U.S. Space Command Gets New Headquarters in Alabama

January 15, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
The Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. The new home of the U.S. Space Command.

WASHINGTON — The Secretary of the Air Force announced Wednesday that Huntsville, Ala., will be the new headquarters of the U.S. Space Command.

The announcement was welcomed in Alabama but criticized as an example of partisan politics by government officials in Colorado, where the Space Command currently is located.

A still unresolved question is whether the decision in the closing days of Donald Trump’s presidency will survive a new administration. 

The Space Command oversees many wireless troop communications, watches for missile launches and administers global positioning satellites used for navigation.

It operates primarily in conjunction with the Air Force but is different from the U.S. Space Force, which is a separate military branch similar to the Army or Navy.

Since it was reorganized last year, the Space Command headquarters has operated on a provisional basis out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. 

The new site will be located adjacent to Huntsville at the expansive Redstone Arsenal, which opened during World War II as a chemical weapons production center. The U.S. military uses it now to make missiles and rockets. Huntsville’s nickname is Rocket City.

“The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters…” an Air Force statement said.

It added, “Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity and low initial and recurring costs.”

A final decision on the new headquarters in Alabama still requires an environmental impact analysis, which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2023. Until then, the temporary headquarters will stay in Colorado.

Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey greeted the Air Force announcement with a statement saying, “I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command. Our state has long provided exceptional support for our military and their families as well as a rich and storied history when it comes to space exploration.”

Her comment contrasted sharply with Colorado government officials.

“This move threatens jobs, could cause serious economic damage and upend the lives of hundreds of military and civilian families that were counting on U.S. Space Command staying at home in Colorado Springs…,” Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.

A recent Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation analysis showed a permanent Space Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base would bring about 1,400 jobs to the area and have an economic impact of more than one billion dollars a year for Colorado.

Polis also called the decision to move the headquarters “politically motivated.”

Trump won a majority of the votes in Alabama during the presidential election in November. He lost to Joe Biden in the predominantly Democratic Colorado.

An Air Force spokesperson denied political favoritism after an inquiry from The Well News.

“Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala., was selected by the secretary of the Air Force to host the U.S. Space Command headquarters based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and cost to the Department of Defense,” the spokesperson said.

Biden has not yet made a statement on the Space Command’s headquarters. Nevertheless, the agency has occasionally faced questions in Congress since its original structure was organized in 1985 about whether it should operate as a separate agency.

The Reagan administration’s Defense Department said it could help protect American satellites against Soviet and Chinese weapons being developed to destroy them. The Space Command also was supposed to implement the Strategic Defense Initiative — sometimes called the Star Wars program — started by the Reagan administration.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, the armed forces turned its focus more on homeland defense and counter-terrorism. President George W. Bush de-emphasized the Space Command by merging it into other Air Force operations.

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act reauthorized the Space Command as a separate unit of the U.S. Strategic Command.

Other finalists for the new headquarters included Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; Patrick Air Force Base in Florida; and Port San Antonio in Texas.

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