President Joe Biden appears increasingly likely to overrule the military’s decision to move U.S. Space Command to Huntsville, Alabama.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, shared details of his private meeting Thursday with Biden before the president spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony just north of the Colorado city.
“As a result of that conversation, I was very optimistic that Space Command will remain in Colorado Springs,” Suthers told KKTV-TV, a CBS affiliate. “[Biden] said that was very much under review, and that they are very much focused on national defense, specifically when Space Command could most quickly be in full operational capability.”
The mayor’s comments follow Wednesday’s announcement from the Air Force that it will base four Space Force missions in Colorado Springs, temporary home to Space Command headquarters.
“The Biden administration should stop stalling the process and allow the Defense Department to execute this move [to Huntsville, Alabama] as rapidly and efficiently as possible,” JV Venable, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
More than two years ago, the Air Force selected Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the permanent location for Space Command headquarters. The Biden administration delayed the decision, however, ordering two government reviews.
In both cases, the Defense Department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office affirmed the process that resulted in Huntsville’s selection using objective criteria for basing decisions.
Yet it now appears the location of Space Commend headquarters could come down to political patronage and “abortion politics.”
Colorado, of course, heavily backed Biden in the 2020 presidential election, where he won by 13.5 percentage points. Conversely, Biden lost Alabama by more than 25 percentage points.
But there’s more at stake than just electoral politics. Colorado’s two Democrat senators—Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper—are lobbying Biden aggressively to reverse the military’s decision in favor of Alabama. Bennet broached the subject with Biden during Thursday’s visit, but he did not divulge the details of their conversation.
Previously, Bennet has cited abortion as a primary reason for locating Space Command in Colorado—even though abortion is not part of the military’s criteria for selecting a base such as Space Command headquarters.
“In the wake of Dobbs, we literally have no policy to account for the harm of moving a base from a state that protects access to reproductive care, like Colorado, to a state that does not, like Alabama,” Bennet said in March.
The Colorado Democrat was referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned its own 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and returned the issue of abortion to the states while ending abortion on demand.
Hickenlooper, however, suggested in a recent Senate speech that abortion shouldn’t be a factor in picking Space Command’s headquarters—even though he signed a letter in March suggesting otherwise.
“We can’t conflate these issues with Space Command for the simple reason that our military should never be politicized,” Hickenlooper said in May.
NBC News confirmed last month that Alabama’s pro-life law is a factor in Biden’s decision. “The belief is they are delaying any move because of the abortion issue,” one U.S. official told NBC News in reference to the White House. Another added, “This is all about abortion politics.”
In our post-Roe world, where the Defense Department is now subsidizing travel to obtain an abortion, it’s not surprising that Biden would inject politics into the location of Space Command.
But don’t expect Alabama’s congressional delegation to accept Biden’s decision without a fight. They’re pointing to the military’s criteria for selecting Huntsville as the top choice in January 2021 over other locations, including Colorado Springs, which ranked fifth.
“Huntsville makes all the sense in the world as a home for SPACECOM,” wrote Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., in a commentary for 1819 News. “Rocket City is already home to Marshall Space Center, our only NASA facility on a secure military installation. Huntsville is already home to the Missile Defense Agency, which protects Americans from the cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and hypersonic attacks. And Rocket City makes more rockets than any other city in the nation. If it goes from Earth to space, then the odds are good that it went through Huntsville.”
Tuberville has drawn the ire of many Democrats by leading an effort to rescind the Pentagon’s policy providing three weeks of taxpayer-funded paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who are seeking an abortion. He continues to block the promotions of more than 200 military generals and flag officers as a result.
The White House reportedly is waiting until the dispute over the military promotions is resolved because Biden aides “don’t want to aggravate Tuberville even more,” a U.S. official told NBC News.
In a new twist this week, Republican and Democrat members of Alabama’s congressional delegation are making plans to introduce legislation to prohibit the Biden administration from “spending money on constructing, leasing or modernizing facilities until the secretary of the Air Force formally selects and publicly announces the location of [Space Command’s] permanent headquarters,” according to NBC News.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is among the lawmakers voicing concern. Rep. Terri Sewell, the lone Democrat from Alabama’s congressional delegation, is a member of the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., is on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Politics shouldn’t be part of the military’s basing decisions, Heritage’s Venable said.
“While there were many who opposed the move for a variety of both practical and political reasons, the inspector general found the process used to select Huntsville, Alabama, as the permanent location for the new combatant command was fair,” Venable told The Daily Signal. “Every candidate location was assessed, scored, and ranked based on the same relevant and objective factors and criteria, and Huntsville came out on top.”
Other factors are in play as well. The Chinese Communist Party is rapidly accelerating its space capabilities while the Biden administration dithers over setting up Space Command headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Northern Alabama.
“If the United States is going to take the China challenge seriously, we have to take securing our access and operations in space seriously,” said James J. Carafano, a Heritage Foundation vice president who oversees the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.
“It’s past time to make Space Command all it can be,” Carafano said. “It would be contrary to U.S. interests and security for the Biden administration to slow the train just to help its political fortunes.”
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