Inspector general reviews Trump relocation of Space Command from Colorado Springs

February 20, 2021
In The News

By Erin Prater

 

The Pentagon's watchdog will investigate the Trump administration's January decision to uproot the headquarters of U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs and move it to Huntsville, Ala., officials announced Friday.

 

The investigation, by the Defense Department's inspector general, will evaluate the extent to which the Air Force complied with the department's policies, as well as those of the Air Force, during the selection process, according to a memo from Randolph R. Stone, assistant inspector general for evaluations, to the acting secretary of the Air Force, John P. Roth.

 

Among the factors to be examined: Whether the service branch used "objective and relevant scoring factors" to rank six candidate locations and "calculated the cost and other scoring factors accurately and consistently" among those candidates, according to the memo.

 

The investigation is to begin this month.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, on Friday called the review "imperative" and said he believed a "fundamentally flawed process" will be discovered.

 

"I welcome the investigation," Lamborn said in a statement. "I will continue working to ensure that this decision was made with neither political bias nor arbitrary and inappropriate metrics, which will ultimately materially damage our national security and hamper Space Command’s critical mission.”

 

He has also requested the Government Accountability Office "review the defective methodology behind the process," which "focused on bean-counting rather than American space dominance."

 

Colorado's U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, also lauded the investigation announcement, calling the basing decision "hastily announced."

 

"Colorado is the epicenter of the national security space mission and has been performing the mission since the inception of Space Command in 1985," the senators said in a joint statement Friday. "Moving Space Command will disrupt the mission while risking our national security and economic vitality. Politics have no role to play in our national security. We fully support the investigation.”

 

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera also released a statement Friday in support of the investigation, saying the decision to move the command will disrupt its mission and "risk our national security," as well as "threaten jobs and economic growth" in the state.

 

"It’s clear that the decision to relocate U.S. Space Command is fiscally irresponsible and would cost taxpayers money," they said. "Colorado’s proud military heritage, unparalleled aerospace ecosystem and unmatched quality of life for our service members and their families make us the epicenter of national security space and the only home for the mission."

Colorado’s federal lawmakers on Jan. 26 sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to stop the move pending a probe into the decision.

On Jan. 22, Lamborn joined Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., in a bipartisan call for the Department of Defense's investigator general to look into the decision. The Democrats said the former president's decision to uproot the command "appears to be untethered from national security and military judgement." 

 

Then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 13 ordered the command be relocated — a move several Pentagon insiders and lawmakers said bypassed the military’s top pick of Colorado Springs, the unit's current home, because of political considerations.

An earlier Air Force decision will keep the command at Peterson Air Force Base until at least 2026 while the decision to move it plays out.

 

Trump's decision came after then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett traveled to the White House in January to tell him the military had chosen Colorado Springs.

 

Trump, officers familiar with the briefing said, instead ordered the command to head to Alabama, a state that includes six lawmakers who objected to certifying the presidential election results last month and delivered Trump a Senate win, with Republican Tommy Tuberville unseating Democrat Doug Jones.

 

That move to choose Alabama will likely kick off a congressional probe into how the decision was reached.

 

The decision caused Lamborn, a Trump loyalist, to break with the administration, saying he had "never been so disappointed in my whole life."

 

"I believe, based on inside information, that politics must have played a role," he said the day the decision was announced. "By any standard, Colorado would come out on top of any competition."