HUNTSVILLE — While Colorado’s congressional delegation continues to criticize the U.S. Air Force’s decision not to select their state as the permanent home for Space Command’s headquarters, a federal government report scrutinizing the decision-making process shows that their state was not even close to being the preferred HQ location.
A non-public, 87-page report issued from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2022 and obtained by 256 Today confirmed Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base (now Peterson Space Force Base) finished fourth in the Air Force’s Evaluation Phase and then fifth in the Selection Phase.
Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal, which has been selected as the permanent location for Space Command HQ, finished first in both phases.
The ranking did not surprise Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
“The decision on where to locate Space Command has been through an exhaustive vetting process and federal leadership have repeatedly determined Huntsville is the best place to oversee America’s military operations in space,” he said. “We have the talent and the experience. We have secure land at Redstone for USSPACECOM, where 72 federal agencies already provide robust military and aerospace expertise. We have a low cost of doing business and a high quality of life.”
The Evaluation Phase featured 50 candidates, following an initial Nomination Phase that solicited nominations from all 50 states. The Evaluation Phase evaluated and weighed 21 criteria across four categories: Mission, Capacity, Community, and Cost.
“Air Force analysis identified Redstone Arsenal as the highest scoring location in the Evaluation Phase, the highest ranked location in the Selection Phase, and the location with the most advantages in the decision matrix,” the GAO report stated. “Air Force officials, including the then Secretary of the Air Force, stated that the decision to identify Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location stemmed from Air Force analysis showing it was the strongest candidate location.”
The results in the GAO report showed a wide gap between Redstone and Peterson. Peterson’s score in the Evaluation Phase was closer to the 17th place finisher than Redstone, the first-place finisher.
“I have said all along that Huntsville is the best place for Space Command Headquarters,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “Alabama is letting the facts – not politics – speak for themselves.”
Following the Evaluation Phase, the Air Force executed its Selection Phase, wherein it requested more detailed information from the final candidate locations and conducted site visits to assess the top six potential locations for Space Command headquarters. The site visits took place from Dec. 8, 2020, through Jan. 7, 2021, at the six candidate installations— Redstone Arsenal; Peterson AFB; Patrick Air Force Base, Florida; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; and Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
Air Force and Space Command officials stated that during the site visits, they validated information that was provided by the candidate sites and collected additional information related to the criteria that were used during the Evaluation Phase.
Using information obtained from the questionnaires and site visits, the Air Force ranked the six final candidate locations into top, middle, and bottom thirds for each of the 21 criteria.
The GAO said the Air Force analysis found Redstone Arsenal was the leading Selection Phase candidate, “based on its relative strength in the Mission and Capacity factors and its low cost of construction.” Kirtland Air Force Base was ranked second, Offutt Air Force Base ranked third, Joint Base San Antonio ranked fourth, Peterson was ranked fifth, and Patrick Air Force Base was sixth.
The report said Air Force documentation from January 2021 affirmed that “Redstone Arsenal rated the best of the six candidate locations based on the criteria and noted that selecting Peterson Air Force Base as the preferred location would not align with the results of Air Force Selection Phase analysis.”
The GAO added, “Multiple senior officials we interviewed stated that they felt the process was unbiased, including the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy; the former Secretary of the Air Force; the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the U.S. Space Command Combatant Commander; and the U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations.”
“The creation of Space Command is a recognition that, as the defense of our nation evolves, space will play an incredibly important role,” Battle said. “It is fitting our region will continue to lead efforts in what we can accomplish in defense of our nation and allies.
“We look forward to working with our military partners from Colorado to Florida and across our great nation to make Space Command a success.”
Ivey added an exclamation point to Battle’s comment.
“I’ll say again: There is no better place in the country to house Space Command than our Sweet Home Alabama.”