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Rep. Strong: By the facts – Space Command belongs in North Alabama

After years of extensive review, the fact is that Redstone Arsenal is the best location to permanently house U.S. Space Command. While we wait for the final decision to be announced, I want to lay out the facts.

In March 2020, the Secretary of Defense approved a three-part basing process for the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command. The Air Force reviewed 50 self-nominated sites, producing the following recommendations from the first phase of review, in order:

  1. Redstone Arsenal
  2. Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
  3. Port San Antonio, Texas
  4. Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
  5. Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
  6. Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

In its second phase, the Air Force looked at the same factors and criteria to determine how well each location could perform the mission, and at what cost to the taxpayer.

Redstone Arsenal performed best, with nine criteria ranking in the top third. In fact, Redstone Arsenal was the highest scoring installation out of any of the finalists. The Air Force conducted site visits, which only confirmed their findings.

Following this second review, the Air Force updated its rankings:

  1. Redstone Arsenal
  2. Kirtland Air Force Base
  3. Offutt Air Force Base
  4. Port San Antonio
  5. Peterson Air Force Base
  6. Patrick Air Force Base

This thorough and fact-based process concluded with the Air Force announcing Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location of U.S. Space Command on Jan. 13, 2021.

Redstone Arsenal had the top score of all the sites based on available workforce, value to the taxpayer, proximity to other relevant space agencies, cost of living for American service members and civilian personnel, and overall force protection. Simply put, Redstone Arsenal was chosen to house the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command because it is best for national security and the American people.

To address concerns of foul play and political bias, the Office of the DoD Inspector General (DoD IG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) opened investigations into the Air Force’s basing process and found no violations to justify reversing the Air Force’s decision. The DoD IG’s final report found the Air Force’s basing process, “complied with law and policy, and was reasonable in identifying Huntsville as the preferred location.”  The final reports from both investigations will be one year old in May.

All this and we still don’t have a final decision from the Secretary of the Air Force.

During a 2021 White House meeting regarding the U.S. Space Command basing decision, the discussion revolved around two sites – Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal and Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base, even though the Nebraska and Texas sites ranked higher than Colorado in the Air Force’s selection phase.

Compared to Redstone Arsenal’s top marks during the basing process, Peterson only had five criteria in the top third; six in the middle; and 10 in the bottom. The very fact that Peterson was a part of the conversation at the White House is puzzling since Peterson ranked fourth out of six during the evaluation phase.

Even more puzzling is how the Air Force received last-minute information in the days leading up to the 2021 meeting about how U.S. Space Command could reduce personnel numbers, which would have allowed Peterson to renovate an existing facility instead of constructing a new headquarters building.

But even then, this information would have only moved Peterson into the No. 3 selection phase slot – and other sites were not allowed to evaluate the reduced personnel numbers for their own existing buildings. In the end, this sudden revelation was thrown out. But Colorado was still considered during the White House discussion.

During a May 2022 briefing, GAO shared that there was “a large break between the top two candidates and everyone else.” Translation – Redstone Arsenal, the No. 1 preference, and Kirtland Air Force Base, the No. 2 preference, were vastly more qualified to house U.S. Space Command headquarters than any of the other sites, including Peterson.

I think it’s worth repeating: Peterson Air Force Base ranked fourth in the evaluation phase, and fifth in the selection phase.

Let’s leave the politics out of this. Our workforce in North Alabama has proven itself time and time again.

Redstone Arsenal is clearly the best choice for U.S. Space Command and for National Security.

Congressman Dale W. Strong represents the Fifth District of Alabama and is a member of House Armed Services; Homeland Security; and Science, Space and Technology committees.  

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