WASHINGTON — Security and space – or the lack of it in Colorado – were two of the issues Rep. Dale Strong hit on during Thursday’s hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the Space Command basing decision.
Strong was joined by fellow Alabama colleagues Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Rep. Terri Sewell in seeking answers about the decision to base the headquarters of U.S. Space Command in Colorado over Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.
U.S. Space Command Gen. James Dickinson, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman, and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall were questioned on the subject of “examining irregularity in the strategic basing process for U.S. Space Command.”
“Colorado Springs has a real space problem. Literally,” Strong (R-Monrovia) said. “There’s not enough space for your required personnel numbers on Peterson Air Force Base, which does offer force protection.
“Are there any SPACECOM functions being run out of trailers currently in Colorado?”
Dickinson indicated yes.
“Aren’t you lacking sufficient backup power for multiple buildings?” Strong asked.
Dickinson indicated yes.
“Aren’t there over 1,000 personnel working at two separate facilities 4.5 miles and another 10 miles away from Peterson Space Force base with zero force protection, not even a concrete barrier, is that true?” Strong asked.
Again, Dickinson indicated yes.
“Do they have protection from those buildings to keep threats away?” Strong asked.
“No, they do not,” Dickinson said.
“It is just unbelievable,” Strong said.
Rogers, as chairman, initiated the questioning in a hearing that lasted two hours.
“I want to start by emphasizing that when the president made his announcement on (July 31st), the sole reason he gave for deviating from the competition results was General Dickinson indicating there would be a diminution in operational readiness, space readiness if they were to move,” Rogers (R-Saks) said. “Period. Full stop.
“You can turn that time limit off.”
Sewell (D-Birmingham) asked about the command relying heavily on contractors to meet its civilian workforce demands after layers of official government reports identified Huntsville as the superior choice to meet local workforce needs.
“Huntsville, Alabama is unequivocally the best place for Space Command. Not because it’s cheaper – although that’s really important, cost savings – but because of superior competency, and an able and ready workforce,” Sewell said.
“General Dickinson, isn’t it a fact that we could spend every dime projected in mitigation costs and still come out ahead financially by moving to Huntsville?”
Sewell, Alabama’s singular Democratic representative in Washington, told the generals a critical national security decision like this has zero room for partisanship.
“I want to say for the record that I am an ardent supporter, a passionate supporter of President Biden. And what I believe is that President Biden wasn’t given all the facts when he made that decision,” Sewell said. “So General Dickinson, I want to know, does President Biden know that you told the entire Alabama delegation, I was sitting there myself, when asked by Chairman Rogers, about operational readiness, that it would not be affected if it went to Alabama? You said, quote, ‘no, sir.’
“Did he know that?”
Dickinson said, “I can’t, I don’t know if the president knew that or not.”
Sewell ultimately expressed concern the decision was made in disregard of an objectively wide gap in years worth of official government vetting.
Rogers concluded his remarks with a promise that the situation is ongoing.
“So, what I want to point out about where we are now is, we don’t live in a monarchy. We live in a constitutional republic,” Rogers said. “It is my intent to make sure that the competition results are honored and that permanent basing headquarters are authorized and funded to be constructed in Huntsville, Alabama.
“I’m going to ask the Inspector General for the Department of Defense to investigate this. In the meantime, I intend to work to make sure that no funds are authorized or expended to be spent in Colorado Springs for the building of the permanent headquarters.