one of the members of the Colorado congressional delegation spearheading the drive to get the decision reversed.
“I am very concerned that the process used by the Department of the Air Force was fundamentally flawed,” he said after reviewing the way various competing sites were scored. “It appears these results have been used to justify a purely political decision.”
So far, there has no review of the decision ordered by the Pentagon, but the matter could be revisited once a new secretary of the Air Force has been nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate.