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House money: Space Command fight not over

POINT CLEAR — Since going through legislative channels doesn’t seem to have worked in the battle over Space Command, Alabama’s congressional leadership is threatening to hit the Defense Department where it hurts – the purse.

During a panel discussion at the Business Council of Alabama’s summer governmental affairs conference on Saturday, U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, Jerry Carl, Gary Palmer and Dale Strong shared an enthusiasm for recourse in the long-running debacle. 

Rogers (R-Saks) said he’s given notice to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to give the Biden administration a runway to “clean this up.”

“For the last year, they’ve been trying to figure out a way to get out of this situation,” Rogers said. “What has happened since then, is that the President has announced it’s based on an observation by a four-star general it might have an effect on national readiness in space. So he’s just going to not adhere to what the law says here because it’s not the way to go. 

“It takes two things to make something like that happen: It takes an authorization bill that gives you the authority or permission to do it. And it takes the appropriations bill to pay for it.

“I guarantee you not one of those two things are gonna happen.”

Strong (R-Monrovia) was chairman of the Madison County Commission during the multi-year review processes, and recounted it was the most carefully-scrutinized effort he had ever seen.

He believes Space Command Gen. James Dickinson lied to him and other members of Congress in June.

“What was unbelievable was, as they came in, one of the questions I asked is, ‘Secretary, would you recommend the fifth most qualified to build the F-35 fighter jet?’,” Strong said.  “Can you imagine him trying to think about that before the next couple of questions before the committee?”

Strong also called into question the basic practicality of a Colorado Springs base as indicated by its fifth-place ranking in the Government Accountability Office review.

“Whenever we requested text message, emails – started looking at expenditures – there’s $52 million for a multi-story building in Colorado,” Strong said. “They spent the time trying to increase their ability of what they could do there. But it’s nine miles outside of the military base with zero force protection.

“Can you imagine putting top secret, top of the top, in a building that’s nine miles outside of the military installation?”

Carl (R-Mobile), member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he won’t fund project and operational costs for SPACECOM in Colorado Springs in order to keep the allegedly unlawful decision by Biden a focal point to everyone involved.

“From the appropriations standpoint, every dollar that they need, that I can cut off, will be cut off. If it’s my choice, they’re going to be walking,” Carl said. 

“They won’t have money for their little travel planes … they’re gonna be on foot walking back and forth from D.C. to Denver.”

Rogers expounded on the potential for his committee to subpoena the Pentagon for documents and interviews related to the decision.

“Under the law, Title 10 is the statutory law of the Department of Defense. The secretary of the service and makes basing decisions and they are the final arbiter of basing decisions,” Rogers said. “So, if it was a Naval base or Marine base, it would be the Secretary of the Navy. It was an Army base, it’d be Secretary of the Army. If it’s an Air Force or Space Force Base, it’s the Secretary of the Air Force. Well, as you know, the last Secretary of the Air Force did these competitions.

“I really do believe this was just to try to appease a purple state right before a presidential election. (Biden) knows this is not going to happen. It’s going to be turned around.”

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